Some Thoughts on Sin, Judgement and Theological Perspectives - The Odd Journey of Loving Others

"Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" – Rubbish!

Pardon me while I rant... We mean well when we invent platitudes and politically correct proclamations. I, above many others, am sensitive to the need to for non- offensive statements and the inclusion of divergent opinions, however, when it comes to utterances that just don’t make any practical sense – I’m not so tolerant. One of those sayings is “Love the sinner and hate the sin.” How do you do that? 

I don’t believe we can separate the two, at least not on a pragmatic level. How do you love the sinner and hate that sinners behavior? (Side note -of course I have trouble even defining what a sinner is, anyway. Isn't a non sinner an imagined state of faultlessness? As such, why do we even talk about such? I'd rather dispense with the term 'sinner' outright. It makes more sense to speak of loving people, even those who are doing destructive, and hurtful things to themselves or others.)  Can a person really differentiate themselves from their actions? Is it possible to really speak of someone apart from the choices that they make or the life they live?

It is our living that fills our soul, fleshes us out as people. We are human beings and our being can't really be segmented from our actions any more than our actions can exist without our being. In short, we don't have the option to love someone without loving the whole package. As my mother is often quoted (by me), "We love you warts and all."

So our theology has to be one that either supports loving or hating the person. Does God call us to love people who are doing bad things? Simply put, yes.

The challenge to love wouldn't be much of a challenge at all if it was to only love people who fit our particular perspective of good. Loving people that are different, and even those who are - by most assessments - bad, is hard work. As soon as I have it figured out - I'll let you know. In the mean time, let's not avoid the hard work of growing more capable of a greater love by speaking such silly things as "love the sinner, hate the sin."

Our use of such remarks is most often our attempt to state judgment on someone without taking responsibility for that. It reminds me of growing up in the South. Here you can say anything you want to about someone if you state it correctly - just end your statement with "bless their heart."

He is such a thick-headed oaf - bless his heart.
She is quite the whore - bless her heart.
That one isn't the sharpest tack in the box - bless her heart.

You get the idea. When someone talks about hating the sin, what they are really doing is judging. I love him, but I hate his drug use. I love her, but I hate the way she dresses. I love those people but... and then anything that comes after the but is really what you want to say.

I'm advocating a more difficult task of dealing with why I am judging others and learning to love more. Who's in?


  1. I'm in! I really like what you have to say in this one...

    1. Linda - Thanks. This is a bit of a dance with an idea. Thank you for not only dropping by, but taking the time to comment. Comments are, after all, the mana of bloggers. :)

  2. Very thought provoking. I see where you're coming from and agree that we have lots of stupid platitudes (My all time favorite one to hate is "Love means never having to say you're sorry." - Rubbish indeed!). I also think your point about the way we can judge without taking responsibility is right on. In fact, I had to wince with your examples...I'm sure I've come pretty close to such statements, if only to myself.

    I do want to suggest some caution in throwing out the entire sentiment behind the expression "Love the sinner, hate the sin." I've just been reading some fascinating research by Dr. Brene Brown (look up her two incredible TED Talks) in the area of shame and vulnerability. She has explored why some people let shame become debilitating while others embrace their imperfections, fix what they can, and move on. She thinks it's very important, especially in children, to convey that the person is good but what they have done was not good (or wise or healthy or whatever).

    Anyway, it's a great discussion! Thanks.

    1. Elizabeth - thank you for your regular visits and comments! I'm not familiar with Brene Brown, but I will look her up on your suggestion. What you say makes sense and truthfully, I'm still hanging on to the expression for sage keeping. :)


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