Have you heard the saying, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” before?
This is a popular phrase that we Christians like to use when talking about how we should react to the world today and the sinful ways of people. I hear from a lot of people that this phrase came from the Bible. But, did you know that the Bible never actually says this? The quote is originally from Gandhi. Yeah… the Hindi guy.
While the phrase may not be taken from scripture, the Bible does teach us to love sinners while hating their sin. Check this out!
First of all, GOD HATES SIN.
“O God, you take no pleasure in wickedness; you cannot tolerate the sins of the wicked.” | Psalms 5:4 (NLT)
“There are six things the Lord hates – no seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that like the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family.” | Proverbs 6:16-19 (NLT)
Yes! God hates sin. He hates sin because of His holiness. Sin cuts us off from God and forces Him to turn away from it.
“It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, He has turned away and will not listen anymore.” | Isaiah 59:2 (NLT)
As Christians, we should also hate sin for the same reason God hates sin. According to Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, we are to be imitators of God. As imitators, we should follow God’s example of hating sin.
“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His
children.” | Ephesians 5:1 (NLT)
“You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of His godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked.” | Psalms 97:10 (NLT)
So, what is it about sin? Why does God hate sin so much? Well, its because our sin separates us from Him. Our sin is the one thing that keeps us from having a perfect relationship with Him in eternity.
“For everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious
standard.” | Romans 3:23 (NLT)
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” | Romans 6:23 (NLT)
The punishment we deserve for our sin is death.
However, there is a “but”… a big “but.” Perhaps one of the biggest “buts” in the Bible and this is where things get really good! Due to the bigness of this “but”, we have hope!
Because God loves us so much, He decided to send His Son to Earth and sacrifice Jesus to pay the price for our sins.
“God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world that we might have eternal life through Him.” | 1 John 4:8-9 (NLT)
DON’T MISS THIS!
This how passionately God loves us and how passionately He hates our sin. God would rather allow Jesus to suffer and take on the weight of our sin, knowing that death couldn’t hold Him down long-term so that He didn’t have to be separated from us forever. That’s some powerful love!
Now, going back to the idea that we as Christians are to be imitators of God, how should we imitate God in this way? God saw our sin and decided to forgive and sacrifice everything to do so. Is it all that crazy for God to expect us to do the same for others?
God didn’t excuse our sin. He did accept it or encourage it. He got what was justly due to Him as payment. But, He loved us enough to figure out a way for us not to have to pay it ourselves.
We, as Christians, should love like God loves and hate what God hates. That means we should love the sinner, and hate the sin. That phrase should serve as a reminder that we are to be imitators of God in the way He loves people and hates sin.
Practically, what does this look like?
I can love the thief while hating his criminal activities. I can love an alcoholic while hating his alcoholic tendencies. I can love a liar while hating his lying nature. I can love the adulterer while hating his adultery. I can love the homosexual while hating his sexual immorality.
However, I know from experience, this is pretty easy to say and much harder to do.
Christians can never endorse sin. Christians can never accept sin. But, Jesus was often seen fraternizing with sinners.
“But when the Pharisees say this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’” | Matthew 9:11 (NLT)
“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” | Matthew 9:36 (NLT)
“But afterward Jesus found him at the temple and told him, ‘Now you are well; so stop sinning, or something even worse will happen to you.” | John 5:14 (NLT)
“Go and sin no more.” | John 8:11b (NLT)
Jesus’ example is clear. He demonstrated love and compassion by building relationships with people. He did this while encouraging them to stop sinning. He didn’t love people and tolerate people’s sins. He loved people and told them to change.
I want to be clear: Jesus didn’t walk around pointing at people calling out their sin and we shouldn’t either.
As Christians, we need to understand that while the idea of “hating sin” is a Biblical concept, it is usually not a good idea to walk around calling people out on their sin in a public manner. Especially when someone’s sin is closely tied to the identity of a person.
Consider someone who is a homosexual. Say this person claims that his homosexuality is more than something he has chosen, but rather it’s who he is or how he was born. If you were to walk up to him and declare he is wrong and is sin, it probably won’t go over very well.
Following Jesus’ example, a person’s sin was not the focal point. Instead, Jesus spent time with the person, showed the person love and grace, and from that relationship came a spiritual change of the sinful nature.
There is a fine line between loving the sinner and condoning the sin, but we must speak the truth and show God’s love because that’s what God did for us and our sin.