Love the sinner, hate the sin.
And, oh, how we hate that sin.
We hate sin because we believe God hates it. We act as if we are keepers of the old Law as God’s special deputies, here to explain and enforce His Law. People focus on a very small handful of issues or sins, for the most part, declaring damnation on anyone who takes part.
People tend to spout selections of the Law as fits what they feel is the most important issue or the worst sin. There are protests, speeches, sermons, statements and general words-to-be-said to people who are involved, have done or support some sin (or what some may consider sin). There are select verses, long-winded explanations, alleged studies showing how wrong they are, warnings and threats of eternal damnation for those who are guilty of these oft mentioned issues.
People are told how much God loves them.
Okay. That is good. As we know, God’s love is unconditional.
However, with that, they are told how sinful they are and how they must repent and and accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior. Funny thing is, this is not how Jesus ever approached, anyone.
He told His disciples, “Follow Me”.
He told the Woman at the Well, “I am He.”
He had the disciples feed the multitudes without question.
He went about doing good and acted in kindness toward all. He healed, fed and taught. He simply presented Himself and the Gospel.
But, we demand repentance of people.
Repentance is a result of knowing His love and grace. It is a change of mind in response to His revelation. Not from the demand of anyone.
Quick story: A pastor I knew told of one of his weekly stops at a local doughnut shop, which was owned and run by an Indian family. One of the women there asked him about what he believed and he explained about his belief in Jesus. When he returned the question, she replied how she believed in many gods. He came back at her with, “That is a shame!”
No. He was being shameful, really.
The Romans were pagans. We don’t read Jesus telling the Centurion, or other Romans He encountered, anything about their paganism.
How we speak to our neighbor is important. Being pleasant and nice is good, but the words we use can be like either throwing rocks or sending invitations.
Jesus said to love our neighbor. There was no other caveat, clause, opposing thought, or even a, “But…”.
Jesus never reacted to sin or how people lived. If He addressed anyone on their sin, it was the religious hypocrites, not the “sinners”. He made it a point to spend time with sinners, so much so that the religious accused Him of being one of them (Matthew 11:19). Christians, on the other hand, stay at arms length from those they deem as sinners, often spending a great amount of time among ‘their own kind’.
The big trouble with hating the sin and loving the sinner is that hating the sin gets magnified. We can be so focused on “hating the sin” that what others mostly see is the hate. How people live is often part of who they are. To express hate over what someone does communicates hate toward the person.
In the account of the woman at the well, Jesus spoke lovingly and respectfully to the woman, even though He had every opportunity and perfect right to address everything that was wrong with her. He answered each of her questions and made no issue of her not being married to the man she was living with. When she wanted to go back and get people to come hear Him, He did not demand that she change in order to “represent Him better”.
We would rather tell people what is wrong with them, how sinful they are and how far away they are from Jesus, rather than just presenting them with Jesus in the first place.
Hate is a poor communicator.
Back to the first sentence of this post. Let’s edit that.
Love the sinner.