For a long time, “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin” was one of the mantras of evangelical Christianity. It tried to capture the idea that we should take a hard line on sin, all the while showing love for the individuals that commit those sins.
However, in recent years, there has been an increasingly stronger push to get rid of this phrase and the ideal it contains. Some have said that it’s “25% Love and 75% Sinner, Hate and Sin” or that it’s not in the Bible.
The rejection of this phrase and its ideal flows from a gross misunderstanding of what Biblical love is, and what Jesus taught. We read the word “love” in the Bible, and then think that must be the same “love” we think of today. This is incorrect.
Here are 3 reasons why “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin” is still a good idea.
1. It Correctly Captures The Opposing Forces At The Cross
If you want the best picture of love, look to the cross. That ghastly, over romanticized symbol of shame, curse, judgment, sin death… and yes, love.
If you fail to understand God’s hatred for Sin, you won’t understand why Jesus went to the cross. He hated sin so much, and loved us so greatly, that he willingly endured torture, death, and alienation on our behalf.
When we only preach the “love” half of the Gospel, and don’t take a hard line on sin, we profane the very reason for which Christ went to the cross. What did Christ have to pay for if not the very sin that we’re supposed to be “not hating”?
If Jesus is our model, why do we feel that it’s okay to have a lesser view of sin than He did? It was a problem of sufficient enormity for him to die, but we want to downplay it.
2. Sin Must Be a Detestable For Jesus To Be Beautiful
The “good news” of the Gospel is only good if a person correctly understands they plight. How will someone come to hate their sin, if we who already love God don’t hate it? How will people even come to see that they have a sin problem, if we never stress the size and cause of the chasm between them and The Sovereign God?
We expect people to understand God’s love for them because of how we love them, but how will they know God’s hatred for sin unless we also tell them?
In order for Jesus to accurately appear as a beautiful, perfect savior, people have to see their ugly, flawed nature, for which Christ is the only solution.
In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says that “the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He then provides some examples like those who practice: adultery, idolatry, homosexuality, greed, and many more.
Ultimately, we preach death not life to people, when we fail to communicate how God feels about their sin and the consequences that arise from it. Paul ends that paragraph in chapter 6 by saying that “some of you once lived this way, but you were washed, you were sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The wife-abuser needs to understand that coming to Christ requires ending his wife-abusing, repenting of that. The drunk needs to turn from his drunkenness, and the homosexual from his sexual actions outside of a man-woman marriage. We are not saved by our good words, but we are saved to them.
3. All Sin Should Always Be Detestable
Often, it is said that we should hate our own sin, but not others’ sin. I agree that we should hate our own, but this perspective says too little. While knowing that God’s hates murder, rape, abuse, and injustice, how can I only hate those things when I commit them? To hate all sin and love all people is to see reality, sin, and people as God sees them.
A great example of this is how the families of the victims of the Charleston shooting have reacted. To say that they have positive or neutral feelings about their loved ones being killed is ludicrous. You could say that they “hate” that aspect of the situation.
However, they have showed great Christian love to the shooter. They’ve told him that they’ve forgiven him. That they hope he repents and find Jesus. Because of God in their life, they have expressed Godly love to this individual, who did something detestable that has caused them incredible pain.
The struggle over how to view sin and people is not new. There is a difficult tension to live in there. It has driven some Christians to isolate themselves and some to move from hating sin to hating people.
The most recent trend in culture and in the church is to not talk about sin, evil, punishment, wrath, or anything else that isn’t warm and fuzzy. This is just as imbalanced as only focusing on the sin to the exclusion of loving the sinner. Let’s not forget that Jesus spoke more on hell than heaven.
I haven’t spent much time talking about loving people in this post, and it’s solely because I’m reacting to what I see an an imbalance. We should love, but our love should be a love rooted in biblical truth, not culture’s redefinition, as I’ve written here and here.
The most loving thing we can do to people is accurately and kindly inform them of reality. A sovereign God exists who is opposed to them because of their sin. If we present the Gospel and people don’t feel offended, we may have done it wrong. It offends modern sensibilities which believe that “I live for myself and am accountable to no one.” Just make sure it’s the truth of the Gospel that offends, and not our manner.
The more we hate sin in any form, the more we come to appreciate the beauty of our savior and his great love for his people.