Loving the sinner or hating the sin. What’s our top priority?

Hate the sin, but love the sinner.

I think the next time some dude starts to tell me this, I’m going to punch him in the face before he finishes and then say, “oh, I didn’t realize it was a two-part deal. My bad.”

Sorry if that’s a little harsh, but over the years this has become a top-5 over-used Christian phrase, and its backwards nature at times gets under my skin.

It’s not that I’m pro sin, it just seems that some Christians a little too consumed with hating sin, and most often sin belonging to someone other than themselves.

In an almost politician-esque fashion, these folks throw up an official statement of hate whenever something “sinful” in in their midst. I mean, God forbid someone ever think they could give in to such a temptation.

Regardless how well intentioned these folks are all I, and I dare say most folks, are hearing is akin to Ron Burgundy yelling, “Hey everyone, come see how good I look.”

After you sound like that, turning around and making a friend for Jesus is usually a bit more difficult.

For example, let’s say the Bible said that drinking milk was a sin. I imagine this is kind of how the scenario might play out.

Holy guy: “I hate milk! God never intended man to drink milk and doing so is a perversion of everything he created. I hate milk and will never drink it!”

Holy guy: “You there, with the carton in your hand. I love you. Would you like to come to a milk-free lock-in at my church?”

If I’m a milk drinker, I’m probably going to have a hard time embracing this guy after that and I’m doubtful that lock-in, no matter how much pizza is promised, is going to happen.

Listen, I get that God hates sin, and because he does, we should too.

Let’s be honest, it’s real easy for us to hate sins that we don’t personally struggle with and feels great to be able to stand up against them with the confidence that we haven’t dipped into that pond.

But I think this becomes a problem when we let hating those sins take priority over loving people. Even if what we’re hating is very hate-worthy, I think this greatly interferes with our ability to communicate our love, and more importantly Jesus’ love, to those who might have fallen prey to it.

Jesus hated sin, no doubt a lot more than you or I, but when he met that adulterous lady, he didn’t tell her to “go, and sin no more,” until after he’d stuck his neck out for her. Jesus didn’t confront her sin until he proved to her his love.

Of course he also didn’t punch anyone calling this lady out in the face. So I probably need to work on that.

I don’t think the phrase is completely wrong, I just think it’s a little mixed up in a dangerous fashion.

Maybe instead of saying we hate the sin and love the sinner, we should say we love the sinner and just hate sin in general.

And maybe the sins we should spend the most effort hating are the ones we struggle with the most.

— @TravisKWilliams



About travman44

I work as a reporter for a newspaper in southwest Virginia. I play as a writer specializing in deep thoughts on shallow, and occasionally not so shallow, subjects. I'm also a former history teacher, bible college alum, and lover of the NBA and kids' breakfast cereals. It's a delicate blend. -- @TravisKWilliams on Twitter
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One Response to Loving the sinner or hating the sin. What’s our top priority?

  1. Travis,
    Picked up on your blog through twitter. Good stuff. This is a helpful perspective. I especially appreciate the last line. The sin I am most concerned about is my own pride and self-righteousness because that sin blinds me (and others) to our great need for a Savior. Bottom line, I talk about sin because it’s worse than we think and as one old dude put it, “until sin be bitter, grace will not be sweet.” I’m trying to get to the good part, grace, but I know some can only hear talk of sin as judgmentalism.
    Thanks for writing, both here and in the paper!

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