Jul 022015 2 Responses

Hate My Sin, Love Other Sinners

I grew up hearing the phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” It’s a good phrase. It drove the point home to me that the way of Jesus always valued people even while not agreeing with everything they did. Love of a person and approval of action are not synonymous. I love myself, but I often do not like what I do. I love my children, but clearly get frustrated when they fail to obey. I can love without approving.

And I can approve without loving. I approve of people when they make a similar choice as me, yet that approval doesn’t guarantee my heart will be moved in deep affection for the person. I might approve of them, but it doesn’t ensure that I will act in their best interest. I can approve without loving.

The phrase is good. While it is has been misrepresented by some and misunderstood by others, the intent of the phrase is solid. (See: What I Mean When I Say ‘You Are a Sinner’)

But I think there is a better phrase. While “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is effective, I more often remind myself, “Hate MY sin, love OTHER sinners.”

Sin should be hated. Any action or attitude which is contrary to the Creator should be despised by His creation. While sin might be enjoyable in the moment, it ultimately leads to negative consequences for us and those around us. One of the effects of knowing God should be a growing angst against anything which does not bring God glory.

The Gospel (the good news that God saves sinners) causes me to have an ever-evolving awareness of my own sinfulness. The gospel doesn’t make me better, it actually causes me to understand I’m far worse than I realize. As my awareness of my sin grows, so should my disdain for it. Yet hating my sin should never result in hating myself. God has chosen to love me and His love defines me far more than any action of my own. The Christian should hate their sin but love themselves. (See: A True Picture of Justice and Grace)

From this perspective, we then consider the personhood and sinfulness of other people. Only having viewed our own sin first, could we ever properly consider the sin of others. Once I hate my own sin, I can truly hate the sin of others because I know it is having a negative impact on their lives. It is out of compassion for them and the recognition they are just as broken as I am that causes me to dislike an action or attitude.

For a Christian, loving others is often directly dependent upon hating our own sin. Having accepted our sinful nature and experienced God’s love for us in spite of not deserving His love, our hearts are opened to love others who, like us, do not deserve that love.

Show me someone who doesn’t hate their own sin and I’ll show you someone who probably doesn’t truly love others. Yet show me someone who has seen just a glimpse of God’s love for them and I’ll show you someone who desperately wants to love other people. (See: ‘God Is Love’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think)

Those who degrade the “hate the sin, love the sinner” mantra are often weak on sin. They fail to emphasize humanity’s need for redemption and change. Yet when we hate our sin, we recognize the damage which sin does while also having a deep compassion for other people.

2 Responses to Hate My Sin, Love Other Sinners
  1. Leigh Walker Reply

    This is sermon material. We need to learn how to LOVE others and hate sin without it feeling like we hate and are pointing our finger as if to say your sin is worse than my sin.

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