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What Does It Mean to ʺLove the Sinner and Hate the Sinʺ?

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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:

  1. Because it comes from the opposite of love
  2. 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”?

Contact me via social media for any questions, advice, prayer or just to say hello:
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5 Comments

  1. Tamar

    Posted by Tamar on April 29, 2015 at 18:54

    So encouraging and such a different perspective!
    “The body of Christ is full of people who have problems. Each of us has our own unique burdens. Some of them might be obviously visible to anyone who looks – but it may very well be that you are carrying a tremendous burden and even your close friends don’t notice.

    But here is the beauty of this – whatever burdens you are carrying, you are carrying them on our behalf. The fight you feel alone in – you are fighting it for all of us.

    When the sorrow of infertility is pressing in on you and you turn to Christ, you are being Christ to us.

    When you face depression, and turn your mouth to praise the Lord, you are being Christ to us.

    When you lose a loved one and yet still bless His name, you are being Christ to us.

    When you get the victory over petty sin – you are being Christ to us.

    When your marriage falls apart, and though your are embarrassed and humbled, you faithfully confess and repent of your sins – you are being Christ to us.

    When you fight through cancer in the joy of the Lord – you are fighting the physical battle for yourself and the spiritual ones for all of us. You are being Christ to us.

    When some infection takes over a small part of the body – there is one place that the battle rages, but it is a battle that is being fought on behalf of the whole body. When that victory is won through the grace of God, it is won for all of us, and it ministers to all of us.

    Often times in the wake of some tragedy, we are all shocked by the way the people closest to it bear up under it. A widow grieving, and yet still comforting her comforters. A mother of a child in a graveyard, ministering to the whole body of Christ not just through her bereavement, but with it. The way you handle the sorrows in your life is a means of ministering to others.

    The truth is that the role of comforter is not the only way to be Christ to others. The role of the afflicted and still victorious is exactly what Christ was for us. Tempted in everything that we are, and yet not falling.

    We need you. Not after you get over whatever thing it is you are dealing with and you feel ready. We need you to be getting through your burdens now, for us. We need you to fight faithfully, now, for us. We need you who have the best view of that threat that we are all facing – to fight it for us. This is a means that every Christian can use to minister to every other Christian.

    Depending on your circumstances, this may sound harsh to you. Chances are good that if you have felt embarrassed of your temptations, or embarrassed of your situation, or simply alone and tired of fighting, that you don’t want to hear about how you can help us. You want to read a list of things that everyone is doing wrong to you. But remember – this principle means a lot more. You are part of the body of Christ – your problems are very literally our problems. We need your victory because it is ours, and you need ours because it is yours. We all have the victory – because we are His.

    This is not something that we can attain to only if we are black-belt level Christians. All you need for this is Christ. He literally took all the battles we will ever face and ultimately won them for us. Never forget that He is the head of this body – he does know exactly what you are dealing with. He does feel the pain in a way that the rest of us simply can’t. He does know, and He is with you.”
    http://www.feminagirls.com/2014/02/24/fight-for-us/

  2. sunnydeelovely

    Posted by sunnydeelovely on April 28, 2015 at 15:42

    Hi, I have a quick question. I’ve always been told growing up (by family members, teachers, people within the church) to keep the word ‘hate’ out of my vocabulary and out of my heart. Then, I opened the Bible and saw that God hates certain things, like sin. This left me confused. Any thoughts?

    • Groundhog

      Posted by Groundhog on May 4, 2015 at 19:51

      Hi! I think what they were trying to get is for you to not get in a bad habit of saying/using the word “hate” because in most cases, hate is bad. I hope this helped. God bless!

  3. Smylinggirl

    Posted by Smylinggirl on April 28, 2015 at 11:52

    I really like this expression and feel it is how Christians need to go about maneuvering in this new culture that is pro-Muslim, pro-abortion, pro-gay, pro-anti-religion. Christians are said to hate (Muslims, gays, any other religion) because we disagree with what they teach/practice/promote. NOT TRUE!!!!!! We love them because Christ loves them (we should anyway) while we hate what they do. Like it was said in the article, Jesus frequently showed love to sinners while telling them to stop sinning. He condemned their sin while He loved them.

  4. Renae_nae

    Posted by Renae_nae on April 28, 2015 at 07:11

    That makes so much sense!!! And I was really encouraged by being reminded that I can control my sin, and it can be removed from my life. Thanks for writing this!!!