Is this saying worthy of its popularity?
Love the sinner; hate the sin.
This cliché has gained traction in Christian circles lately, but does it deserve its frequent use? I am not so sure.
Does it deserve it’s frequent use?
This saying does not appear in the Bible, but many say it reflects the biblical principle found in Jude 1:22-23. In doing research for this post and reading articles about this common terminology, sentences like, “Christians have the obligation to tell people they are living in sin” made me very uncomfortable, and I have Rosaria Butterfield to thank for that.
Last week I posted a book review on her latest book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key. In it, she stopped me short with so many sentences I found it impossible to read the book without a pen. My copy is filled with underlines, circles, asterisks, and jotted notes in the margins.
Here is one of those show stoppers: …love the sinner and hate your own sin. (32)
I re-read it make sure I hadn’t read it wrong! Nope. I had read it right. One element of drawing close to a neighbor is to hate our own sin, not theirs.
Stops you in your tracks too, doesn’t it?
Her revision of the common cliché got me thinking. As a church, in general, we stop talking about our own sin after accepting Christ’s death on the cross for our sins and beginning a relationship with a holy God. But when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, one line was, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12) We are to be wrestling sin to the ground every day, not letting Christ’s death for our sin be in vain.
We are to be confessing and forgiving sins daily.
Also, in the Old Testament, when God instructed Moses to construct a tabernacle as a pattern, the first item within the entrance gate was the brazen altar:
When the common Israelite approached the tabernacle with his sacrifice and passed through that entrance gate he found that between him and the tabernacle structure stood an altar with a priest waiting beside it…This was where the blood was shed and the sinner was pardoned…Apart from the bronze altar there was no approach to God.
Every time we pray, we must still address our sin.
Every time we pray to a holy God we still stop by the brazen altar to confess and forgive, painfully aware of the glorious gift Jesus extended to us when He paid for all of our own ugliness…then we extend the same forgiveness to others. This daily examination cannot be skipped if we expect intimacy in relationship with God…or people.
Be careful about pointing fingers.
As I imagine pointing to a list of sins in another person and saying I hate that sin…instead of pointing to my own sin…there is still distance between myself and my neighbor. I am not with them in their need for a Savior. I am not the same as them in their struggle with sin. I cannot get close enough for them to know me and my vulnerabilities.
The concept of “love the sinner and hate your own sin” threads through Rosaria’s latest book as it relates to our ability to develop genuine relationships. I can’t help by think her message for the church is timely and critical:
Without hating our own sin, we can’t be hospitable:
Hospitality requires daily Bible readings, deep repentance, dark mornings in solitude, and the daily willingness to forgive others whether or not they ask. (64)
Without hating our own sin, we can’t be vulnerable with others:
For your unbelieving neighbors to know the truth of God’s love, you must manifest this broken and contrite heart. You must be close enough to be seen in transparent and vulnerable ways. (56)
Without hating our own sin, people won’t come to our table:
In post-Christian communities, your words can be only as strong as your relationships. Your best weapon is an open door, a set table, a fresh pot of coffee, and a box of Kleenex for the tears that spill… (40)
Without hating our own sin we can’t be kind:
Having strong words and a weak relationship with your neighbor is violent (35) [heart stops again]
Rosaria has challenged me afresh. Concentrating on my own sin is taking me closer to the heart of God and increasing my ability to love my neighbor well.
Who else knows that the sin that will undo me is my own, not my neighbor’s, no matter how big my neighbor’s sin may appear? (19)
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