Member Mailbag – I hear this term a lot: “hate the sin, but love the sinner” or “hate the crime, but not the criminal.” It sounds like an excuse to hang out with people, while ignoring their sin.
I find it hard to separate the sin from the sinner. I’m not saying I hate people. The analogy I’ve come up with is if someone broke into a home and killed a wife or child. Or maybe a drunk driver slammed into a family and killed a spouse.
I would blame the person and hold him responsible. I would not blame the sin for what happened. Surely the people who say, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner” would want the person in prison.
While I don’t want to ignore my duty to love the sinner and hang out with them like Jesus did, I’m confused. Something does not sound right.
You raise a good and thoughtful question about a phrase that has been tossed around Christianity for a long time. It is one of those bumper sticker statements or fiery pulpit lines that sounds good in the moment, but lacks depth and needs more explanation and nuance, hence your question.
It reminds me of the caricatured conservative Christian lambasting the gay community. If we “hate the sin and love the sinner,” but never practicalize what God’s love fully means as it relates to the sinner, then we are missing something important.
Though the intent of the statement is good, the danger is it can lead us into the pluralistic relativism we so despise in our culture today. Hate the sin, but love the sinner is a forced juxtaposition of Bible thought that can abuse the word love, while obscuring God’s plenary character and attributes.
Whenever we take two thoughts like this–hate sin/love sinner–and put them together and try to create a doctrine out of it, we can create an unnecessary tension that can perpetuate Biblical ignorance while confusing the unregenerate world.
Though the goal may be noble–Christians should love everybody–the result can be bad: God’s justice, holiness, and wrath will be siphoned from His character. What you will end up with is a god that is amenable to our culture, but unable to save the ones you want to