Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin, NO MORE!


 I have long been troubled by the Christian directive “love the sinner, hate the sin.” it has always seemed to me to cloak much deeper feelings.    Matthew Paul Turner recently wrote a blog post entitled “Five Reasons Why The Church Failed Yesterday” in response to the Chick Fil A appreciation day.  In that post he said, “Is it possible that Christians lose the ability to truly ‘love the sinner’ because they’re so busy ‘hating the sin’? Do Christians put anywhere near the energy into ‘loving the sinner’ as they do ‘hating the sin’?”

Love the sinner hate the sin

This got me to thinking. What is the impact of “love the sinner, hate the sin?”  Does this Christian approach to the LGBTQ community demonstrate the love of Christ?

Here are 5 reasons why I believe “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” doesn’t work:

  1. The assumption that being LGBTQ is a sin is based on an interpretation of scripture.  We can infer from the fact that it is an interpretation that there are other possible interpretations.  We have seen too many passages incorrectly interpreted to ever assume that there is only one way to read the Bible.  Besides, not everyone in this country claims the Bible as an authoritative text, therefore how can it be used to dictate everyones concept of sin?  Sure there are certain “sins” that are absolute such as murder and stealing.  Both of those do harm.  Loving another human being does no harm and in some religious traditions, such as my own, it is to be celebrated. (John Shore wrote an amazing piece worth reading. This one from patheos.com is good too.)
  2. Claiming that someone’s sexual orientation is sinful, tells that person that who they are is wrong, they are bad or even evil.  This does nothing to show a person that you love them or even accept them.  Instead it tells them that there is something wrong with who they are.  This seems to be in direct conflict with the often quoted  passage from 1 Corinthians, “Love is kind… It does not dishonor others, it keeps no record of wrongs… It always protects…”
  3. Hating someone’s nature can only result in not wanting anything to do with that person.  If I cannot accept who you are, if your sexual orientation or behavior is loathsome, why would I want to be around you?  If I don’t want to be around you , how can I show you I love you?  And so when MPT asks if spending too much time hating the sin precludes christians from loving the sinner I say yes.
  4. This can only result in placing those we say we love, on the fringes of our lives. Those we love can only feel disapproval when we take this approach.  In the extreme many will hate the sin so much that they will disown their children, stop talking to their siblings or abandon their friends.
  5. Loving someone never causes harm.  “Love the sinner, hate the sin” does harm.  Just ask your friends who are gay.  The fact that this causes harm can only mean that it is does little to show love to another.

It’s time to put an end to the use of the directive “love the sinner, hate the sin.”  It’s time to recognize it for the harm it causes.   It’s time to admit that it marginalizes good people and it hurts people you claim to love.  When you hear someone you love say this, lovingly tell them why it’s hurtful.  Ask them with love, to not use this term.

When you say ‘love the sinner, hate the sin,’ it hurts me.  It hurts me because it marginalizes people I love and care about.  It hurts me because what I hear you saying is that there is something inherently wrong with LGBTQ people. None of us deserves to be marginalized or made to feel less than.   We are all divine creations and worthy of love and compassion. Please show your love for me and my friends by not using that expression.

I want to thank Matt Merkel for the inspiration to write this piece.

9 thoughts on “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin, NO MORE!

  1. A quick check on the Internet shows that “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is not a biblical quote. However, to me it is a very sensible directive. However, let me qualify why I say that. Incidentally, I don’t like the word “hate”, but let’s use it as that is the expression. We can always take it to mean dislike, disapprove of, feel strongly against, or something similar.

    What “Love the sinner, hate the sin” means is that you are separating the person from what they do. For instance, you would love your child or your parents (presumably) irrespective of what they did. Yes, you might not like what they did, you may even hate it, but you know deep down that they are a good person. Maybe you feel compassion and know that they are doing the best they can. Maybe they just screwed up, perhaps due to some inner pain of their own, some misunderstanding, or just plain stupidity. You allow forgiveness to come, and you love them, and help them if they need help.

    And so it is with everyone else. “Love the sinner” means love everyone, “love thy neighbour as thyself”, be compassionate, be forgiving, and realise that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

    “Hate the sin” means that you are choosing to dislike intensely the deed that was done – be it murder, theft, wounding, lying, cheating or whatever. The sinner and the sin are not one and the same.

    None of this, of course, has anything to do with sexuality. Even considering any aspects of homosexuality as sinful is a personal opinion, just as it is with any other judgment. With murder, theft, wounding, lying or cheating there is always someone else who is being hurt. In a loving, mutually-desired sexual relationship or act, there is no one being hurt, so long as there is no other commitment elsewhere. So cheating on your spouse or partner is “sinful” whether or not it is opposite or same sex. The fact that your sexual inclinations are towards your own sex is not sinful in itself, and cannot be considered sin by anyone other than a bigot or fundamentalist.

    Feeling love and compassion towards all is the key. To reach that place you may often need to forgive. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Of course, none of us can.

    Bless you.

  2. Rich, your comment tells the whole story, “I have long been troubled by the Christian directive.” This is the problem. We live in a toxic environment of social judgment and flawed ethics. The Bible is accepted as true but is a pack of lies intended to control the lives of others. Some accept it as metaphor, but which statements are true is unknowable, if any. Humanism, the acceptance of science and reason as guiding principles while rejecting the supernatural is the answer for me. There is no good or evil except what we make. Sin and hate only exist in our head. The directive “love the sinner, hate the sin” is a testament to the ignorance of the speaker. Speak your truth with compassion, for they know not what they do.

    • Thanks, i agree that speaking truth from a place of compassion and I would add love, is essential to being heard (and to being a better person). I don’t entirely discount the supernatural I just know I don’t understand it. And I’m pretty sure there very few, if any, who do.

  3. This was so well thought out and helpful to us who battle such idiotic conversations about this that it is often difficult to come up with eloquent reasoning in response. I hear many comments like the one Matt suggested which are actually meant in kind, but still hurt. Things that are showing that the person is making an attempt to reconcile homosexuality in some small way, but it falls short in the process. “You’re pretty cool for a gay guy.”

    Or they flatter me by celebrating the fact that I am somewhat more masculine than the gay men they see on TV. “I like you great, it’s those flamers that I can’t stand.” At first, I am flattered because for years I tried so hard to fit in with the men I idolized as a youngster. Their comment makes me feel for a moment as if I succeeded, but then I think of the young gay men, who, like me at their age, were more in touch with their feminine side and sought out a secret bonding with the gay characters they saw on TV. Then, sadly, they mimic their flamboyances and wonder why they aren’t accepted by their peers. I had little problem because I was able to find common bonds with people before revealing my sexuality. I was lucky. Many of them will not be.

    Being raised a Jehovah’s Witness also creates inner turmoil. I saw pictures and descriptions of homosexuality in the Bible Learning books I had, before I was aware of my own sexuality. For an 8-year-old, all sex is gross. And then, to learn at about age 14 that I was drawn to the older boys in school rather than the girls…it was a nightmare for about a decade. I prayed to God every day that these desires be taken away from me. I was a good kid, and did not understand why I had these feelings. Yet, I knew that I could not talk to anyone about them. In my late 20s, my prayer changed to “if it is Your will that I am to be with a woman, then I will drop everything and follow that path.” It never happened.

    “Lifestyle” is a word that deeply upsets my partner. Their family is very close-knit, and my partner and I always felt welcomed at family gatherings. He does well financially, and financed a great deal of his sister’s family’s comfort for decades. We found out last week, unfortunately, that they do not in fact support our “lifestyle”. I am on the nieces’ Facebook friends list and discovered that they were supporting Chic-Fil-A when the recent news came out, and were going there on Wednesdays to support them. When you are 52 years old, and your family suddenly turns against you, against something you cannot change about yourself, what then? Stop loving them? Stop supporting them? “Lifestyle” implies that one’s sexuality can be changed, like one’s hair or wardrobe. I don’t know of anyone who has done that, at least not successfully.

    Your post gives hope to those of us who cannot hold hands in public, or say loving things to one another in public. Those who wonder who is judging them when they are picking out a lawnmower together at Lowe’s. Those who go home and hope no one will break into their home and attack them for no other reason but that they love each other. Those who look at young couples with children and wish there was some way they could pass on their own bloodline, so that it would not die with them. Those who wonder how they will afford to grow old together when society uses every means possible to take away their financial benefits as a couple. Those who play music for weddings in spite of the fact that that day will never come for themselves. Those who are constantly reminded that they are different, and condemned by so many, and hope that maybe the next generation will find some sort of acceptance because it does not look like it will happen in their own lifetime.

    There are glimmers of hope, however, when people like you see the hypocrises for what they are, and stand up for us. Thank you so much.

    • Scott, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment. I was touched by your words. I recently had a friend share with me how for the first time in a very long time, he was fearful about living here. He said that the amendment one vote didn’t surprise him and didn’t do much to his sense of security, but seeing all of those cars and people at Chick Fil A scared him. I understood that and I felt it too. There was something very disturbing about such a strong show of support for a company that supports such hateful organizations. I have so many friends who have felt fear, and hurt because what Christians say and do in the name of Christ. I don’t know what to do other than write. I don’t have any grand expectations for what I think or write, but I don’t know what else to do. In case you don’t hear it today, you are loved for who you are. Thank you.

    • Scott, can I just say that I too am a recovered JW (17 yrs ‘sober’), and that I am doing all I can to correct all that was judgmental, separatist, and damaging. For the rest of my life, I will be surgically removing threads of darkness from inside.

      I am an ex-JW, and I stand with LGBTQ people and families.

      • Well it is nice to “meet” you! And I will just say, for the record, that I found out our family issue regarding Chick-Fil-A was a big misunderstanding in the end…the girls had no idea what they were supporting – they don’t watch the news and just got an email regarding Chick-Fil-A Customer Appreciation Day, and decided to tell their friends to come with them. After a very tumultous “family meeting”, we learned that they would not have ever gone had they known the truth and how we felt about it. It turned out to be quite a bonding experience.

        • Hi Scott! It is incredibly moving to hear your family was so open and compassionate on your behalf, and that it was simply misunderstanding at the root.

          It makes me wonder just how many people actually knew what they were supporting when they went to CFA day. ?

          For my part, being straight and seeing all orientations as a gift from God to the world– I am still angry having spent all those years forcing myself to believe being ‘spiritual’ meant being ‘righteous’, but being ‘righteous’ meant that you abide every rule you are told. Including shunning and shutting out the LGBTQ community. Hopefully you and I, and all others, will see relief in our lifetimes.

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