Christianity can be full of one liners that lack explanation. Some of these statements are pretty accurate, but do not provide much benefit without clarification. One of these statements is one that seems completely contradictory. “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” We may look at that and think it appears profound, but would seem to fall apart when given a closer look. We base a statement like this off of our own feelings and opinions, but rarely do we look and see what Scripture has to say.
The idea for this view is found in Jude 1:22-23, “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.” Out of these verses we get the idea of loving a sinner and hating the sin. What exactly is Jude saying here? First is to point out that Jude is commanding us to have extreme compassion on those who have strayed from God, or even rebelled from Him completely. Compassion is a necessity in the Christian life as opposed to an option. We must care for those who are sinning. They need to know that we are reaching out to them out of a heart of love rather than condemnation.
Jude goes on to say that we should hate sin. We should even hate the garment stained by the flesh. We are told to hate sin. We should hate the affect that sin has on people. We should hate the damage that sin has on the lives of others. We are told to hate everything about sin. Some will look at this passage and say, “Maybe that is what Jude is saying for the context of his original readers, but that may not hold the same value for us today.” This is part of Scripture. All Scripture is profitable for us even today. There is no other way for us to view this Scripture for ourselves other than how it was intended for its original readers. There was no qualifier in this passage. This is across the board. I have never found a proper scholar who has given any other viable application for these verses.
Isn’t this a contradiction though? How can we hate all that sin is, but love the sinner? This is a common question. It is sad that we are rarely given an answer. I believe this idea is not a contradiction. I believe these two polar ideas can come together in a harmonious and life impacting way. I hate sin. I hate the sin in my life. I hate the sin in the lives of others. The question we need to ask is why? Why are we meant to hate sin? The Sunday School answer is because we disobey God. That is part of the answer, but we need to delve deeper than that.
I hate sin because it is destructive. It ruins people’s lives. When I sin I harm those around me. I damage relationships with people. It is a poison that leads to death and destruction. I hate sin. I cannot stand it. Some say that is all fine and good, but I have no right to hate someone else’s sin. The only sin I should hate is mine. Anything less would keep me from loving that person. Really? What if I told you my hatred of someone’s sin helps me to love them even more?
The key to loving a sinner fully is to fully understand why we should hate their sin. I hate my own sin because it is destructive in my life. It keeps me from living the best life I could live. It keeps me from truly being satisfied. It keeps me from experiencing a vibrant and earth shattering relationship with God. My enslavement to sin kept me from having a relationship with God at all. It destined me for death and separation from God. That is why I hate my sin.
What if I applied that hatred of sin to someone else’s life? My same reasons of hatred for sin in someone else’s life would compel me to have compassion on them. My hatred of their sin would give me a desire to reach out to them and help them to see there is more to life than what they have. My reasons for hating sin would help me to see that they are in need of a rescuer because my hatred of sin helps me understand just how powerful sin can be.
We hate sin because we do not want to be corrupted by it. We show compassion and care to others, but we do it with some tact. I wrote a few weeks ago about how we should not be sinaphobes, but we always need to realize our limit. Sin is corrupt. We need to keep it at an arm’s length in our lives. We strive to meet a balance where we have this attitude towards sin, but embrace and care for the sinner. My hatred of sin and need to be cautious around it helps me to love the sinner. Will the balance be difficult? Absolutely. Is that balance needed? It most certainly is.
God hates sin, but he loves the sinner enough to die in his place. God hates sin. There is no mistake to that. God cannot stand sin. He cannot be around sin. He pours out His wrath on sin. He loved the sinner though. He understood what sin was doing in the life of the sinner. That is why He made a way for the sinner to be free of the sin that He hates so much.
Love the sinner, but hate the sin.