Thursday, June 7, 2012

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

A couple friends of mine have been very frustrated by the Christian saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin." They argue that if you're going to be all judgmental and telling people they are sinners, you're not in any position to say you love them. You're not spreading the Gospel. You're certainly not doing what Jesus would do, because he reached out to sinners and outcasts. "Love the sinner, hate the sin," they say, "is an excuse for Christians to tell people they're going to Hell and feel good about it."


I'll give them one thing. If your motivation in sharing your faith is to show them all the things they're doing wrong, you've got it all mixed up. But if your motivation is love, eventually you can't help but show them their sins.

On this journey together, so we have to help each other.

Analogy. I'm an advocate for attachment parenting: baby-wearing, co-sleeping, "extended" breastfeeding, gentle parenting, etc. I'm positive there are people who think I'm doing irreparable harm to Peter because of this. If someone invited me to join her moms' group by saying, "We can help you be a fantastic mother. Right now, you're making horrible choices, but don't worry, our group can help you learn the right way to be a mom," there is NO WAY I'd attend.

Same situation, but this time she says, "I love the moms' group I attend. We're really devoted to our kids and always trying to do what's best for them. I think you might be interested in it. Want to come?" I'd be intrigued. I certainly would feel that we have a common goal: loving our kids.

Let's say I become a regular attendee. I start agreeing with their speakers and literature. I believe that infants need to learn independence. I believe that adult relationships take priority over parent-child relationships. But I don't change my parenting style. NOW my friend not only can but should challenge me. If I really believe their views, my actions should line up. My friend, out of genuine concern for me and Peter, should call me out on my behavior.

See the difference? The first is judgmental. This happens when Christians scream "Murderers!" at women getting abortions. It happens when Christians label those who have sex outside of marriage as sluts. It happens when evangelists single out homosexuals as particularly deserving of God's wrath. These people are not loving the sinner. Their hatred for the sin blinds them to anything else.

The second is accountability. This is Jesus saying to the adulteress, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your life of sin." When people encounter Christ, their lives are changed. They are healed, made whole. If we have genuine love for fellow believers, we should hate their sins as much as we detest our own, because they damage our relationship with God. We should challenge our Christian friends, not out of smug self-satisfaction, but because we love them.

Love doesn't mean anything goes. Love wants the best for the other. Sometimes that means bringing up uncomfortable topics.


  1. And again your profound thoughts, broken down in sensible, down to earth terms with sincerity.... always a pleasure to read and ponder. glad your my bff forever ;)

    1. Glad I can help. And also thankful for your friendship!