Scriptures

Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin!

Introduction

Let me say right from the beginning that the phrase,

‘love the sinner, hate the sin’

is no-where found within the Scriptures.

Origin of the phrase

St. Augustine’s letter of 211 contains the phrase

‘Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum’,

which translates roughly to ‘with love for mankind and hatred of sins.’ The phrase has become more famous today as ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’ or ‘hate the sin and not the sinner’, the latter form appearing in Mohandas Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography.

The phrase is used a lot in the Christian world and if there is one group of people who don’t like the phrase, it’s probably the unbelievers.

I remember a few years ago having a discussion with a lady about sin, and as usual she tried to categorise sin to justify her own. She believed that having sex outside marriage wasn’t as bad as being a thief, telling lies wasn’t as bad as getting drunk. After showing her from the Bible that sin is sin, no matter what shape or form it comes in, she moved on to speak about the Christian’s attitude towards sinners. When I mentioned Christians love the sinner but hate their sinful practices, she got very upset with me and said,

‘oh you guys always use that phrase!’

You see, unbelievers don’t like that the phrase because it sounds to them like some kind of ‘get out clause’ because they believe some Christians are afraid to condemn their sin. It’s amazing how they miss the ‘loving the sinner’ part and focus on ‘hating the sin’ part.

As Christians we should know by now that before anyone becomes a Christian they need to see the cross as something done BY them before they can understand the cross, as something done FOR them.

Although the phrase ‘love the sinner, hate the sin,’ is no-where found within the Scriptures, I believe the principle behind the phrase is found everywhere within the Scriptures. Look for example at the most famous Bible verse in the world found in John’s Gospel.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16

Surely if any verse in the Bible declares that God loves sinners this is it, and surely the very fact that God gave His Son to die on a cross for sinners, tells us how much God hates sin too because of the cost involved in dealing with our sin.

When Jesus writes to the church in Ephesus, look at what He says in Revelation 2.

‘But you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.’ Revelation 2:6

He says He hates the ‘practices’ of the Nicolaitans, He doesn’t say that He hates the Nicolaitans themselves.

There are some Christians who are opposed the phrase ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, because they believe it’s not Scriptural, but let’s look at this phrase in action.

In John’s Gospel, he gives us an account of a woman caught in the act of adultery. The religious leaders bring her to Jesus to try and trap Him with a question about the Law of Moses which says they should stone her to death. After dealing with them and their accusations, Jesus then turns to the woman.

‘Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’ John 8:10-11

There is no doubt that Jesus loved her because He defended her case, He didn’t defend her sin or excuse her sin but despite His love for her, He still hated her sin, hence He commands her to

‘leave her life of sin.’

I wonder what those who are opposed to the phrase, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’, would have done in this situation, would they

‘hate the sinner and hate the sin even more!’

That was clearly the attitude of the religious leaders in Jesus’ time.

Jude teaches the same principle in his letter.

‘Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.’ Jude 1:22–23

Jude tells us Christians are to extend mercy and compassion for people but at the same time we need to have a hate for the sin. God can perfectly hate sin in all holiness while also perfectly loving sinners and desiring they repent and receive forgiveness.

‘The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’ 2 Peter 3:9

So, we need the reminder to love the sinner yet hate the sinful action. We are called to love others and also

‘to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.’ James 1:27

So there is caution needed when we love others. And through all of this we must remember that we’re called upon to follow God’s example of love.

How do we love the sinner?

‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ 1 John 4:8-10

Notice that God loved us before we loved Him, surely the principle is the same when we meet others around us.

We can love all sinners through respect, 1 Peter 2:17, by praying for them, 1 Timothy 2:1, and telling them about Jesus, regardless of their sin. We know sin leads to death, James 1:15 / Romans 6:23, and that we know that we should speak the truth in love, Ephesians 4:15.

I personally don’t believe it’s wrong to prayerfully point out the sin in people’s lives, as long as we can do so with love and respect for the person. We could argue that if we don’t tell others in love, that their sinful behaviour is wrong, that’s sinful on our side, but nonetheless, we love people by treating them with dignity and respect as well as caring enough about them to share the truth of Christ.

How do we hate sin?

When we read most of the New Testament letters, your read over and over again, of Paul’s love for his brethren but at the same time, he’s quick to point out their sin, why does he point out their sin? Because he loves them and hates sin because he knows the consequences of sin.

We hate sin by not promoting it, or encouraging it in any shape of form, and at the same time, like we saw earlier with Jesus and the woman, we shouldn’t excuse it either. There’s always the danger of loving someone so much that you overlook their sin and just accept it.

Other examples of phrases not found in the Scriptures

‘Spare the rod, spoil the child’

This could very well be a paraphrase of Proverbs 13:24, but the statement doesn’t really exist in any translation of the Bible. The Bible verse actually reads

‘He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.’

‘Money is the root of all evil’

This misquote is not too far off from the actual verse, found in 1 Timothy 6:10,

‘For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.’

But notice the text doesn’t say ‘money is THE root of all evil’, it says ‘money is A root of all kinds of evil’. In other words, money is one of many ways that can lead to evil.

‘All things work together for good’

This is another passage in which context is key, what things work together for whose good? Romans 8:28 reads in full.

‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’

Notice again that all things work together for good who LOVE him, those who have been CALLED for His purpose. In other words, this promise is for Christians and God doesn’t promise that things will be easy, but things will work out for our good.

None of these phrases are found in the Scriptures and yet people use them all the time, including Christians, I do believe that when we’re quoting Scripture we should quote it correctly, but I also believe there are times where principles can be taught, we should teach them. I wonder if those who oppose the phrase, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ are just as passionate against these other phrases mentioned above!

Conclusion

Someone once said,

‘I love the sinner by telling them how much God hates their sin.’

It’s all about getting the balance right, in both our love for the sinner and our hate for the sin, we must be careful to act in a way that honours God.

‘Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.’ Philippians 4:5

We also must be careful to speak with gentleness and respect.

‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.’ 1 Peter 3:15

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

2 Timothy 3:16

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