love the sinner…?
…hate the sin.
On the surface, this seems like an okay sentiment – after all, we’re supposed to love people like Jesus does. But somewhere along the line, “hate the sin” came to be a secret phrase for “you person who clearly doesn’t love God because you keep on sinning.” It has always been used in (veiled) reference to sexual brokenness, specifically of the homosexual nature. So for the person struggling with an unwanted SSA or the person who’s fully embraced his or her LGBT identity, that phrase was kept special and used just for them.
The trouble is, Biblically-speaking, that phrase is all wrong. It’s not Scriptural, and never do we find Jesus saying it anywhere in the text. He said things like, “And why worry about the speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” (Luke 6:41-42; Matthew 7:3-5) when talking about how we respond to sin.
Beyond that point, however, the American church has used this phrase and the seeming care over someone else’s (sexual) sin as a way to separate and determine a hierarchy for sin. Some sin is “more grievous” than others, we’re taught. And yet ALL SIN put Jesus on the cross. Some sin didn’t do it more than others. Some sins have different (and more severe) consequences than others, but people who utter the words “love the sin, hate the sinner” aren’t worried about consequences of sin. They generally don’t know many (if any) people who struggle with sexual brokenness in order to be involved in the picking up of pieces.
Some people use the phrase in a slightly-innocent, unknowing way. They don’t mean harm by it; they just haven’t given it enough thought to consider whether or not it’s true or a piece of religious flotsam-and-jetsam. Thankfully, when the reality of what this phrase is and how it’s used is brought to their attention, they stop using it.
This blog really isn’t about the politics of sex or the way the Church has flubbed the issue of sex in culture. But speaking as a wife of a sexually-broken man, I can tell you that when I hear the aforementioned-phrase, I know the person with whom I’m speaking is not a safe individual. I know that my shields must be up – not just to protect myself, but to protect my family. I cannot be myself and talk about real life with that person. That phrase becomes an isolator for me – whether it’s said in innocence or with malice, I know that the speaker isn’t in a place to hear about our journey.
So if this phrase isn’t helpful, what IS the appropriate expression? I think if Jesus were here, walking with us today, we would hear Him say something like this: ”You’ve heard it said, ‘Love the sinner, hate the sin.’ But I tell you, ‘Hate your own sin and don’t worry about the sin of your neighbor.’” This, after all, is Biblical (see the verses above) and lets Jesus worry about the sin an individual struggles with. We’re not God, we don’t get to know a person’s deep, inner heart, and we don’t have God’s infinite wisdom to judge fairly. So let’s leave that part to God and keep ourselves out of it. That gives us more time to love people like Jesus commanded (John 13:34) and more opportunity to be a safe person and help the individual who’s picking up the pieces of life, one fragment at a time.