Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin? Why Christians Should Retire Their Favorite Phrase
“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is one of those phrases that feels so baked into modern Christianity is almost shocking to discover it never appears anywhere in the Bible.
At a fundamental level, there’s nothing wrong about “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.” It seeks to be a more gracious counterpoint to the accusation that Christians are inherently judgmental and intolerant.
After all, we’re all sinners, and God doesn’t hate us, right?
“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” conveniently makes a distinction between the sinner and the sin. And this is one of the reasons that phrase is so attractive to so many Christians — it grants the appearance of generosity without the need to sacrifice (or honestly wrestle with) your convictions.
However, while spoken with the best intentions, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” often ends up being more beneficial to the person saying the words than it is to the person hearing them.
InTorn, Justin Lee writes,
“The basic point of the phrase is true. But “love the sinner, hate the sin” feels very different depending on which side of the table you’re sitting on. To the person doing the “loving,” it feels very generous: Even though this person is a sinner, I’m going to treat them with love and compassion!”
“I’m a good person,” the phrase implies, “because I’m loving you in spite of your sin.”
However, to the person on the receiving end of “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin,” it can sound frustratingly judgmental, condescending, and manipulative.
“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” highlights the virtues of one person against the perceived sinfulness of another, conveniently placing the ‘Lover’ in a position of moral superiority over the ‘Sinner.’
It’s not compassion, and it’s definitely not grace.
In a powerful story found in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus forgives the sins of a crippled man after the man’s friends cut a hole in the ceiling of a packed house and lowered the man in front of the controversial rabbi. Jesus tells the man that “his sins are forgiven” and a lot of the religious people in attendance became very upset.