“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” For a long time Christians have quoted this, to show that while they were fighting sin, they had no animosity toward the person caught in it. Sin was looked upon as the enemy and the person committing it as someone blind, someone to be pitied, someone to be rescued, just as Jesus Christ rescued each of us from our sins. We wanted to spread the Good News of the Gospel to others who were like we used to be. This was seen as a kind, loving and good attitude.
This has changed. Now those who wish to remain in their sins while still being considered Christians resent this saying and claim that “hate the sin, but love the sinner” is not even Biblical. Is it?
In the book of John chapter 8, verses 1 – 11, Jesus was brought a woman caught in adultery. The custom was to stone such a one to death. But Jesus told the gathered group that whoever was without sin should cast the first stone. Of course, no one but Jesus Christ, Who is sinless, could have then cast the first stone. But He told the woman that He did not condemn her. Then, He told her to go her way and sin no more.
This story is often used to try to say that no one should criticize anyone else who is sinning, since Jesus didn’t. But this is not true. Jesus did exactly as the saying goes. He hated the sin and loved the sinner. He did not ever say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Everyone sins, so they shouldn’t be picking on you.” Instead, He showed us how to have compassion on a sinner. He did not condone the sin, however. He told her not to sin anymore. This is a perfect example of loving the sinner while hating the sin. Shortly after this incident, Jesus was hanging on a cross paying the ultimate price for all of our sin!
Another example of Jesus hating the sin while loving the sinner is in the verse, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ loved us before we even knew Him. He loved us even though we were sinners. But He knew sin would destroy us and He sacrificed Himself in our places. He hated sin because he could see how black and ugly it is. He loved us and could see that we were deceived in it. He loved the sinner so much that He died for him, because God cannot look on sin.
“Well then, shall we keep on sinning so that God can keep on showing us more and more kindness and forgiveness? Of course not!” says Romans 6. “For sin’s power over us was broken when we became Christians and were baptized to become a part of Jesus Christ; through his death the power of your sinful nature was shattered… Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body is no longer under sin’s control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin; for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you.”
“Does this mean that now we can go ahead and sin and not worry about it? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you can choose your own master? You can choose sin (with death) or else obedience (with acquittal)” continues Romans chapter 6.
In other words, you can be cleansed of your sins when you repent and turn away from them, or you can choose to die in your sins if you continue in them. Your choice, but you must choose one or the other… you are not offered both. When a fellow Christian loves you enough to point out your sin to you, he is doing you a favor; it is not an insult, but a blessing that you can be freed from your sin – but first you have to acknowledge it as sin and turn from it.
The book of Jude is at the back of the New Testament, right before the last book, Revelations. Jude is a very short book, only one chapter, but it is a powerful refutation of the current climate of people claiming to be Christians while refusing to give up their sin. He warns against those who are “saying that after we become Christians we can do just as we like without fear of God’s punishment.” He goes on to remind us of all those throughout time who were eternally punished for claiming to follow God while disobeying His commandments; “the Lord saved a whole nation of people out of the land of Egypt, and then killed every one of them who did not trust and obey him,” for instance; and the angels that “were once pure and holy” that He now has chained in prisons of darkness waiting for judgement day; or the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, “full of lust of every kind, including lust of men for other men. Those cities were destroyed by fire and continue to be a warning to us that there is a hell in which sinners are punished.”
Then we read an interesting thing. Jude, verse 22-23 says, “Try to help those who argue against you. Be merciful to those who doubt. Save some by snatching them as from the very flames of hell itself. And as for others, help them to find the Lord by being kind to them, but be careful that you yourselves aren’t pulled along into their sins. Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.”
So yes, the term “hate the sin, but love the sinner” is Biblical. It is actually the crux of the Bible, and Christianity. It is the gospel in a nutshell. We are all sinners, and will be destroyed because God cannot look on sin. But rather than destroy us, He took all the sins on Himself and paid the price in our place.
So we all have a choice to make. We can choose Jesus Christ, or we can choose our sins.
If you choose to love your sins, you will die in them. If, however, you confess and repent of your sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9). Now that’s Good News!
Sources: Holy Bible