What Does It Mean to ʺLove the Sinner and Hate the Sinʺ?
Written by T.M. Gaouette | April 27, 2015
You’ve heard the expression over and over, specifically from Christians: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” But where did the expression come from and what does it mean?
There’s no definitive answer to its origination, but here are some ideas.
- Jude 1:22-23 says, “To some you must be compassionate because they are wavering; others you must save by snatching them from the fire; to others again you must be compassionate but wary, hating even the tunic stained by their bodies.”
- St. Augustine’s letter 211 (c. 424) says, “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which supposedly translates to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”
- Mohandas Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography says, “Hate the sin and not the sinner.”
- John Wesley’s A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists (1780), Hymn 270, “Equip me for the war,” ends with “To hate the sin with all my heart, But still the sinner love.”
- Isaac Henry Robert Mott’s Sacred Melodies: Preceded by an Admonitory Appeal to Lord Byron, With Other Small Poems (1824) supposedly includes the expression “I love the sinner, hate the sin.”
There are, of course, many other noted authors of the past who have used similar expressions in their works, but again, there’s nothing definitive that indicates where the expression originated. But does it matter?
Regardless of where the expression came from, Christians use it because it separates a person from his or her sin. And this is what God calls us all to do.
God sees sin as separate from people. God is Love. And He loves us. He also calls us all to love our neighbors. But as much as God loves us, He hates sin. Why? For two reasons:
- Because it comes from the opposite of love
- Because it separates us all from Him
“Loving the sinner and hating the sin” is how God distinguishes between a person and his or her sin, and in turn, this is how we must separate the two. While hating the sin is never hating the person, it is also never accepting their sin. Because accepting it is being okay with the fact that they are separated from our God.
Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that He was revealed to take away sins, and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has either seen Him or known Him. (1 John 3:4-6)
But here’s the good news! Jesus told those who sinned to “sin no more,” which proves that people can stop sinning. They can change their hearts and their characters. Remember the apostle Paul, who described himself as the worst sinner? Before sharing the gospel, he persecuted and killed Christians. More proof that sin is separate from a person and can be removed.
We can change our hearts and start following God’s commandments. We do this by asking God for forgiveness and repenting our sins. In other words, we choose to get rid of that which is standing in our way of a real relationship with Christ.
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that It cannot save,
or His ear dull, that It cannot hear;
but your iniquities have made a separation
between you and your God,
and your sins have hid His face from you
so that He does not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
No, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not written verbatim in scripture. But its teaching is a Christian one that derives from scripture. So, to “love the sinner and hate the sin” means we should love everyone, but we should hate our sin and the sins of others, because sin hinders a relationship and eternity with God. How can we love God if we choose to do or accept in others something that not only God hates, but that separates us and others from Him?
Ladies, how do you feel about the expression “Love the sinner, hate the sin”?