“Love the sinner; hate the sin.” Have you ever heard that before? Of course, you have. Have you ever used it? If you are a Christian, most likely, and maybe even often.
I have heard this statement my whole life. To be honest, it has never sat well with me. I have never really thought about why before, but I recently saw it multiple times in comments on certain religious social media posts, and I decided to finally put my thoughts down.
I think the reason I have never liked it on a surface level is because I dislike the word “hate.” It is not a word that I associate with Jesus, so it isn’t something I have ever felt comfortable saying.
There are many more reasons this statement puts a bad taste in my mouth, and I feel the need to share. Please don’t think that I am judging anyone who says this. I know it isn’t used with ill intent. I just want us all to think about how it comes across, and if it is actually serving anyone.
Let’s break this down into two parts. Here is why I feel “Love the sinner” is troubling:
- We are all sinners. Why not just say “love your neighbor,” which is what Christ asked us to do?
- The reason number 1 above doesn’t happen is because we only say this statement when talking about certain people committing certain sins. That’s because in our minds we rank certain sins as worse than others, when in reality, we all fall short of perfection.
- When we call someone a sinner, we are defining them by their sins. Because of that, we are not thinking of the person as a child of God first, or as one of our brothers and sisters first. We are thinking of the person as a sinner first, and sometimes only as such.
- If you are calling someone a sinner, do you really love them? Do you truly feel the love of God for them when you call them that? It would definitely be hard to do so if that’s how you are defining them.
Now onto the second part, “hate the sin:”
- When we say the word “hate,” that denotes anger, disdain, resentment, negative judgment, and more. It does not denote anything righteous or loving.
- Do we “hate” our own sins or just the sins of others we think sin worse than us? That’s definitely something to ponder.
- The definition of what is sin will vary depending upon belief systems, so is it fair to call someone a sinner who doesn’t believe his/her actions are a sin?
- When using this statement, it takes away thoughts of anything other than the “what,” or the sin itself. There is no effort to try to understand what led someone to commit the so-called sin. There is no effort to encourage or support someone in changing if they desire to.
And now some thoughts about the whole statement, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”
- It is used as a way to simplify human existence and brush away the need to get to know people on a deeper level.
- Nobody’s identity can be fully separated from their sins, for our sins help make us who we are at any given moment. Overcoming sin also helps us be better than we were before.
- When we say this statement, we often are justifying doing what we say we aren’t doing: negatively judging others and loving only conditionally.
- We are coming across as prideful as we call someone else a sinner but not ourselves.
- This teaching is not found in scripture.
- The second part gets the focus and disagreement with the sin is the reason we say this in the first place.
I believe that in order to love others the way God loves each of us, we have to stop defining people by their sins. We have to see their divine nature and individual worth. We need to allow each other the gifts God has given all of us: agency, the ability to gain wisdom and knowledge from our experiences, repentance, forgiveness, and redemption.
For all these reasons, and maybe some I haven’t even realized, I will not be using this statement in my life. This doesn’t mean I am perfect at not judging. It also doesn’t mean I condone all actions people take. No, I actually have a very strong moral compass and I also am not always completely merciful and understanding. However, I know I am a sinner just like everyone else. I know I wouldn’t want someone saying this statement when talking about me because it would be hurtful.
I listened to a little reel from Mr. Rogers yesterday and it touched my heart. He used to always say this to the child viewers. The world would be a much better place if we treated others with this sentiment:
I also adore this quote from Mr. Rogers:
I leave us all with the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8:
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth…
I hope and pray that we can all strive to see each other the way God sees us and that even if we don’t agree with something someone is doing, we can still befriend, love, respect, and show compassion for them. That is what I know Christ would do.