Hate the Sin not the Sinner?

The Rainbow is Love

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.

10 thoughts on “Hate the Sin not the Sinner?”

  1. While you are correct about the statement, “Love the sinner, not the sin” not being Biblical, there can be an opposing position to your opinion about homosexuality being a sin. You clearly do not interpret the main Bible verses on homosexuality as classifying homosexuality as a sin, but that is a matter of opinion. The Bible can be interpreted in many different ways.. Jesus also no where in the Bible instructs the sinner to keep sinning, or to go and keep sinning. If you disagree with that feel free to leave me the verses. So when I hear the famous, ” Love the sinner, not the sin”, I often believe that is what they are referring to, Jesus loved the sinner but never instructed them to go and keep sinning. Of course that is just my interpretation. While he never hated the sin, he clearly wanted us to strive to be “Christ-like”, and strive away from sins. I do not believe if we view homosexuality as a sin that its a fair game to treat them differently, or try acting like their sin is greater than other sins, or have any right telling them they are going to Hell. I do not believe Jesus would of acted that way. We just must keep in mind their are opposing views on those verses concerning homosexuality& are up to a matter of interpretation.

    1. You’re correct. I do not believe that homosexuality is a sin, and I do not believe that the Bible condemns a homosexual orientation (or discusses a homosexual orientation at all).

      So, is it open to interpretation? Sure.

      What I don’t think is open to interpretation is the idea that Christians are called to love God and to love others as ourselves.

      At no point are we told that we should spend any time or effort at all focused on “the sin.” None whatsoever.

      I completely agree that we do not have a right to tell anyone that he or she is “going to hell.”

      You’re right, Jesus said, “Go and sin no more” to the woman caught in adultery. But even he didn’t spend anytime at all talking with the sinner about his or her sin. In the John 8 story, he simply stopped others from condemning her and then sent her on her way.

      If that was good enough for Jesus, such an approach should also be good enough for Christians.

      Trust me when I say, I am fully aware that there are Christians who consider homosexuality a sin. But even if it is, that does not affect at all what Christians supposed to do. Jesus said love. There wasn’t an “if” or “but” after that statement.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Many believe its not the sexual orientation that’s being condemned in the Bible, but the homosexual act itself. Many believe the act itself is what is defined as sinful behavior. By engaging in any sexual act your making the decision of Free-Will/Choice, unless its rape of course. There are also many that believe if you view their homosexual acts as sinful then as a Christian your not showing love, especially when they argue they are acting based on their genetics. So it raises the question of can you view their sexual acts as sinful but still be a loving Christian?, I of course believe its very much possible, but would love to hear other opinions.

    1. I think the biggest problem with focusing on whether or not homosexuality is considered a sin in the eyes of God is that, by making that determination, a person is in engaging in making a judgment that is supposed to be God’s judgment to make. Having an idea in our heads, a judgment, about whether another’s actions are good or bad or positively sinful influences how we treat that person. The point isn’t supposed to be whether or not another person is engaged in sinful acts (that’s for God to decide) but whether or not we judge them for it because judge not lest you be judged and let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone. Making that judgment is synonymous with throwing that stone. So I don’t think it is possible to view another’s acts as sinful and still be a loving Christian. Unconditional love, the Christ love, comes without judgment.

  3. So if we interpret it as a Biblical sin wouldn’t it be unloving to allow them to continue in a sexual act that we interpret by God’s Word as sinful in God’s eyes? Loving others requires that we graciously correct them when they fall into error (Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 1:11; Galatians 6:1). Jesus stated, ” Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). We must make sure we are judging righteously from God’s Word and not based on opinion, which if we interpret those verses (God’s Word) to clearly define the act as sinful behavior then we are judging righteously. God’s Word makes the judgment on morality and truth& the Bible instructs us to preach the gospel(Mark 16:15).

    1. Nope. That’s not a Christian’s responsibility. The Holy Spirit’s role it to graciously correct.

      All of the verses you’re citing talk about Christians “correcting” Christians with whom the already have an established relationship.

      The John passage is a comment that Jesus made to “the Jews” as they were attempting to kill him. I’m not sure that the context of that verse is transferable to our discussion here.

      Finally, the Mark passage instructs Christians to preach “the Good News.” Love is good news. Judgment, even “righteous judgment” isn’t quite as good of good news as love, is it?

  4. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you” (1 Corinthians 6:19), also if its your interpretation that God’s Word defines homosexual acts as sinful if you refuse to share that interpretation God’s Word tells us we will be held accountable for not sharing it.(Galatians 6: 1-2, Matthew 18 15-17, James 5:16, James 5:19-20). The sin itself is not the temptation, feelings, or being born that way if you want to argue its genetic, but the act of carrying out that feeling. For example we are often tempted to lie, but it becomes sinful when we act upon that temptation. The truth comes from God, God’s Word. In the book of Revelations two of the seven churches were dealing with the approval of sexual immorality, and God was calling upon them to repent of their ways. We can look at Romans 1:27 where God gave them over to shameful lusts, the woman started exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones. The men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. They committed “indescent” acts and received due penalty for their perversion. David wrote, “Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” ( Psalms 199:89). “The Word of the Lord stands forever” stated in (1 Peter 1:25). Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians gives us all who struggle hope, a promise from God, ” No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” We read in 2 Peter 3:9 that, ” The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

    1. Again, the Galatians, Matthew and now the James 5 passages are all referring to how a Christian interacts with another Christian: A member of your own church. These passages assume that this is someone with whom you already have a long-established relationship. Those verses are not talking about how Christians should interact with people they do not know. The presence of a loving relationship between the person who is sinning and the person who is doing the correcting is a given in that situation. It came first and the basis for everything that happens between them.

      The verse concerning the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit also refers to someone who is themselves already a Christian. If the Holy Spirit is present, the Holy Spirit can handle the righteous judgment. I don’t have to.

      Concerning the Romans passage: if a person is born with a sexual orientation, then behaving in a way that is opposite to that orientation would be “exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones.” Thus if someone is born with a homosexual orientation, behaving in a heterosexual way would be the “unnatural relations” for that individual. It would therefore be the sinful act. Making a homosexual exchange what comes natural for what is unnatural would be sin.

      I do believe that our sexual orientations have a genetic component that we are born this way.

      I do not disagree that the Bible claims that the Word of God “stands forever.” But the Bible itself defines the “Word” of God as Jesus in the first chapter of John. As such, the meaning of “the Word of God” is clearly open for interpretation. The version of the Bible that Christians often call the Word of God, may not be the same thing as what is being referenced in the passages that you’re quoting. And either way clearly we are open to the idea that the Bible should be open to interpretation. There are countless verses that we are more than happy to say do not represent the true Word (or thoughts) of God. The Bible clearly contains passages that support the institution of slavery, and yet most Christians are fully convinced that those passages do not mean that we should enslave another human being. The Bible clearly has Jesus condemning divorce, and yet most Christians are fully convinced that those passages do not mean that a couple must stay together in a loveless, or harmful, relationship. So yes, the Word of God stands forever, but our understanding of what the Word of God means does not.

      I agree that God is patient with humanity. Thankfully. But none of the verses you’ve quoted seem to contradict the point of this post which is that God and Jesus commanded Christians to love God and to love one another. We are not commanded to “righteously judge” complete strangers. And in fact, the only people we are supposed to “correct” in anyway other than ourselves are those people with whom we already have a long-established, loving, familial relationship with.

      And even then, love supersedes.

      God doesn’t need our help in righteously judging others, but loving others is something that would be helpful. So, respectfully, I’ll stick with just that.

      1. Your quote “Thus if someone is born with a homosexual orientation, behaving in a heterosexual way would be the unnatural relations. For that individual. It would be therefore be the sinful act.”, I would like the Biblical evidence supporting that theory because I am unaware of any verses classifying homosexual orientations, or any saying that a gay person committing heterosexual acts would be sinful. Also I do have another question when they became endured with the lust for the “unnatural relations” which was clearly a punishment, if God wasn’t against Homosexuality, why did he use it as a form of punishment? Also since God can see all things& knew what was going to happen before we were even created, if he was okay with gay acts in any fashion whether by love or etc, then why is it no where Biblically? , Why does every verse that deals with Homosexuality have words calling the acts “detestable”, or an “abomination”, depending on versions. If there were any exceptions what so ever& was favorable in God’s eyes where is it in his Words?

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