Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #6

February 17, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

So you’ve got a franchise and it has a running joke.  At what point does the running joke lose its luster?  When is it just annoying?  Is it only for the writer and producer?  Do the die hard fans really care?  Do the casual fans even notice?  Would Star Wars be the same if no one said “I have a bad feeling about this”?  How many people would notice?  What about Indiana Jones’s hat?  If there were no jokes about that, would there be something missing?  What about unbelievable death defying escapes to start off Bond movies?  Wouldn’t you be disappointed without them? Or are you just thinking, get on with it already?

Set-up:  Someone has committed a sin that for one reason or another is personally offensive or bothersome to you.  You are struggling with how you should respond and forgive.

Response:  Love the sinner, hate the sin.

I did a sermon last fall out of I John that dedicated a lot of time to ranting about the excuses that we make to justify anger, animosity and sometimes hatred of people that have hurt or offended us.  If you are interested in watching that, you may click here

Let’s break this down into two parts.  First, if someone has hurt us, we should love them.  God has called us to love everyone, not just the people that love us back, but our enemies as well.  We need to make sure that as Christians that we love sinners because otherwise we would love nobody (and consequently, no one would love us.)

What about hating sin?  Is it OK to hate other people’s sin?  I suppose it is hard to argue that a hatred for sin is bad.  The problem comes when we put those two phrases together and apply them to a particular person in a particular situation, it feels mean spirited and, well, hateful.  I theoretically love you, I just hate what you do.  I am not sure what person can separate their emotions in such a way.  God can, I know I can’t, and I’m pretty sure you can’t either.

Here has always been my bigger picture question.  If I love you, why does your sin make me angry and feel hate?  If I love you and you are in sin, my heart should break for you.  You are hurting yourself, damaging your relationship with God and relationships with others.  I hurt for you.  I want you to have victory over an issue that is crippling you. 

“Duh, cloften.  That’s why I hate the sin.”  No, listen.  Sin is not an inanimate object that can be hated.  It is an action caused by a person based on deliberate disobedience on the part of the person.  Sin is a product of who they are in that moment.  It is what they are doing, not what is being done to them.  We can no more love the sinner, hate the sin, then we could love the restaurant, hate the food. 

How about this?  Love the sinner, grieve the sin.  I love you and because of that my heart breaks when I see you sin.  I want better for you.  Or how about this?  It’s even simpler:  love the sinner. 

I’ve got a bad feeling about anything else.


15 Responses to “Stuff Christians Need to Stop Saying #6”
  1. Shane says:

    Great! You got 6 into the set. Now I officially have enough to start a series in Sunday Morning Bible Study on this.

    Just like the old days, you do something original, and I “collaborate” on it…


  2. Carolyn Loften says:

    Well, blew another down. Very good backup on why it should be eliminated from our speech.

  3. Aaron Reddin says:

    Let me take you here: I do hate sin. I hate when I do it. I hate when my friends do it. I hate when my pastor does it. I hate it. It’s destructive.

    I think this is a cliche’ than CAN be used properly if used in the context of hating sin and it’s destructiveness, yet choosing to love yourself, your wife, your friend, your pastor. You know as well as I do that love is not always a feeling. It’s certainly not a state of mind. It’s a choice.

    I have no problem with someone telling me that they hate my sin when I drive (ask my wife). But she chooses to love me. She isn’t belittling me OR condoning my ignorant behavior. She knows that I sin 10 times before I kiss her goodmorning, but chooses to show grace and love.

    I may have totally missed the point.

    I’m with you, I hate to hear the term. But I can’t argue against some of the truth in it in certain contexts.

  4. Steve Manatt says:

    You hit the nail on the head. If our response to someone’s actions is anger or hate, then we cannot say we love them. This is also the reason people don’t share their faith – their hearts don’t break for the lost because they don’t love them.

    Love is the key to the greater mysteries of God. Learn to love and you will grow much. Learn to love much and you will be transformed.

  5. Zach says:

    More like “Stuff Christians Need to Always Be Saying.”*

    *This is a lie. I agree wholeheartedly with you. I can’t imagine a phrase more condescendingly self-righteous.**

    **Okay, I can, lots of phrases. Like ones beginning “I can’t imagine a…”

  6. Larry says:

    Two thoughts….

    Love (true Christian love) has nothing to do with emotions or how we feel whether natively or in response to some act or information. True Christian love is complete selfless commitment and Holy Spirit based. Many friendships and marriages are abandoned because of how we feel, when that has nothing to do with true love.

    “It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Cor 13:7

    Second; God hates sin and we are supposed to do likewise. The Bible is very clear on this. Two quick examples:

    “There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:….(list of sins)” Prov 6:16

    “For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin.” Psalm 36:2

    I think some of what you are bringing up is just semantics. For me, the bottom line relative to other people and their sin centers around whether our love is a true Christian love and whether our hatred of the sin is really a glimpse of the mind of God that does hate sin and at the same time (as you say) grieve for the sinner.

    So, I do think it is possible to “love the sinner, hate the sin”, but like most bumper-sticker theology, it is a pale reflection of the depth and beauty of the life God offers us in the Holy Spirit. Christianity and “slogans” like this are generally incompatible in most every context.

  7. Jen Loftin says:

    Steve Manatt you are cool! Well said. :) I keep thinking of that verse that says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

    More laying down of my own life, less running my mouth. (Are you listening self? Do you hear me, self???!!!!)

  8. JP says:

    Hmmm. If we are to strive to be like Jesus, and God hates sin, are we not also supposed to hate sin? Whether we are able to separate the person from the sin or not because we are “human” doesnt give us permission to lessen how we respond to it. Jesus loves people regardless of the sin. He showed us that. He didn’t hate the person, but He clearly hated sin.

    You also need to define what love is Biblically. In order to really determine if you can love someone and hate sin, you have to understand what love is. Love is not a feeling. It is not the mushy/gushiness of affection. The feelings we have for someone is a by-product of emotions. God was angry with the Israelites many times because of their sin, yet He still loved them.

    The anger we have over sin shouldnt affect loving them. For instance, how in the world do you love your enemy? Your enemy can easily be someone who has beaten or killed your children. How do you love that person? It may be that we have the definition of love wrong, or at least confused.

    The greatest act of love was Jesus coming here and dying. Both the coming, and the dying were actions, not feelings. I’m NOT saying this is the answer to what love is, but is love more about self-sacrifice, than it is about mushy gushiness?

    If that is the case, loving your neighbor, loving your wife, loving God, all take on something different than most Christians think it is. Thoughts?

  9. cloften says:

    What if I were to say that there is a difference between a general hatred for sin and when we look at someone specifically and say I hate that sin? Is there a difference? I hate car wrecks. I hate the car wreck that a friend of mine got into where he ended up in the hospital for several months. I hate that someone turned left in front of him and shouldn’t have. I hate… I will stop there. Doesn’t there come a point when the specifics of what I hate become personal to the person who committed the sin? Now I don’t hate sin in general, I hate what YOU did and by extension…

    Of course, it would be theoretically possible to hate sin without it effecting the way we view a person. Is it actually possible? Better yet, is the construct of love the sinner, hate the sin a helpful view of situations where we have been hurt? Or is love the sinner (that’s all) a better one? Or love the sinner, trust God, learn about grace and forgiveness, forgive like God forgives me?

    There are differences between God’s hatred of sin and mine. His supernatural ability to forgive, be just, hate sin, love all at the same time is one. The bigger one is I hate other people’s sin, I regret and “understand” mine. There is no hypocrisy in God’s approach, there often is in mine, being a sinner myself.

    The big picture question, again, “love the sinner, hate the sin,” even if it is theoretically true, is it helpful and profitable?

  10. Mack says:

    It is helpful, and it is profitable. If I don’t hate the sin that my friend commits when he cheats on his wife (showing him truth) while at the same time showing love and compassion for him as a brother in Christ (showing him grace), then I fail to offer him the things that Jesus was to those around him…full of grace and truth. Anything less is insincere love…says Paul in Romans 12:9-10.

    9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

  11. cloften says:

    Mack, thanks for the great thoughts and exhortation from Scripture. If I thought that (your description of your interaction with a cheating friend) was what we meant when we use the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin,” I would publicly repent and take the post down. You are absolutely correct. We show love by being compassionate and showing truth.

    However, way too many of us, use the expression by then adding the idea of fleeing from evil from I Tim 6 to distance ourselves from a brother in sin and have a conceited attitude instead of what Paul encourages in the the rest of Romans 12 (below).

    The reason I find simply “love the sinner” to be a more helpful profitable idea is that what you describe as sincere love is explained in Romans 12 and I Cor 13. What you have described is simply loving sinners. We too often add “hate the sin” as a useful weapon to justify a judgmental, conceited heart. If what you mea when you say it is what you describe, good job and continue to live out what you describe. However, for the sake of the 99% of the rest of us who misuse it, I would encourage you to not say it out loud. :)

    9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
    14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

    17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  12. Matt says:

    The breakdown. My 2 cents.
    Love the sinner. Hate the sin.
    “Sinner” – what is that?
    This phrase reeks of self-righteousness because it is a term of objective judgment. We have to place ourselves outside of humanity to be able to point a finger at a sinner. We are not objective. We are in the “soup”. Sticking with the soup analogy … it would be like a carrot (in vegetable soup of course) announcing to the rest of the vegetables, “Love the carrot, hate the orange color.” (Probably more of a brown color if it is a soup carrot) Nonetheless, the carrot is in no position to pass judgment on other carrots in the soup. What a belligerent fool of a carrot. We too sound like fools when we say things like “Love the sinner…” It is clear to people on the “outside” of the church crowd that this stuff is ludicrous, but for some reason, people buried in theology to their neck can’t see the base offensiveness of such phraseology. Whatever.

    And to anyone who thinks that I am suggesting that there is no standard for right and wrong or sin … no. I am not. I am suggesting that you get a grip on who you are. When Jesus said to worry about the plank in your own eye before you bother with the splinter in your brother’s eye … believe it or not … YOU are not the only one he was NOT referring to.

    Oh, and next time I want to work in a racing analogy. I would like to make fun of the “unsportiness” of NASCAR. I’ll would hope to make references to the number of left hand turns made in the Daytona 500 … or something. I will meditate on these things.

  13. Matt says:

    Oops! Sorry for the typo at the end.
    Oh well. I kept it pithy.

  14. PaulG says:

    Wow, what a great discussion! I can honestly say that I agree with both sides (to a certain extent). I think the bottom line is that it all depends on how deeply you “hate” the sin. If it makes your blood boil to the point where it takes your inner peace away, then you may be actually sinning by “hating the sin.” If on the other hand you can “hate the sin” but you still have God’s “unconditional love” for the sinner, you may be “hating sin” the way God intended for us to “hate sin.” Of course, as human beings, we are all incapable of displaying “unconditional love” (and all the traits that go along with it as pointed out in 1 Cor 13:7), without having God with us and His continuous help. Therefore, unless we are loving unconditionally at the moment we “hate the sin” we are probably sinning to a certain extent.

    I LOVE two verses out of today’s (18 Feb) “Fellowship Journal” reading. 1 Cor 16: 13-14 reads “13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. 14Do everything in love.” (NIV) These two verses might just be the secret of life!… if you can apply it to “everything” you do! As I read through v13, I thought about everything Paul talked about “being on guard” against, and how we should “stand firm in the faith” even through the struggles and sufferings that we go through. I also thought about how he talked about courage and strength we should display. But most of all, I thought back about what the true characteristics of love were–the true “Christian love”, the unconditional love, the one and only agape love, that is only possible with Christ in us. IF we can learn to truly do “everything in love, think about how awesome the world be, and most importantly, think about how powerfully we would be “glorifying God” by our actions. If we all can learn to have God’s love, and do “everything” in it, I KNOW it will be possible to “hate sin” and still “love the sinner.”

    However, if “we” as Christians are the only ones that truly understand unconditional love, are we doing any justice to anyone who is struggling to find unconditional love, if we say we “hate sin” and “love the sinner”? Will they ever be able to understand how we can do that, or will they think we are being hypocrites? I don’t think they’d understand us at all! This ties in directly with 1 Cor 14, when Paul talks about prophecy and spiritual gifts, and how we should concentrate on the gifts that build up the church (1 Cor 14:12).

    Either way, I know that I am a sinner, and still struggle with “hating sin” and “loving sinners” at times. I will try my best to love the sinner and pray for them… like Charlie said, God is much better at making that distinction then I will ever be.

    I pray that God gives us all the true unconditional love that is only possible with Him! Amen!!

  15. Grobmyer says:

    If we as Christians wish to follow the example of Christ, not for redemption through works, but as a follower of how he wishes us to be in order to show our love to him by reflecting his example, we should not avoid the sinners. Christ seeked out the fringe of society. He ate and communed with the outcasts, the ones society had tossed aside, the tax collectors, the sick, the poor. He came to them and led them to follow by showing them mercy and by simply being a loving and compassionate being with knowledge, love, and by offering them a way out of their hopelessness. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all the same. We have no right to be judgemental. God will make that call; it’s not up to us to condemn or accept. It is up to us to love and be examples of Christ’s mercy. Only then, by creating desire for others to want that mercy, that love they see, will others truly be transformed and led to Christ. It cannot be forced or bought. Sin is in all of us, Christian or not, but everyone on this planet is a child of God and deserves respect and love.

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