Why "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" is Essential: A Response

A number of faith leaders argued for the end of the ideology "love sinner, hate the sin", in a previous post here, especially in relation to LGBT communities. These comments are important to voice. As a Christian, I too am outraged at the targeting of the LGBT community in the Orlando shooting. Christians should be humble and self-aware enough to realize that we have hatefully misrepresented God in trying to express what the Bible teaches, and that has contributed to the persecution and hate these communities undergo. We should repent of that and ask for forgiveness from God and the LGBT communities for our hateful past (you can find one good example of that here). I also realize that I cannot comprehend or appreciate the depths to which LGBT persons daily experience hate and ostracism in our heteronormative society. Nonetheless, for a Christian it is crucial to realize that God's love is better than unconditional, and the idea of "love the sinner, hate the sin" is a helpful, though brief, way to express a core of Christianity.

Regardless of the "issue" of homosexuality, the Church ought to express the same gospel to all people regardless of their faith, past, sexual orientation, or sins. The incredible message of the cross of Christ is twofold:
1. Everyone at the core of their identity and heart is rebellious against the God of the universe. We have all, with no distinction, said to God in the deepest part of our soul - "I do not need you, screw you, leave me alone" - which is itself, ironically, a desire for death.
2. In Christ, we discover that we are far more loved than we could possibly imagine. This is not a love of mere acceptance, but a love that is both merciful to our sins and weaknesses as well as desiring our flourishing and good. It desires us to become more compassionate, kind, tolerant, loving, righteous, holy, and meek.

If we say that we need to ditch the clause "love the sinner, hate the sin", we effectively lose the core gospel that is the only hope of salvation not dependent upon our own works. Jesus, Christians proclaim, died for us WHILE we were still enemies! We either don't think we were ever enemies of God (and therefore have nothing to hate), or don't think Christ's death accomplished anything for our sake (and therefore have no assurance of God's love).

The question is not whether we should "love the sinner, but hate the sin" - in fact, that is the most hopeful and loving message we have - but what exactly is and is not a "sin." Though I believe that Scripture teaches heterosexual, marital sex as God's design and law, homosexuality is simply one of the myriad of sins that we all struggle with and need Christ to die for - adultery, greed, covetousness, idolatry, selfishness, etc. Whatever it is that we worship, love the most, or idolize apart from God (and usually they are good things like family, country and country that become destructive idols) will become our identity and curse.

Christians, out of their devotion to the crucified Christ, should be most aware that when we say "love the sinner, hate the sin", it is said to ourselves as much as anyone else. In fact, Christians should actually be more aware of our own sin than others because we see just how seriously God takes it! We do not proclaim our own righteousness and God's hating of the "other", we proclaim the perfect righteousness of the one God-man, and all of our incredible need for amazing grace. For all the hate and persecution Christians have caused against LGBT communities, all Christians must repent and try to "go and sin no more." We are called to become the community of Christ on earth that shows forth the life-giving, joy-inducing presence of God.

The cost of following Jesus requires all people - heterosexuals, homosexuals, blacks, whites, Democrats and Republicans - to die to their most intimate identity so that they would find life in Christ. Christians have done a poor job of expressing this radical "cost of discipleship", as if becoming a Christian is like joining the YMCA. The tragedy is that the less we realize the cost, the cheaper the grace becomes. Let us not hide the depths of our sin, lest we discover that Christ died for nothing.

Consider this insightful quote, and I would encourage you to read it slowly, twice: "The miracle of grace - really, the wonder of God's character - produces the miracle of our change. A sight of God's holiness without a hint of His mercy will lead to either hopeless despair or to something even more awful, a pharisaical presumption of ability to 'do His will.' On the other hand, a mouthful of mercy without a somber taste of holiness seems to move to a brazen familiarity with deity that twists Him into everyone's favorite uncle. Such intimacy is sloppy and undignified, and it eventually leads us to paint God with colors of our own making. The Bible portrays God in ways that ought to stun us. . . . Silence, a quieting of our relentless, pulsating fury toward God, occurs when that fury is at full boil and we meet the God we think we despise. We then find that He is all we feared, but infinitely more kind than we could have ever imagined. Godly silence always yields stunned joy." - Allender & Longman

Our repentance needs to be ongoing and real, our awe of God's grace must be unending.