Alright, everyone. Let’s do it. Let’s talk about that phrase that gets thrown around in the religious community almost as much as much as “I’ll pray for you”: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” What does this phrase mean, exactly? Well, it’s supposed to mean that we love everyone but that doesn’t mean that we have to love or condone the sins they’re committing. Just like I have to love my Aunt Margot because she’s family but I don’t have to love the fact that she hauls a flask of rotgut whiskey to family functions and then insists on singing “Put the Lime in the Coconut” at the top of her lungs while we eat dinner. Seriously, Margot. Stop doing that.
But is that really how we – Christians of the world – are using this much-used phrase? Are we really loving all of God’s people and just hating the sins they’re committing? Let’s take, for the sake of this post, homosexuality as our example. Many Christians believe that homosexuality is a sin. That it explicitly states in the Bible that laying with someone of the same sex as you would with someone of the opposite sex is sinful and an abomination before God. Therefore, in God’s eyes, being gay is a sin. But doesn’t God say that we’re supposed to love everyone? Love the sinner, hate the sin to the rescue! So, how do we do that? How do we go about loving another of God’s children the same way God loves us (as we’re commanded to do) while hating their sins?
Well, in the case of homosexuality, we fight against legalizing same-sex marriage so people can’t legally commit that sin. And we encourage conversion therapy for gay youth so that we can cast out the sin. And, of course, we preach our sermons against anything that might promote the homosexual lifestyle because it’s important to keep them away from the sin in the first place. And if the gay people are fully committed to their sin than we have no choice but to pray for them and hope than they come to God and turn away from their heathen ways, returning into the fold, clean and sin-free. We try to warn them of the consequences of their actions, we tell them of the perils of Hell that await them if they don’t turn away from homosexuality, that they can’t possibly get into the kingdom of Heaven with that sinful stain on their souls. Because that’s really all we can do, right? We can show them the way and hope that they take the straight and narrow path.
So we can sleep well at night, fellow Christians, knowing that we’ve done all we can do to love those gay people, those homosexual children of God while still warning them of the wrong that they’re doing. While still hating their sin and trying to turn them away from it. We can rest our heads and knew we did our best.
But what of those gay people? How do they feel about the steps we’ve taken? Put yourself in their shoes and see if you still feel like you’ve loved that sinner the way God would want you to. Imagine that you’ve met someone that you love and that you have proposed to that person and you want to spend the rest of your life with them but you can’t. You can’t stand up before a minister and your friends and family and God and profess your love for them because a particular group of people said that your love is wrong and sinful and it should be illegal. But hey, those people still love you so it’s okay!
And imagine that you are a teenager, swimming in feelings that you don’t understand, confused about who you are who is taken from everything comfortable and familiar and put through horrendous mental torture in which you are told that the person you think you are is wrong and sinful and that, if you continue down that path, you are going to burn in Hell for all eternity. But your church family is telling you they love you as you lie sobbing, broken, lost, alone and confused so it’s okay!
And imagine that you are a Christian who just happens to be gay, who believes that God loves you because you are His child and, just like any good parent, He loves all His children equally, no matter what. And then you are confronted with other Christians who are telling you that, no, God doesn’t love you the way you are. That you have to change yourself or you won’t be good enough to deserve God’s love. But these people love you so everything – all these hurtful, hateful, mean things they’re saying to you are all okay!
One thing that we Christians are horribly guilty of is picking and choosing which sins are worthy of our time and which are not. We have, for some reason, decided that homosexuality is one that is the big One-Way Ticket to Hell while working on Sunday – one that is a sin punishable by death in the Bible and is so bad it got it’s own Commandment – is almost completely ignored. Where are the people walking through Wal-Mart and Target on Sundays telling all the employees they’re going to Hell for working on the Sabbath? Where are the lines of Christians picketing in front of courthouses to get legislators to pass laws making it illegal to work on Sunday? And what of divorce? I’m a divorced woman and I’ve never, ever been told that I’m going to Hell because I divorced my husband even thought the Bible’s pretty specific about that.
So here’s the bottom line. Our Christian love feels a lot like hate to those on the receiving end of it and that is never something that we should be promoting. That is never something that we should feel good about because that is not going to bring anyone closer to God. In fact, it’s just pushing people further away. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a phrase that we made up to make ourselves feel good about passing judgement on other people; people who are doing things that we don’t like. Because it obviously has nothing to do with what the Bible says we should or should not be doing or we would be taking a much stronger stance on closing down Long John Silver’s and not wearing polyester blends. Nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about us loving the sinner and hating the sin. In fact, it says pretty explicitly that we’re not to judge anyone and that we’re to love unconditionally. It’s God’s place to judge and at the end of it all, we’re all going to have to stand before him and answer for our own lives. So let’s leave the judgement up to Him and just love each other, shall we?