I wanted to share my latest column on Sojourners’ God’s Politics blog with you. It’s on the topic of the ubiquitous Christian phrase, “Love the sinner; hate the sin,” and why I hate it. You’ll have to click over to the main site to read the whole thing.
I hate the phrase, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”
To be clear, I don’t deny that God hates sin, or that it has dire consequences, or that it exists, or that everyone does it, or that it’s the reason Christ had to come to earth and be crucified in the flesh. I affirm these beliefs. They are not the reason I hate “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”
I hate the phrase because I think it’s a totally screwed-up, backwards, un-Christlike, and unbiblical way to approach ministry and the world in general.
It may be a corrupted bastardization of “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” a quote from a letter by Augustine of Hippo that can be roughly translated as “With love for mankind and hatred for sin.” I have fewer problems with that construction; unlike its modern-day successor, it does not create a subtle but virtually insurmountable divide between speaker and those spoken of.
But personally, I think the phrase and its popularity owe more to fire-and-brimstone Bible passages like Colossians 3:6 and the beloved “clobber verse” 1 Corinthians 6:9 — which, divorced of their immediate context and the bulk of New Testament teaching — present a picture of a wrathful God who can hardly wait to get the lake of fire bubbling.
But if — just for the fun of it — we did take a tiny glance at the context here, I daresay we’d find admonitions that run strongly against the grain of “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”