Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business (but God’s). What we are asked to do is to love. ~ Thomas Merton
Hate the sin, love the sinner. Everyone’s heard it. You may have come across it in the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi or when reading The City of God by Augustine. Today though, most folks know the words as a popular Christian cliché that shows up on bumper stickers and protest signs.
Where you won’t find it is in the Bible unless the verse is referring to God. God hates sin. God loves sinners. He does both perfectly. He loves sinners without self-interest. He hates sin without malice.
The slogan has become something of a rallying cry for Christians. It seems, though, that when you hear the people in the streets with their placards or the admonition from the pulpit or pews, the emphasis is more on the Hate than the Love part.
It’s a difficult thing – hating the sin while loving the sinner – particularly when applied to strangers. Can I presume to be so wise as to distinguish between the essential you, whose heart I can’t see, and the external you, whose behavior I can observe?
It’s also problematic because there are so many sins to choose from. This typically leads to selective sin hatred – hating some sins quite a lot and accepting others as just human nature (a little gossip, a little lust, a little pride).
Added to the that is the burden of judging others all the time and keeping that ever watchful eye on everyone else’s behavior (since there’s no single special sin to hate).
And finally, it requires the assumption that I’m able to discern a definitive sin list for each person and that I’m without error in my interpretation and application of the scriptures.
It’s a very sticky wicket, this loving hating thing. The weight of God’s words seem to fall heavily on the love part. As imperfect as I am at loving, I’m trying to keep my heart and my focus there.
I think a better slogan for me in this journey of grace would be: Hate my sin, love all sinners!