“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

On July 14, Pastor Jim preaches on Matthew 7:1-5.

1 “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

In his book “Half Truths,” Adam Hamilton points out that the oft-used phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” most likely came from an out-of-context quote from St. Augustine or from a partial quote from Mahatma Gandhi.

Augustine was writing a letter to nuns telling them to be sexually pure. He called for them to have a “love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Gandhi did say “hate the sin and not the sinner,” but he qualified that by saying “[this] precept, though easy to understand is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.”

Hamilton then says, “I believe [Gandhi] was observing that most find it hard to hate another’s sin without harming the sinner.”

On the surface, the saying “Love the sinner, hate the sin” seems like good policy—that is, until someone lays it on us. Then it drips with condescension, false piety, and judgment.

Also, suppose there is something in your life that I consider sinful yet you do not. Suppose I could back up my judgment with Scripture. Leviticus 11:9-12 forbids the eating of shellfish. God commanded the Hebrews not only to avoid such food but to detest it. Suppose I were to follow you into your favorite seafood restaurant and monitor your order. Can you imagine me condemning you if I spied an oyster on your plate? Ridiculous!

But suppose I did. And after announcing that what you are doing is an abomination to God, would it soften the blow if I told you that I love you yet hate your sin?

Jesus never said, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” What Jesus taught us was to love everybody and hate our own sin. Furthermore, he took judgment completely off our job descriptions. See above.

We’ll think together about this on Sunday. Hope to see you there.