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’?”
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:
- 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.)
- 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…”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.