Can You REALLY “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner?”

Maybe I should start by defining my terms.

Sin: “transgression of divine law”
Sinner: Anyone who sins. In short, “human beings.” All of us.

Why do I say all of us sin? We humans tend to think we know best. We usually ignore God’s principles when we believe some forbidden action or attitude will make us happy or meet our needs.

But suppose there’s a very good reason for divine law. What if God knows best how life works? What if he has the authority to tell us how to live, knowing we’ll be better off if we cooperate?

He would hardly be a loving God if he didn’t warn us.

Sometimes Christians offer that warning, and are called “intolerant.” You may have heard of Christians defending their criticism–of, say, binge drinking or sexual immorality or gossip–by claiming to “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

Then their critics jump up and say, “You don’t mean that. You’re just using the saying as an excuse for your judgmental attitude!”

And sometimes the critics are right. We can be unloving and judgmental. And try to rationalize our motive, or hide it behind a slogan that sounds more “spiritual” than the truth.

But let’s not start with “hate.” Let’s start with “Love.”

Again, suppose the danger of sin is real? And suppose you see someone you love deliberately pursuing some sin?

You know the behavior is actually self-destructive because the person will face unpleasant consequences for it.

What do you do–warn them, or let them walk blindly into danger and leave them to deal with the fallout?

As near as I can figure, If you love the sinner, you have to hate the sin because you know it’s a trap. Even if the other person can’t see it. Not caring about what will happen to someone is not love.

If you love someone, you warn them of danger. You warn them with concern and compassion, not with arrogant self-righteousness. Especially if the danger is from sin. Because you remember that you, too, are a sinner. Just like everyone else.

Next time I’d like to share some observations about how Jesus interacted with sinners of various stripes. Meanwhile…

… thanks for reading!

PS: I’m linking up with the sweet women of the Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood.

About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
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9 Responses to Can You REALLY “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner?”

  1. marlece says:

    I’m with you on this. I JUST went thru some hard stuff with a friend being oh so judgmental over Robin Williams suicide.Such harshness, we had words. We are here to love and sometimes that means being accountable to those who love you speak or do into your life that may not feel like love at the time. Speaking truth with love because as you said we are all sinners after all.

    Great insight as usual friend.


  2. Pastor Tim says:

    The very act of getting the beam outta your eye to help a speck in someone else’s is an act of judgement. But you don’t go after a speck in someone’s eye with a shovel or spoon. It’s done with the greatest tenderness and care so not to injure the individual.
    When I judge myself harshly – I judge others more compassionately!


  3. I agree that this entire transaction hinges on our ability to love. Too often we lead with hate and come across, inevitably, hateful. Pastor Tim is right. It’s not ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ but ‘I am there too–still there even now.’ Compassion, not empathy. The ability to hate someone else’s sin properly starts with the ability to truly hate our own, and the part of us that engendered it in the first place. Unchecked, we love ourselves way too much, not recognizing that in condemning someone else’s sin, we ignore our own. Does that mean we don’t speak the truth? Of course not, but while we do, we’d better remember, and confess in just as loud a voice as we accuse, that we only recognize it because we see it in ourselves.


  4. Excellent food for thought, friend. Excellent. Start with Love, yes!


  5. Pingback: Amazing: Grace. | Joywriting: Everybody Has a Story

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