Love the sinner, hate the sin – is that the best phrase to use?!?

Hate the sin

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the following post, which was originally posted by Justin Lathrop on his blog back on October 27, 2014. You can find the original post here.

If you’ve been in the church for a while, I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase: Love the sinner, hate the sin. We know we’re called to love all people, but we use this phrase to explain how we can love people, even when we don’t agree with how they’re living their lives.

It’s understandable that we’d desire a phrase like this. It’s hard to know how to love someone who is doing things we know are clearly wrong or harmful to them. We don’t know how to love that person while not feeding into the belief that what they’re doing is okay. Our love for people and our conviction about what they’re doing are two heavy things to carry, and we often find ourselves falling to one side of grace or truth. And while this is a valid and understandable struggle—I don’t know if this phrase is really the key to solving this tension.

Here are three reasons I’m not sure this phrase is helping us become more like Christ.

1. It introduces hate into the conversation.

The first thing to note is that Jesus has never been about hate. Jesus talks about love and grace and mercy, but never hate. So introducing hate into the conversation is automatically a deviation from His teaching.

Also, if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality, it’s hard to feel the difference between your sin being the target of the hate and being the target yourself.

2. Jesus didn’t shame people.

The woman at the well and the prostitute in the square are great examples of how Jesus treated sin and the people trapped in it.

In the case of the prostitute in the square, while the Pharisees were up in arms about her sin, Jesus paid little attention to it. He didn’t condemn her, or shame her, or make a point of loving her but not her actions. He just loved her. And then He gently guided her towards a different kind of life.

3. Changing someone’s sin isn’t our responsibility.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” implies that other people’s sin is our responsibility to fix—as if we’re going to change the sin by treating it a certain way—and that’s just not true. When we make ourselves the “sin police” we get into murky territory, straying far to the side of truth and losing much of our grace.

We aren’t responsible for fixing, or removing, or condemning someone’s sin. We’re responsible for love. God takes care of the rest.


One thought on “Love the sinner, hate the sin – is that the best phrase to use?!?

  1. “Jesus talks about love . . . but never hate.” Not true. Read Luke 14:26. And I am going to argue that the concept of hating sin has never been more powerfully communicated by anyone other than Jesus. “Gouge out your eye” is crystal clear communication on how Christ expected His followers to view and treat sin in their own lives. Hebrews 12:2 tells us that although the cross was set before Jesus as a joy, the shame associated with it (which is a consequence of sin…see Gen 3) He “despised.”

    All this said, I do appreciate the author’s sensitivity to lost people. I have never and would never use the phrase in question in front of a person with whom I am trying to share Christ and the Gospel. I would be more likely, only because of God’s grace in my heart, to speak of hating sin and its effects in my own life. That’s part of sharing your testimony – telling how Jesus opened your eyes to how horrible your sin is and implanted in you a desire to be forgiven and cleansed by Him. The greater challenge is always hating my own sin. Hating sin in others is easy. Loving the sinner enough to penetrate and persevere in spite of the sin is the mark of the God of the Bible and the Christ of the Gospel (Rom 5:8). May the Holy Spirit conform me to His image for His glory!

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