Why I Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin

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I recently read an article on Huffington Post entitled “Why I Can’t Say ‘Love the Sinner/Hate the Sin’ Anymore.” The author, Micah Murray, is obviously a very caring individual, and I understand where he is coming from. He hates the idea that we would see gays – or anyone – as someone substandard, someone who is “other” to us, or less than us because of their sin. He points to a fundamental Christian reality – that people are people and he rightly resents the idea that people would be defined by a sin, rather than by who they are as individuals.

I agree. It would be a horrible thing if the world were split into groups of people who saw one another as less simply because of a sin that they commit. Indeed, only God can judge the worth of a man. Should one person attempt to tell another man that he is less, then the first man is really the one guilty of such stature.

Yet, in denying the saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” Mr. Murray has committed the other crime of this saying. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” has now become “love the sinner, love the sin.” This is also incorrect, and frankly, quite dangerous and even hypocritical.

The saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” isn’t just a catchy Christian catchphrase that we rattle off passive-aggressively at those who need to “shape up!” No, this saying attempts to capture, to point at, the fundamental mystery of the Christian life: that in dying to our sin, we rise again to a greater self, that in love we conquer death, and that we can only love sinners because we hate their sin.

This saying is not an invitation to view ourselves as better than others, but rather a recognition that as people we are all sinners, struggling to deal with the painful effects of original sin. Moreover, it is a generous and loving phrase, one that says “in our humanity, love one another, and hate the sin that weighs one another down.” Truly, at its core, this saying opens our eyes to the human condition from which we all suffer. Thus, to say “love the sinner, hate the sin,” is a recognition that we are all sinners, and, therefore that we are all in need of love because we are all sinners.

Indeed, we hate the sin because we love the sinner. The saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” is a true practice of the very act Mr. Murray asks of all of us: to love one another, not to judge as we are all sinners, not to be hypocritical because we all suffer from some short coming, from some sin, from some element of our human existence. Yet Mr. Murray, in his compassion, has given in to the progressive notion that true love is manifested in the act of allowing others to do whatever they want in the name of “happiness,” rather than denying ourselves out of an honest pursuit of joy. Christians, however, understand this dichotomy: that in denial we have abundance and in practicing rules we have true freedom. Thus, we hate the sin because of the pain and evil it unleashes in the sinner’s life, because of the shackles it places around the sinner which prevent him from attaining the true joy which freedom from sin brings.

Indeed, it is more loving to hate something that causes another pain, more loving to desire goodness, health, beauty, and joy for someone, more loving to resent an action that causes another harm than allow someone to continue down a path of self destruction.

Thus, for Christians, to love the sinner is to hate the sin. Yet, because we are all sinners, to love the sinner is to love all and to love all involves the righteous hatred of all sin that holds us hostage in this life.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is not judgmental; it is not harsh; it is not reserved for “special sinners.” It is a saying that captures the pain of human existence and challenges all people to rise to the demands of true love. It is a saying that elevates us in our humanity so that we are not our sin, and so that we are not defined by our weaknesses and struggles. It is a saying that allows us to be defined by the love of the Father, who consistently pours out his graces on us in His love so that we as sinners may sin no more.

Emma King

Emma King

Emma graduated cum laude from Hillsdale College in May, 2013 with a BA in Philosophy. She is happily married to a wonderful man and lives in Michigan.

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13 thoughts on “Why I Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin”

  1. Avatar

    Thank you Emma for a timely and interesting article.

    The “right-left” divide in the Church, and Christianity for that matter, is predicated, to a significant extent, on a polar, either-or treatment of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” The “right” emphasizes hate the sin and disregards love the sinner; the “left” emphasizes love the sinner and disregards hate the sin. And to many on the radical left, the notions of sin and sinner are archaic at best, destructive at worst.

    As you said, it is the both/and of this maxim that is one of the central mysteries and truths of Christianity.

    Another factor is that many today have adopted an overly romantic view of love, which sees tolerance and harmony as love’s highest expression, typified by the phrase, “can’t we all just get along.”

    The idea that we-are-what-we-desire is not a foundation for healthy human dignity. When we focus our attention inwardly in our quest for self-assurance, it should not be a surprise when we seek to avoid confronting our own disordered desires. Self-preservation, in our fallen condition, requires it. True love, in its wisdom, knows this.

  2. Avatar

    Not to be a know it all but, the saying is loosely from Augustine (424), “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” But… Its most recently from Ghandi, who said in his autobiography, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”.

    While a Protestant I was attacked for using the phrase simply because it was from a non-Christian source, as if I subscribed to all of Ghandi’s beliefs. So I think that’s what the Huffington Post writer was missing; he doesn’t understand the full history of the phrase. But we are the Catholic Church and if we are the truest of all religions then we must intersect other religions where they are true.

    1. Avatar

      “if we are the truest of all religions then we must intersect other religions where they are true”
      I love this line. What ever is good, true and beautiful gives praise to the Lord.

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        Shaun Alexander McAfee

        Isn’t that what I said? Or are you saying its a one-way relationship, they they have to meet us, and not us meet them? I would argue against that if that’s what your are saying. No insitution has a patent on Truth. Truth is perfect knowledge because of who God is, not because for any other reason.

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        Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
        Jesus founded the Catholic Church.
        The Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth.

        Jesus and His Church, the Catholic Church, are One and the Same. The teachings of the Catholic Church are the teachings of Jesus. Maybe I am mistaken but what you propose is a akin to meeting someone in the middle? If you are meeting someone in the middle that means you are walking away from something but also walking towards something. For a non Catholic that is a good thing because it means they are walking towards the Truth but for a Catholic that means they are leaving some part of the Truth behind. So I look at as Jesus and the fullness of His Teachings in the Church (the Rock) that He founded beckoning.

      3. Avatar
        Shaun Alexander McAfee

        I think you’re splitting hairs and I dont want to argue. Thank you for you comments though. Peace.

  3. Avatar

    And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you (compassion). Go your way, and from now on do not sin again (conversion).”

    Jesus spoke much about sin, the devil and hell. He did this out of love. Compassion for this life, conversion for the next.

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