September 23, 2003
Love the sinner, hate the sin

Kynn recently objected to that concept, and Tom responded with a series of posts (permalinks are fubar again, but it starts with a post called "love and sin"). I am more in agreement with Tom here; although I think Kynn's heart is in the right place, he elides the question of what to do if someone is doing something you believe is deeply wrong. If you fill in "sin" with whatever most offends you -- child molestation, torture, what have you -- it seems to me that loving the sinner and hating the sin is often the best you can do.

Posted by Camassia at September 23, 2003 08:12 PM | TrackBack

Matthew 25:40 says "Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of least of these my brothers, you it to me."
It is not possible that the concept "least" includes the *morally* least--even the greatest of sinners. Then wouldn't it follow that if we hate that sinner, by our refusal to forgive, that we are also hating Jesus Christ?

Posted by: Rob on September 24, 2003 05:05 AM

True enough, although no one's arguing for hating the sinner here. You can love and forgive someone and still despise what they did. In fact, forgiveness necessitates hating the sin, because you don't forgive unless the person did something wrong to begin with.

Posted by: Camassia on September 24, 2003 08:00 AM

There are several things in here which I need to re-address in a followup post, but in short: There's a difference between justice and love (in fact, a conflict) -- stopping someone from being a child molester is not (and should not be) motivated by love for the child molester.

However, a point I failed to make before is that first comes love, then comes chastisement. People who loudly and vociferously campaign "against homosexuality" are not doing the first part, extending love. Then, if they really want to, they can provide loving Christian rebuke.

Love doesn't mean standing back and pointing and saying "YOU'RE A SINNER AND IF YOU STOP SINNING, I'LL LOVE YOU." Love means saying "I love you even though you are a sinner and even if you continue to sin." That's the kind of love Christ and God showed for us, after all.

Like I said, I'll develop this more in a followup post.


Posted by: Kynn Bartlett on September 24, 2003 08:08 AM

As with everything in the Christian walk, Jesus is our perfect example. He loves me, but he hates my sin. He loved me even before I recognized my need for him. He spared and forgave the woman caught in adultery, but told her to "go and sin no more." He unhesitatingly pointed out that the Samaritan woman had had 5 husbands, but he loved her enough to reveal himself to her.

I agree with Kynn that as Christians we could do a lot better job of showing our love to people who are doing things we believe to be deeply wrong. I don't think getting into their face about what bad people they are is Jesus' way. But we can't shrink from admitting that some actions deeply offend the God we love. Actions that offend God's holiness should break our hearts, too. But we love the person because we realize that they, like us, are broken and fallen without Christ.

Posted by: Lee Anne Millinger on September 24, 2003 08:57 AM

There can be no doubt that the surest way to show our love for--a child molester, for instance--is to prevent him from hurting another child. But, along with a just punishment must go forgiveness, an attempt at understanding, and--most importantly--an opportunity for rehabilitation.
I am against the death penalty in the case of an unrepentent criminal because his death deprives him of an opportunity to get right with God. I believe that the Lord wants us all to be saved. I don't think that the state has the right to prevent that from happening.
To a lesser degree, showing hatred toward a criminal is apt to make it less likely that he will repent, since hate begets hate. This is why we have an obligation to forgive and to try to be of help in a process of spiritual healing. This includes forgiving *ourselves*, for all of the same reasons.

Posted by: Rob on September 24, 2003 09:46 AM

"He loves me, but he hates my sin."


When Jesus ever say he hated your sin? I'm trying to find such a citation in the gospels, but I haven't found it yet.

He may REGRET or DISLIKE sin, but "hate" is such a strong word, and it's almost always portrayed negatively -- as a sign of sin -- and against a person, in the scripture.

I think of sin as a state of separation from God, others, and self, and I see a danger in "hating" that state even if it's undesirable.


Posted by: Kynn Bartlett on September 24, 2003 12:30 PM

Actually, this reminds me of a point the priest made in the Catholic mass I attended a couple weeks ago, in his homily about compassion. He said he'd grown up believing anger was an entirely un-Christian thing, but lately he'd come to regard it as an essential part of compassion. If you really feel someone else's pain, you feel anger at whatever caused it. And indeed, he has biblical support for this -- Jesus, after all, gets angry more than once.

Anger isn't the same as hate, and it's true the Bible doesn't use the word that often, though of course the Bible wasn't written in English. However, I can see how if God loves us and wants to be with us, he'd feel a symmetrical hatred for whatever gets in the way of that. Using a soft word like 'regret' or 'dislike' doesn't quite carry the same passion.

Overall, though, I think we agree more than we disagree -- this is an issue of semantics more than moral philosophy. But anyway, I'll hold my tongue until I see your post ...

Posted by: Camassia on September 24, 2003 02:36 PM

That's an excellent point. There is nothing wrong with expressing anger when another is doing wrong. Jesus demonstrated both anger and impatience more than once, as you point out. And anger and hate are definitely not the same thing. I find that I usually get angry at people I love. If you hate somebody, anger is superfluous.

Posted by: Rob on September 24, 2003 05:49 PM

Oh, there are lots and lots of verses in the Bible that refer to God's hatred of sin. If Jesus didn't share His Father's hatred of sin, then a lot of what Jesus says about Himself in the Gospels is untrue.

If God didn't hate sin, God wouldn't love Himself.

Posted by: Tom on September 25, 2003 05:37 AM

I guess my objection to this phrase is because of the sorts of people who tend to use it these days. It's kind of like how you can't use "gay" to mean happy in a light-hearted manner anymore, or how the word "evangelical" has such horrid connotations (no matter what it meant originally).

Regardless of some of the fine sentiments (or convoluted, Biblical agruements) expressed above - everytime I come across someone who professes to "hate the sin, not the sinner," they are inevitably the sort who simply want to use the word "hate" and still feel clean afterwards...

Posted by: David Huff on September 30, 2003 06:58 AM

Is this just another way of making sure the
'Silent Majority' stays silent...???...And demand we ignore abortion, pornography, gay marriage, disrespect for our flag & President along with our civil & Godly regulations, like to favor the criminal over the victim & sue the police instead of cooperating by obeying the laws...???...

Posted by: John H. Mack on February 4, 2004 07:12 PM
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