You know, there’s been a lot said of late by people who disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage yesterday that people who support the decision are condemning those who don’t and claiming that they don’t love others.
It is not my intention in celebrating the decision to condemn anyone. There is, in my opinion, too much condemnation in this world as there is.
(For the record, I do not believe that being a homosexual is a sin, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.)
The response, from those who oppose the decision, goes something like this:
I have many friends who are gay and I love and respect them, they know I love them but don’t agree with their lifestyle. I am offended when it is implied that I do not love because I oppose gay marriage.
Usually after a claim of this nature, someone will response:
That’s right! We’re commanded to love the sinner but not the sin. That’s what Jesus did!
And with a single cliché, everyone goes away happy that they have done their duty towards others by letting them know that they’re wrong.
But here’s the thing, the phrase, “love the sinner but hate the sin” is not actually a commandment. It isn’t actually even Biblical.
The source of that cliché is probably St. Augustine who wrote in 424ce, “Cum dilectione hominum et audio vitiorum” which is typically translated as, “With love for humanity and hatred of sins.” In 1929, Gandhi restated this idea as “hate the sin and not the sinner.”
The phrase does not actually appear in the Bible.
But surely the idea shows up in the Bible even if it isn’t said that way, right?
Let’s take a look at that. Would Jesus have actually hated the sin but not the sinner?
There are, in the Gospels, basically three incidents where Jesus directly interacts with “sinners.”
The first shows Jesus healing the paralytic, and when doing so, he said to him “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (This story is found in Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:5-17, and Luke 5:17-26.) In each passage, Jesus sees the injured man, approaches him, says, “your sins are forgiven,” and then heals the man.
In none of the versions of these stories is the paralytic man asked to confess his sins. Jesus simply forgave, and then immediately when the Pharisees began to condemn Jesus for blasphemy, he healed the man.
There is no discussion of how horrible the sin was. There was no discussion of not approving of the person’s lifestyle. Jesus seemed to go out of his way to avoid drawing attention to the man’s lifestyle in any way.
In a second incident that appears in Luke 7:36-50, Jesus is invited to dinner at with a Pharisee when a woman enters caring an alabaster jar of ointment which she then broke and anointed his feet and dried them with her hair. This is a similar story to Jesus’ anointment for burial by Mary in John 12.
When this woman did this, the Pharisee asked why Jesus would let this sinner touch him? Jesus responded, “I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
Jesus then, again, turned to her and said without preamble or requirement, “your sins are forgiven.” They were forgiven by an act of love, nothing else.
The final incident is the woman caught in adultery who was being brought out to be stoned in John 8:1-11.
After writing in the dirt and telling the mob, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
After they had left, he approaches the woman and asks, “Has no one condemned you?” When she said, “no one, sir,” he responded, “then neither do I condemn you. Go your way and sin no more.”
Thus, at no point did Jesus discuss or express his “hatred for the sin.” The sin was not relevant. At all.
His entire focus was on loving the person who was in front of him. The person was all that mattered. What the person did or did not do was irrelevant.
So, no, Jesus did not hate the sin, not the sinner. He loved the sinner, and that love changed everything for the sinner. There was no condemnation. There wasn’t even a discussion like we might, unadvisedly have with a child where we ask, “do you know what you did wrong?”
There was just love. Nothing else.
And that’s what we’re actually commanded to do. No where does scripture tell us to hate the sin of others.
If I really want to hate sin, the sin I should hate is just my own. Not others (Matthew 7:1-5). If I do that, then I will truly understand how to love others because I’ll realize that I too am a sinner. There’s no difference between me and anyone else. God sees us all as the object of God’s love; God forgives us all (Romans 5:6-8).
The cliché “hate the sin not the sinner” needs to be retired from our lexicon. It’s a meaningless phrase used to absolve myself when I, sinfully, condemn others’ sin rather than seek forgiveness for my own.
The only commandments that Jesus gave us were, “Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:28-34).
We’re not commanded to hate anything not even sin.