Imagine, after a long day, I drive home to find that the only thing remaining where my house once stood was its smouldering remains! And standing outside was my child holding a sign saying: ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner!’
It is one thing to recognise that sin is bad—in fact it’s so self-evident that there’s no chance it wouldn’t be seen! Yet it is a whole new level of self awareness to think that the sinful actions that caused damage and hurt should be separated from the person who caused the damage and hurt—such that the perpetrator should bear no responsibility!
In that, lies the problem with the saying ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’. If the phrase, however well intentioned, is used to excuse a person from responsibility, to remove accountability, to avoid judgement—then we have fallen into the trap of allowing secular thought to champion Biblical truth!
No one likes to be on the receiving end of judgement—even if deserved. But the ironic dilemma is that we all want justice, for wrongs against us to be put right, and that is only possible when correct judgement is handed down. Now how does that happen? By looking at the sin and holding the one who did it, accountable. Our law courts exist to carry out this very function. Can you imagine how farcical it would be if the law courts identified the sin, but did nothing to bring consequence on the sinner?!
The problem: human judgement sometimes gets it wrong! The comfort: God doesn’t.
Let’s return to the saying ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’. If the phrase is used to ensure that despite the sin, the perpetrator should still be loved, then we draw closer to the way the Bible holds together the tension that every person sins and should be held accountable, and every person should be loved.
The problem: human love sometimes gets it wrong! The comfort: God doesn’t.
How is it that God brings both his love and his judgment of sin together?
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
God abhors sin and holds the sinner accountable for their sin, but rather than drawing the line that leaves the sinner without hope, He loves them by giving His Son to take the consequence.
Now what should we as sinners do? Hate sin, love the Lord, and love sinners.