Phil Cox

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Hate the sin, love the sinner

13th April 2008

"Hate the sin, love the sinner" is a well-known saying among Christians, but it's not found in the Bible. The idea that it contains, though, is Biblical. It certainly reflects the attitude of Jesus Christ:

Luke 7v34
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners".’

Luke 15v1-2
Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering round to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them."

Romans 5v8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 Timothy 1v15
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...

Jesus loves sinners so much that He died for them. And every Christian is deeply grateful that God loves sinners, because every Christian is a sinner.

The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is that a Christian is a sinner who has been forgiven, and a non-Christian is a sinner who has not been forgiven.

God hates sin - and so must we. But God loves sinners (including us) - and so must we.

We must even love those who sin against us:

Matthew 5v44-45
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...

Luke 6v27-28
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you.

Of course, that's not easy to do, and we need to ask God to help us.

However, Christians are often accused unfairly of hating people. For example, when we say that homosexuality and adultery are sins, we're accused of hating homosexuals and adulterers. When we say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, we're accused of hating followers of other religions.

But telling someone that there's a better way to live, warning them of God's judgement, praying for them to find help from God, is not hate - it's love. If anyone is caught up in anything that hurts them or others and that incurs God's displeasure, it's a loving thing to warn them and try to persuade them of the value of Biblical teaching.

I'm not saying that no Christian has ever hated a non-Christian. I'm saying that when they do, they are themselves sinning. And I'm also saying that the sin of indifference to the needs of others is often manifested by a reluctance (through fear, political correctness, laziness or anything else) to tell those around us what the Bible teaches about right and wrong, about the need for repentance and about God's mercy towards those who do repent.

Often, the charge of "hating" one group or another is no more than a dishonest attempt to gag Christians. We must love others enough to put ourselves in the way of that kind of misrepresentation. The world needs God's moral standards - Biblical teaching. And the world needs the gospel.

We must tell the truth. We must love sinners enough to tell them that they're sinners. And we must be humble enough to admit that we're sinners, too. And we must show gentleness, humility, meekness, and respect to all.

But gentleness, humility, meekness, and respect are not the same thing as indifference. The world needs the truth, presented in the right way, but presented clearly. If someone had not been loving enough to tell me the truth many years ago, I wouldn't be writing this now. I know the power of hearing the truth about what's wrong with my life and how God can help me, spoken gently and humbly. It brought me to faith in Christ.