Hate the Sin; Love the Sinner?

I’ve been disappointed recently with the series of videos that have gone viral on Youtube with Evangelical churches displaying their unfortunate paranoia regarding homosexuals. First it was the pastor preaching that all homosexuals should be put behind a barbed wire fence. Food should then be dropped in from overhead, but because there would be no reproduction homosexuality would theoretically soon come to an end. Aside from the utter slobber-knocking stupidity of thinking that any sinful activity or temptation could be eliminated by quarantining those who currently struggle with it, this kind of press makes us all look terrible and does nothing to further the mission. Then, more recently, CNN carried another viral video from another southern Evangelical church where a child sang a song during the service that reportedly included words to the effect that “there will be no homos in heaven” to the cheers of the congregation. The CNN writer said there have been an increasing number of “evangelical, independent” churches with these kinds of things happening. As members of this congregation were questioned by the media they had obviously been coached to make clear that they don’t hate homosexuals, they love them, but they hate the sin. Several of them simply said that which we’ve all heard a thousand times…. “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
Just to be clear, while Christians say it all the time that’s not a Christian or biblical statement. It’s actually from Gandhi. It sounds good on the surface, but it is a misguided statement.
Certainly we love people and all people are sinners. Certainly we don’t love sin, in fact we do hate sin (at least we say we do!) so there is a sense in which it is a fine and accurate statement.
But we normally say “Hate the sin; love the sinner!” when we’re referring to someone that is struggling with a particular behavior. And, normally it is not a behavior we struggle with. I’ve heard well meaning folks use this phrase when referring to alcoholics and prisoners who had broken the law and such. Now we are hearing Evangelicals use it in reference to homosexuals.
Here are the problems:
It misunderstands the essence of sin. Sin, in it’s most pure form is not something we do. It is not an activity. It is a state of the heart. The Bible doesn’t just say that we do wrong things, it says that we are desperately wicked from the inside out. For example, pride, lust and greed are not activities at all. They’re sinful, of course, but they are a state of the heart. And, sin is a state of heart that we all share equally. Desperate wickedness doesn’t come in degrees; it’s all desperate.
I can’t hate anything without malice; only God can hate while loving. God is perfectly holy; I’m desperately wicked. Only God can hate evil without malice, and only God can love without selfishness. In my evil nature I don’t have the moral capacity to hate anything without sin. Honestly, I’m too attracted to sin to hate it.
It sounds arrogant. When we make statements like “Love the sinner; hate the sin” we sound like we don’t have any sin to hate. It sounds judgmental. I know we don’t necessarily mean that, but it does come off that way.
So, as our culture heats up around the homosexual marriage issue and churches keep shooting the Gospel in the foot by doing really dumb things it might be better for us to say something like; “Just like pride, greed and envy, homosexuality is a symptom of a deeper sin issue that every one of us shares. Thankfully Jesus provides forgiveness and adoption to anyone who will repent of their sin and accept his death on their behalf.” Okay, that statement obviously needs work, but you get the idea.
Let’s be wise during these dangerous days and remember that our goal is not behavior management; it’s soul transformation for God’s glory.

About Scott Fetterolf

I'm the Lead Pastor of Emmanuel Bible Chapel and married to my best bud, Brenda, for 28 years. We have three grown sons and I use this space to write about life, faith, and the lost art of manhood. Thanks for reading, I will read every comment and respond to every comment I can.
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One Response to Hate the Sin; Love the Sinner?

  1. Ken Gross says:

    Hi Scott,
    Great blog! It does not surprise me that CNN and Youtube are reporting on this garbage , as the main-stream media is out to discredit true followers of Christ, and will always use the very extreme stories to do it!

    I recently found a very interesting article, and would like to pass it on to you… thanks again.


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