Hate The Sin. Love The Sinner. Really?

There is a popular saying among Christians under a lot of attack lately: "Hate the sin. Love the sinner." It's origin is unknown, but its meaning has roots in Scripture.

Jude wrote, 

"But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:20-23 ESV).

Keep yourself in God's love, but hate the garment stained by sin. In other words, "Hate the sin. Love the sinner."

We must hate sin, yet we must always love the sinner. That is what the phrase teaches. Let's look at a sin that we would all consider a sin without question to test out the teaching. Murder, for instance. Let's substitute sin with the specific sin of murder. 

"Hate murder. Love the murderer."

We can all agree with that, right? Murder is horrible. It destroys. It hurts people's souls. It leaves families in despair. I hate murder with all my being. Yet, despite finding the sin of murder totally reprehensible, I am still called to love the murderer. I'm called to love the murderer and help bring healing to their lives.

Yet our natural instincts tell us to hate the murderer. We would much rather hate the sinner along with the sin. We want to hate the pedophile, the rapist, and the terrorist. But then we are reminded of this powerful teaching, "Hate the sin. Love the sinner." It is to our detriment to discard that teaching that keeps us in check.

And those who aren't wrestling with with loving sinners while hating sin don't understand that we can love someone despite their actions. Actually, we must love everyone despite their action. It is a misconception that we hate people who we think are sinning. And on the other end, we are sometimes viewed as too loving and accepting when we choose to love those who are, from our perspective, the most disgusting.

Which leads to me. I am a sinner. I can still be loved despite my sin. God loves me despite my sin. For while I was a sinner, Jesus died for me. He didn't die for me because I was perfect. Actually, His death is meaningless to me if I live pretending that I am perfect or that I must be perfect to receive His grace. He died for me because He loved me. And He didn't just die for me; He died for all of us. He died for the worst of us. He died for the murderer and the pedophile. So that in Him, we can move beyond the mistakes, the sin, that separates us from him into the life that He has called us to.

So in our debates on what is or isn't a sin, let us never ditch the concept that we are to love the sinner while we hate the sin.

Hate the sin. Always love the sinner.