3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin

I can’t do it anymore.

I can’t Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin.

In fact, I haven’t done that for years.

I’m writing as a Jesus follower to fellow Christians here, and also to, oh, whoever else wants to listen in, fly-on-the-wall style, as I put down my fork at family dinner and stare at the table and wipe my mouth and swallow the lump in my throat and whisper, “Enough.”

And say a little louder, “Hey, guys? I don’t really buy what we’re selling.”

And sigh with a giant “ppffffttt” to be mature.

Because, enough already. It’s time to lose this phrase. For good.

But how shall we do it?

I know! Let’s turn it into a flea – a harmless little flea – and then we’ll put that flea in a box and then we’ll put that box inside another box, and we’ll mail that box to ourselves, and when it arrives? WE’LL SMASH IT WITH A HAMMER.

Yes?

Yes!

Oh. Not that easy?

SHOOT.

Alright, then. I’ll explain myself.

See, once upon a time, a long, long time ago, I believed in Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin as though it was the Gospel Truth. And the Word of God. And the Obvious Way to Love People while holding fiercely and unapologetically to the Path of Righteousness. To the Narrow Way.

But then I noticed that Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin had the opposite effect of what I intended. That, rather than feel loved, the folks at whom I was aiming it felt belittled. And judged. And hurt. And excluded.

So for a while, in good ideological, rule-following fashion, I tried to make that their problem.

I mean, knew I was being loving. It’s right there at the beginning of the phrase, for God’s sake: LOVE. So if they were intent on misinterpreting my love, was there really anything I could do about that?

But something about my friends’ hurt stuck in my heart and something about my insistent defensiveness caught there, too, and, although I tried, I couldn’t dislodge or ignore them. I kept imagining Jesus on the night before his crucifixion, on the night he was betrayed by one friend and abandoned by others, and I kept thinking about the way he used his time to give just one instruction: Love one another.1 That’s what Jesus felt was the Most Important Thing to drive home the night before his death. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

I kept wondering, when we say we Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin, do they know we are Christians by our love? And the answer I kept circling back to was No. A sad, aching Definitely Not. A certain No Way.

So I began to explore my increasing discomfort with Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin. To examine why I felt more and more ashamed when I held it as my rigid standard of love. To wonder where I was right and where I was wrong and where I needed to make amends. And to ask Love, which is God’s other name,7 to guide me.

And then, as always, Love changed everything, starting with my heart.

Along the way, I realized 3 things about Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin that made it impossible for me to parrot it any longer. Here they are:

3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin

1. Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin isn’t in the Bible. It’s a quote from St. Augustine, actually, “cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which translates roughly to “with love for mankind and hatred of sins,” and it has morphed over the centuries from Augustine calling himself out and hating his own sins, which he describes in depth in his Confessions, into something we use to point fingers at others.

And although he and I don’t agree on everything, Tony Campolo spoke my heart when he said, “I’m always uptight when someone says, ‘You don’t understand. I love the sinner. I just hate his sin.’ And my response is: That’s interesting, because that’s the exact opposite of what Jesus says. Jesus never says, ‘Love the sinner but hate his sin. Jesus says, ‘Love the sinner and hate your own sin, and after you get rid of the sin in your own life, then you may begin talking about the sin in your brother or sister’s life.2‘”

2. “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is made of 25% Love and 75% Sinner, Hate and Sin. And that ratio should tell us something. In fact, that ratio is the antithesis of Jesus’ life, Jesus’ words, Jesus’ actions, and Jesus’ friendships.

Does it really come as a surprise to us Christians that a phrase made of 1 Part Love and 3 Parts Sinner, Hate and Sin has failed rather spectacularly to deliver a love message? Because it’s not a love message, of course, despite what we tell ourselves. It’s a Standards message. A Moral Code message. And a big, giant BUT. We will love you, it says, BUT we will call you Sinner and watch you carefully to determine which of your actions are Sin so we can call you out and Hate those things.

Is it any wonder to us that the love message gets lost in there? Or that we’re missing the mark when we’re more concerned with holding people to a high moral standard than we are with loving them?

It’s OK, though, we say, because we call ourselves Sinners, too! See? We’re not saying we’re any less sinful. THAT’S THE JOY, we cry. That Christ has saved us from our sin. And don’t get me wrong, friends. I believe absolutely that I’m BOTH created in God’s own image,8 worthy of Divine Love just the way I am,9 AND that I sin. But here’s the problem. We act like the redemption message is predicated on being pulled out of the Sin Pit, and that it’s our job to make sure people understand they’re in the Pit, even if we have to pull them down and squash them into the mud for a while to make sure they get it. But what if we believe that the redemption message is predicated on Love? Divine Love. Selfless Love. Gracious Love. Love, love and only love? A Love so big and wild and free it embraces us as we are?

What if we, I don’t know, call people Beloved instead of Sinner? You know, as if we believe that “God SO LOVED the world He sent his son” instead of “God so despised sin…”

3. Jesus taught us to call people Neighbors,3 not Sinners.

Now, it’s not like Jesus was against name-calling or anything. He slung around Hypocrite, Fool and Brood of Vipers with the best of them.4  But I find it fascinating that Jesus reserved his name-calling for the religious community and never for the broken down or broken hearted. Never for the excluded. Never for the lonely. Never for the outcasts.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t tell us to love the sinner; Jesus tells us to love our neighbor.3 And then Jesus goes on to define our neighbors as those who are despised, rejected, excluded, ignored, and bullied.

Instead, time and time again, Jesus invites sinners to dinner,5 and accepts the offerings of prostitutes,6 and defends the most marginalized,3 and scatters the crowd that is intent on making the convicted woman pay for her sins.2

Now, at this point, some of you may be thinking, “But wait! The woman who was about to be stoned was told ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ but Jesus also told her to, ‘Go and sin no more.’ So what about that? What about repentance?” And, in fact, when I wrote recently about Sanctuary – about finding rest in little bits of Love that fall as steadily as rain but only hit us drop by drop – I received 4 separate messages from folks along these lines, all of whom noted this. “You’re not sharing the whole picture,” they wrote. “Jesus said to sin no more!”

And that’s true. That’s what happened.

[The crowd] said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. [The Law] commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus … said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” 2

And here’s what I think we Christians keep missing in this story:

Jesus defended the woman from the crowd. Dare I say it? Jesus defended the woman from us. The Righteous Stone Throwers. Jesus sent us away. And then Jesus – and only Jesus, without the crowd there at all – told her to sin no more. You know why? Because it’s Love’s job – and only Love’s job – to change people’s hearts. Jesus never – not even once – tells the crowd to tell the woman to go and sin no more. Because it’s not our job, folks.

At no time are we, the crowd, instructed to point out the woman’s sin.

At no time are we, the crowd, encouraged to exclude the woman.

At no time does Jesus beckon the crowd back and say, “I told her to sin no more, now you go tell people not to sin, too.”

The only instruction that we, the crowd, receive from Jesus is to examine our own lives for sin.

We usurp Love’s place and screw it all up when we pretend it’s our job to identify others’ sins and take it upon ourselves to tell them to knock it off.

the-good-samaritan-ferdinand-hodlerYou know what Jesus does tell the crowd over and over (and over and over) again? Throughout all of the Gospels? Jesus tells us to Love each other. To Love our neighbors. And that everyone is our neighbor.

This is no time for calling out sinners and sin. This is the time to call out Neighbor! And Friend! And to love on each other with extravagant grace. This is the time to create Sanctuary and to be the Good Samaritan who had no standards when he helped the man by the side of road.3 Just none. Except generosity and love.

And so, you see, it turns out I cannot love the sinner and hate the sin, because it’s not my job to root out either one in anyone’s life but my own. But I can become a home for Love, and I can Love my Neighbor, who, it turns out, is every single one of us.

And that is exactly what I plan to do.

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UPDATE: I’ve written an update to this essay. You can find it here.

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Alright, friends. What do you think? Is this on the mark? Or did I miss it by a mile? Agreements and disagreements welcome. I’d truly love to know your thoughts.

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40DaysofGraceLogoYou can see all of the 40 Days of Grace posts
here on the Five Kids blog and here on Facebook.

……….

1 John 13
2  John 8
3 Luke 10
 Matthew 23
5 Mark 2
6  Luke 7
1 John 4
8 Genesis 1
9 Romans 5, 8

Art Credit: The Good Samaritan by Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918)

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UPDATE: I’ve written an update to this essay. You can find it here.

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
674 comments
  1. I think the phrase is done as well. Great post.
    I do think Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan Woman at the well is another great example of how he lead with love (smashing ethnic and gender cultural norms of the day to go after her heart and soul!).
    And in this story, it is good to note/further discuss that Jesus did not shy away from dealing with her sinfulness (“you have had multiple husbands”)- in truth (of which another phrase “love and truth” gets misinterpreted where truth comes almost always and before love).
    Thus the challenge, if we really want to love someone, do we not always deal in truth, as Jesus did?
    Was he loving the Pharisees properly by rebuking them? Sometimes the approach is different – As I believe you accomplished in this article, determining what the fruit is/will be from my loving dialogue. Even if painful, does it lead to a healthy conviction of which the fruit of the Holy Spirit & salvation/sanctification comes from it, rather than guilt, shame, condemnation?

  2. “Who am I to judge.” Pope Francis.

    “The Absolute Innocence of all within my creation takes a while to understand.”
    Catherine of Sienna

  3. While I agree that the way it is phrased might send the wrong message, I think the idea is a Biblical one (although we may want to avoid phrasing it like that and go back to a closer phrasing to the one Augustine had). We are told in the Bible that we are to hate sin – both the sin we see in our own lives and the sin we see in others around us. We are to hate it for many reasons – 1.) It is evil and against the will of God 2.) It separates people from God… and sometimes even our fellow man 3.) It often has bad consequences in this world.

    However, it is our task to be like Jesus and encourage people to go there way and sin no more. In Matt 7, we are told to FIRST remove the plank from our own eye SO THAT WE CAN SEE to take the spec out of our brother’s eye. This does not mean we have to be perfect before we can help our brother, but means we must be addressing our own sins and not be hypocritical about it (acting as if we have no sins or our sins are not so bad when pride is obviously sticking a mile out of our own eyes).

    We are also told in James 5:19-20 to turn a sinning brother back to the right path. In Galatians 6:1-2 it says that the one who is spiritual is to correct the one who is sinning in a spirit of gentleness, while taking heed unto himself less he be tempted.

    1 Corinthians 5, I believe, is a perfect example of how there is a difference in how we treat a fellow brother caught up in sin versus how we treat an unbeliever. In this passage it basically says judge your brother and discipline him out of love for him and his soul and to get him to repent of his sins. However, the person in the world should not be expected to follow Christian standards and thus we are not to judge such a one at all, but leave that up to God… while we simply show them love and teach them about God’s love for them (I added that last bit (after the ellipses) as an overall interpretation of Scripture as applies to the situation of the non-Christian and our responsibility towards them).

    1. You took the words right out of my mouth. 1 Corinthians 5 is a perfect example in which not only is an individual’s sin called out in a very public way, but they were told to exclude him from their gatherings. Now that was a severe response to his sin, but he was also sleeping with his stepmother, so… Matthew 18 is another example, when Christ, Himself, told Peter, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private. If he repents, you have won your brother.”

      There are myriads of other examples like this. Shall we continue?

  4. I really loved this perspective. It gives language to some feelings I’ve had for a few years. The only thing I would add, for my own benefit, is that in addition to the despised, rejected and bullied, our neighbors are also the wealthy, the famous, the admired, the successful and even the remorseless and indifferent.

    1. Yes, Jo. I wholeheartedly agree.

  5. Paul, thank you for quoting the Bible, God’s Word , concerning judgement and discernment . I believe that God does hate sin, and that He really wants us to recognize and hate sin , too –in ourselves and others. Otherwise it would just turn into a PC ” it’s allll good . Whatevz. It’s not hurting anybody so…..”

  6. Beautiful thoughts. Thank you so much for these! I just commented on an article here (http://religiondispatches.org/commentary-on-caitlyn-jenner-reveals-fundamentalisms-abusive-dynamic/), which is calling out the abusive patterns within Christianity’s response to what we deem “sin.” It is from a secular perspective and is fascinating, and I commented on there something very similar to what you have written here. It is not our job to point out the sin of our neighbors; it’s our job to love, then love, and then love some more. Thanks for this…

  7. Wonderful article!!! I totally agree with one exception that I’m sure has already been addressed but I didn’t read all of the comments. I believe that we are called to “call out” our fellow believers if they are sinning while proclaiming openly and loudly to be followers of Christ. When a believer is openly sinning with no remorse it hurts his/her testimony and doesn’t reflect well on the church or Christians as a whole. But of course, were supposed to check our own lives first.

    1. There are no exceptions to this. Unless we are as pure, chaste, and holy as God, we cannot and should not do anything but comfort and love. Boy, that’s tough. But it’s the right thing to do.

      1. No Bill, Paul clearly has a different view than you and an overview reading of 1 Cor will affirm that we should not do as you say, but in fact get rid of sin in the church.

        1. So be it. No offense, but I will leave it gladly and go to where all are accepted.

      2. boy, that’s a TOUGH ONE, how do we then deal with CHILD MOLESTERS, RAPISTS, & MURDERERS? What LEVEL of sin are we supposed to overlook & forgive? Jesus judged His religious LEADERS HARSHLY for their HYPOCRISY, & there is even a scripture (although I don’t time to look for it now but biblescripture.com is good resource) that proclaims that a religious LEADER DESERVES to be judged MORE HARSHLY because they ARE a LEADER & therefore KNOW BETTER than “the flock” what is sinful & what is not. and how many TIMES do you FORGIVE CHILD MOLESTERS & RAPISTS WITHIN THE CHURCH before it becomes a failed concept & presents a revolving door for sexual abuse???

        1. It’s like a pendulum. Those who witness legalism and selfrighteousness find comfort in the lie that is licentiousness. Those who tire of licentiousness and abuse think that legalism will protect them. Neither camp has the gospel, neither knows Christ. Both need repentance and faith in the savior.

        2. I see this example come up a lot as an “extreme example” of how far forgiveness stretches. Forgiveness covers one’s sins. It doesn’t cover the consequences for those sins. We are still accountable to the laws of men.

          1. Forgiveness can cover any sin, no matter how extreme it is. However, grace does not cover the sins of the unrepentant. Hence the passage, “God resists the proud and gives grace only to the humble.” God loved all of us in spite of our wretchedness and sin enough to send the savior as a means of serving justice AND creating a bridge of forgiveness and reconciliation, but until we repent of our sin, we are on the same wide path to destruction as before Christ came.

  8. Lots of folks seem to be commenting along the lines of, “I think “LTS,HTS” is fine. It doesn’t mean we think we’re better than anyone. It really means, “We love you and want what’s best for you and worry that what you’re doing isn’t it.” We can’t help it if they don’t get it. We’re not in charge of other people’s feelings. That’s poor boundaries”.

    No. In order: The saying isn’t fine. It DOES imply judgment, because it defines people by their flaws. Why not, “Hate the sin, but remember to love the Person.” This alternate saying (though I still have issues with it) at least starts by describing people as… people. Oh! How about, “Hate the sin, love the saint.” EVEN BETTER! Same number of words, affirms others’ inherent value, and lets you keep on hating sin (whatever sin is to you; let’s be honest, it means something different to each of us, which is a HUGE part of the problem).

    Next, if it *actually* means, “We love you and want what’s best for you…” then say THAT instead of “LTS,HTS”. If you’re not saying what you mean, then maybe you are responsible for people feeling badly because of it. And people DO feel attacked by it, whatever the intention. Not just one person who didn’t “get it”; many. Go read comments from folks who aren’t Christians. Please. Before you reply to me, please scroll down to comments by isha, Abbie, Jodi, Kathy. “LTS,HTS” just isn’t effective, folks. We can do better than relegating an issue this important to a bumper sticker cliche.

    1. How about “Love all people?”

    2. Yes, this EXACTLY, Jeff. “If you’re not saying what you mean, then maybe you are responsible for people feeling badly because of it. And people DO feel attacked by it, whatever the intention. Not just one person who didn’t “get it”; many. Go read comments from folks who aren’t Christians. Please. Before you reply to me, please scroll down to comments by isha, Abbie, Jodi, Kathy. “LTS,HTS” just isn’t effective, folks.”

      1. Are you talking about actually USING the PHRASE as a method of reaching people, rather than using the CONCEPT that though the sin is disgusting, we reach out with love and gentleness? Because I HAVE SEEN the concept work. The concept is Biblical. We have all sinned, therefore are all sinners. We are called to hate sin, to rebuke it, to show the world their desparate need of a savior. We are called to do this with love for the lost and love of our brethren as the sole motivator. Unfortunately, most people love their sin too much to repent, and if the people reaching out are motivated by love and are accompanied by gentleness in their exposure of sin, the sinners rejection of the message is not proof of hatred. What they are feeling is not hatred, it is conviction that they hate to feel. The judgment they feel is not from the opinion of the believer. They feel a taste of the wrath of God that awaits them, because it is God who judges, and God showed us what is judgement is.

  9. lately, all I see are Christians pointing their fingers at everyone but themselves…believers or not. Take the log out of your own eye before taking a speck out of your brothers…. Have you walked in that person’s shoes? Are YOU FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE AGAINST PREDATORS? What are YOU doing? EXACTLY…GREAT ARTICLE!!!!!!!!

  10. We are to love non-believers by sharing the Gospel with them. Absolutely. Yet as a point of clarification, concerning us likewise sinful Christians, we -are- instructed to exhort, rebuke and reprove where sin is present, again out of love. Paul himself repeatedly seeks to correct the on-going errors of Christian believers and such. God can use Christians to “judge” other Christians in a spirit of love, grace, truth, accountability, etc. The distinction between believer and non-believer is critical.

    1. I believe she is saying ‘save your judgements for yourself and not for others.’ Makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense to you, where’s the line? Why not grab yourself a sign and join the protests at funerals with ‘God Hates Fags’ signs. If you’ve ever heard one of those crazies talk about what they’re doing, they often say, they are doing it out of love for their fellow man as the Bible said to do.

    2. Another excuse to be critical of people.

    3. Kenny and Bill – Cathrin is talking about other Christians, as it says in the Bible:

      The local church is to judge the unrepentant sins of its members, and to take the appropriate actions. Unconfessed sin needs to be publicly judged rightly and condemned (1 Corinthians 5:3-5). When we do this, it must be done according to God’s Word (see Matt.18:15-20). The purpose of this judgment is not to condemn, but to restore the sinful believer into useful service (Galatians 6:1-5). If the sinful believer refuses to repent, then we are to break fellowship with them until they do repent (1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; 3:6). Christ rebuked the church of Thyatira for not judging a woman who was a false teacher and prophetess, and who was sinning (Revelation 2:20-24).

      1. Oh how unloving and against the principles of a loving Jesus that feels to me.

  11. Love vs. Hate. Needs no explanation. LOVE the sinner = LOVE the person. Show them compassion, show them you care. That could include “tough love”. If someone you love does something wrong, you do not cast them out. You show them love and the errors of their ways. They might actually listen to you if you are showing them love at the same time. HATE THE SIN, What do you do when you hate something? Ignore it, speak of things to the contrary, do not participate, make it difficult or impossible for that hated thing to be part of your life.
    Just because you do not agree with something or someone does not make them wrong. Just my thoughts.

  12. I think your intent here is good, just not yet fully developed. I could be wrong, to me though, this comes across as we have no place to make judgement anywhere. This comes across as saying there is no sin, if you point out anyone sinning then how dare you judge them. We have to make judgements everyday and part of that is identifying sins; not so that we can throw stones at the guilty sinner because they “sin differently than me” but so we learn from that mistake, help others learn from that mistake, and help the guilty sinner overcome their temptation. The purpose of the Christianity is to help all of God’s children change for good, become all that they are capable of being; we cannot do that if we do not identify and correct sin. We just have to be humble enough to accept the correction of our owns sins as well. Then we will all “be edified together” and become “even as [Christ] is”.

    1. I believe she is saying ‘save your judgements for yourself and not for others.’

    2. We should “blow the whistle” on crimes to humanity and illegal acts. Otherwise, I feel she developed her thoughts perfectly without exceptions and “rights of ‘Christians’ to humiliate and be preach” and to further drive a wedge in one’s religious development.

  13. I agree with your message of loving everyone, but I think that you are misinterpreting the saying. It sounds to me like you are saying the quote means to love the awful person, but they’re doing awful things. Obviously, that is not a good way to live your life. To me, the saying, “love the sinner, hate the sin” means that we are all sinners, but we must love everyone despite the things they have done. To me, it means that the past is the past, so let’s focus on now and how we can be better. The way I use this is not to say, “I love you, but what you are doing is awful.” Instead, I say, “I don’t care about your past or even the decisions you are making today, I just love you and know that you have a golden heart.”

  14. Perfect ❤️

  15. Actually, there are quite a few places in the Bible that teach hatred for sin:

    Amos 5:15
    Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph.

    Hebrews 1:9
    Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

    Proverbs 8:13
    The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

    Proverbs 6:16
    These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:…

    Psalms 97:10
    Ye that love the Lord, hate evil: he preserveth the souls of his saints; he delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.

    Zechariah 8:17
    And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.

    Isaiah 61:8
    For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

    If you don’t hate the sin, then what are your feelings on it? Love sin? Accept and embrace it? Loving the sinner and hating the sin means you love somebody enough to reach out in a kind way to encourage them to leave their sin so they can be happier and have more joy. If somebody gets upset with you for doing that, you may not be doing it right, or they may be hardening their heart against their conscience and taking it out on you, but the principle is still biblical and right.

    1. The phrase itself means it isn’t being done right. I would recommend taking some time reading through the comments on this thread from non-Christians. The verdict is pretty unanimous. This phrase (and corresponding approach) does not lead to your stated end-goal: “to leave their sin so they can be happier and have more joy”. It doesn’t work. So it seem that we need to decide what is more important: holding on to an approach that we feel we can defend biblically (and turn people away), or think critically and with humility about our approach. What I hear in comments like this one is intentionally choosing the former.

      1. I’m speaking from personal experience, working with adults and youth. When they know you really do love and care for them as a person you can encourage them to change without creating hard feelings. Maybe they will listen, maybe they will keep going on as they were, but the friendship and love don’t change either way if it is real.

        If you come out trying to talk them into changing when you don’t have that kind of relationship, or turn away from them when they don’t respond as you would like, or if you have some twisted idea that beating somebody over the head about something for their own good is what Christ did then you are not really getting the loving the sinner part right.

        And again, if you are not going to hate the sin, what are you going to feel towards the sin? Are you saying God is wrong to hate evil and sin as the Bible says he does?

        1. I agree with the spirit I hear in the first two paragraphs. Love, care, help in the context of relationship. Awesome. First earn the right to be heard. In my experience, when “LTS,HTS” is verbalized, it’s almost never in this context. In fact, it’s used an excuse NOT to do the hard work of earning the right to be heard. If for you it’s an internal queue that manifests in the ways you describe, I’m all for it.

          You ask about sin. You know, it depends on what you mean by ‘sin’. Which is part of the problem with “LTS,HTS”. People use it for EVERYTHING. Cohabitation, homosexuality, drinking alcohol, watching movies, playing cards, gambling (and ON and ON and…) And when challenged on it, people justify it with heinous evil. So. Do I hate genocide? You bet! Do I hate gambling? No, not really. “LTS,HTS” doesn’t bring clarity to this issue, it makes it worse.

          1. The point I was trying to make is that what people think LTS/HTS means, is not what it means. It means you don’t let somebody’s sins get in the way of your relationship with them, but you do that without embracing and endorsing sin. The idea that to love somebody you must embrace all their ideology and actions is wrong. The idea that somebody ‘hates’ you because they don’t agree with you about something is just as wrong.

          2. The comment platform seems to have a limit to the number of nested replies. This is in response to Paul’s comment below at June 11, 2015 at 6:13 am. 🙂

            Paul, I think we’re largely on the same page on approach. This article and the related comments are specific to the phrase LTS/HTS. If it doesn’t mean what people think it means, isn’t that a problem? Why hold on to something you acknowledge is misunderstood? Especially when that misunderstanding is damaging. Why not just use alternate language that IS understood? I just don’t get the pushback.

      2. Jesus sent His apostles out preaching and He gave them specific instructions. “If they do not receive the message, shake the dust off your feet in a testimony against them and move on.” He did not say, “If they do not receive the message, maybe you should forget what I told you and get creative”. What unrepentant unbelievers think is not and should never be our standard. Christ and His word are our standard for how to love and how to live. Most people do not repent, who don’t know Christ, and that has nothing to do with the right method. It has to do with pride and how much they love their sinful lives.

    2. I certainly noted that you mainly relied on the “Old History (Testament” for your quotes. Come on over to the New Testament. It teaches LOVE and “hates” the fear.

    3. June 11, 2015 at 6:24 am
      I certainly noted that you mainly relied on the “Old History (Testament” for your quotes. Come on over to the New Testament. It teaches LOVE and “hates” the fear.

      Like: Thumb up 0

  16. (Matt. 18:15) Jesus said, “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private” (v. 15a). Here, an individual believer is to go to a sinning brother privately and confront him in a spirit of humility and gentleness. This confrontation involves clearly exposing his sin so that he is aware of it and calling him to repentance. If the sinning brother repents in response to the private confrontation, that brother is forgiven and restored (v. 15b).

  17. Strength of your reflection: It comes from sincere compassion. Insight: to say that you love someone, a friend who you call “sinner” but hate their sin is probably not a very good technique for communicating unconditional positive regard. The weakness of your thesis is that it is pure love without truth (i.e. sentiment). From the standpoint of your thesis, I would not know how to interpret such passages as this: 1 CORINTHIANS 5:1-5
    “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,a b so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”

    or: 1 JOHN 5:16-18

    “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that is not a deadly sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not deadly. There is sin which is deadly; I do not say one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not deadly. We know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him.”

    You say: “The only instruction that we, the crowd, receive from Jesus is to examine our own lives for sin.” and that, “We usurp Love’s place and screw it all up when we pretend it’s our job to identify others’ sins and take it upon ourselves to tell them to knock it off.” However, it seems to me that this is directly contrary to what the letters of Paul and John have to say. As for Jesus, and his instruction, he says: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over” (Mt 18:15).

    You have three things that you learned, one of them is that the phrase is not in the bible. Nor is the “Trinity” in the bible, …explicitly. To love the sinner but hate their sins is biblical, even if the phrase is not explicitly there. You also draw out a ratio that I do not think is fair, even if it is perhaps an honest self-assessment, in which case the problem is not the phrase but one’s inability to live up to it. This is common though. Loving God with one’s whole self and one’s neighbor as yourself is humanly impossible without grace too. That doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to strive for it and pray for the grace of continual conversion. What was said above is sufficient as a reply to the third thing you note.

  18. What a breath of fresh air. As a preacher’s kid who loves god and who hasn’t identified with church or even the word “Christian” for over a decade, this whole idea of loving while hating is a primary detractor for me. I have never ha any interest in a religion that seems to pass judgement. Because, whether people intend it or not, that is exactly what they do when they love the “sinner” and hate the sin. Even labelling someone a sinner is a judgement that is no-one’s to pass but god’s. The only person I have a right to look at in this way is myself. My job for everyone else is to simply follow the law laid down for me: LOVE them. That’s it. Love is love is love. There is no place for me to be judge of another. I have far too much to clean up on my side of the street first.
    Thank you for this. It is so wonderful to read. Would that everyone conducted life like that.

  19. I don’t think you are correct at all. . . although I completely agree with your point. We should love the sinner and hate the sin. The biggest problem with people is they don’t love the sinner. They instead justify behavior to be rude, inconsiderate and unkind to the sinner because they are supposed to “hate the sin”. The problem is not with the rule or council, it is with people not correctly implementing the concept of loving those who struggle but not excepting what they do in as right based upon your understanding.

    1. I hear “hate” and can’t detect the love here.

  20. I agree that we are to love one another. We should also be concerned about our own sins and having a daily ‘clean-up’ and commitment to our Lord. But I think we also need to note that Jesus did not encourage the sin, but said “go, and sin no more’. So then we do not need to encourage the sin.

  21. Well written. We are certainly to be vessels of grace. The only pushback I would offer is to remind us of what Jesus himself said in Matthew 18:15 and Luke 17:3: “pay attention to yourselves (again, emphasis on personal sin check first, but then…) if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him…”

    Basically, if you see your brother sinning (fellow believer, that is…this is not for folks in the world, apart from a relationship with Christ), go to him/her…and if he receives you, you’ve gained your brother! If not, take one or two with you. The purpose is for restoration, not guilt, shame, judgment.

    So, I’m really agreeing with the general premise of your article with just a call for a little more balance toward acknowledging that we do have a responsibility to “correct, reprove, rebuke, and also encourage, exhort and minister” to one another…but ALWAYS in love!!

    God hates sin. Jesus died, was buried and rose again to conquer sin, pay our debt, cancel our debt, cleanse us from all unrighteousness and will one day (in heaven) free us from the very presence of sin! Hallelujah!

    Much more I’d love to say…but I’m doing this on my tiny phone screen and need to get going. Bottom line, great article. Our primary identity as Christians to the world is LOVE. “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.”

  22. Insightful post, and very much needed, from my perspective. What use is there of hatred? When there is sin to be hated, it often comes across as condescension, and can cause separation in relationships. So in addition to loving the person (who some self-righteous people might consider a “sinner”), and loving yourself (despite what you might consider “sinful” because you’re a person, too), why don’t we drop the hate entirely and love the sin, too? I don’t mean indulge in it without self control, or revel in causing harm, but simply accepting that sin is here, and then moving on. When we stop judging ourselves and others by our actions, we can start looking more at the beautiful beings we all are REGARDLESS of our actions, which to me is much more inspiring for living a life of love, than judgment and hatred and condemnation. I agree with what you’ve said complete. And I also try to let the focus be love! (But when it’s not, I try to love that, too, until it also turns to love.) Love conquers all, after all, so why not surrender all to it?

    1. Sounds reminiscent of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”. May I suggest the book, “The God Who Smokes”, ‘Scandalous Meditations on Faith” by Timothy Stoner (no joke, its a serious book)and also “Good News About Injustice’ A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World’ by Gary A. Haugen (founder of International Justice Mission).
      Beth – to you I say first, Bravo, for a thoughtful and effective piece of writing. It strikes a chord or more for almost every reader. It is also a great reminder that we, who claim Christ as Savior, are to follow the imperative to “love our neighbor”, and to first remove the log from our own eye before pointing out the speck in another’s eye. It is a great starting point for thoughtful conversation. I also commend those thoughtful readers who remind us that we are all sinners saved by a Holy, righteous, and gracious God, and we will inevitably continue to go astray, truly “our hearts are prone to wander”. We need one another to be reminders, to point us to God’s word(commandments), but most importantly to God, himself. We also are commanded to seek justice for those who are oppressed, feed the hungry, and provide for the widows and orphans. This may very well require that we confront evil and battle evil-doers, risking our own lives and reputations in the process. And perhaps we will continue this conversation with our neighbors in our homes, communities and churches. And keep listening.

  23. The problem with loving the sinner and hating the sin is that as weak humans we have difficulty separating the two. We believe, rightfully so, that our works, our fruits define us. How do then separate the sin from the sinner without judgement. That is too great a responsibility for mere mortals, and therefore such judgments can only be left for the Father and his Son.

    Second, when we hear of this offering of love, it sounds like, “I love you, but…” That word “but” negates anything else we say. We automatically interpret criticism of our actions, our work, our ideas as a criticism of us. To not understand this basic principle of human behavior reeks of pride and hypocrisy. All we can offer the sinner is our love and a hand up, an endless supply of unconditional love. Without God’s wisdom and discernment we are ill equipped to judge and often just make matters worse.

    Thank you for your insightful comments.

  24. The whole basis of this confuses me. Maybe where you live, in your community there is an issue with people passing judgement on other peoples sin and using this statement to defend that action? That is the only way I can see this even being an issue, MAYBE? I see absolutely no issue with the saying. If one of my children, or even more removed, a sibling or close friend, decided to do drugs (the sin), I would love them no less, nor would I be passing judgement by being unhappy about the choice, and dare I say “hating” that choice because of the pain and suffering it would cause the “sinner”. How am I passing unrighteous judgement? Or any judgement for that matter? Hating the sin to me simply means mourning the choice and its consequences for the people suffering them, which may or may not extend to me. You could even say that “hating the sin” is simply a phrase for empathy. It has nothing to do with judgement, in my opinion.

    1. See your point, but I would first Ask the ones who you see “sinning” if they feel your love or if they feel your condemnation before you call it “empathy.” The proof is in their experience of it, not your intentions.

      1. I appreciate what you are trying to say, but someone’s perception of how you feel about them cannot quantify how you actually feel about them. That is tragically flawed logic. Their experience, or how they “feel” is proof of nothing but feelings. People can feel all kinds of things that aren’t reality. And in general, when people who are surrounded by those who love them, but “feel” unloved, that is usually an internal issue of (consciously or subconsciously) not feeling worthy of love. That’s basic psychology.

        1. True, that is often the case. I think it is easy to be passive, unenthusiastic or just lacking in genuine love for someone who is doing something contrary to our conscience, and to focus more on their behavior than on their worth as my brother or sister. Concern for their actions and holding to our values is important and following the Lord’s directions. His first and foremost commandments, though, are to love God and our neighbor as He loves them. That to me is without thought of their choices. It’s important to teach and model choices that I have an awareness and witness of being virtuous. It’s very easy to more quickly notice what others are doing that is contrary to what is right by my conscience to a degree that it distracts me from what should be my first priority – loving them as Christ loves them. There are many reasons why that should be my first priority and main focus. I need to honestly check my attitude and actions (or lack of) toward the individual. If I’m not actively caring for them in my thoughts and actions, I need to fully get that beam out of my eye before trying to help someone with their mote, and be lead by Love in how and when to do that.

        2. That’s basically balderdash. And when I use that expression, do you feel “unloved” by what I say? I really am not saying that to hurt you. I’m saying that because I don’t like your method. That’s basic psychology, and Hitler used it all too well.

    2. “Maybe where you live, in your community there is an issue with people passing judgement on other peoples sin and using this statement to defend that action?” Yes. Absolutely. This is the issue. As an MK, I’ve lived in many places, and been part of many faith communities, and this has been a problem in all of them.

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