God

Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner Is Disingenuous. It’s Not Scriptural.

We’ve often heard some church folks proclaim, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” It’s morphed into a disingenuous catch phrase for the church’s dismissive attitude towards homosexuals. As if to say, “We hate their sin but ya gotta love homosexuals.” That’s condescending and patronizing. It’s a blanket statement of generic acceptance. And, it’s not scriptural.

The phrase originated in a letter written by St. Augustine circa 425. In his letter Augustine wrote, what scholars roughly translate as, “with love for mankind and hatred for sins.” Not sinners, but sins. Our sins. Not specifically relegated to any group, but “mankind”. That’s you and me. That’s all of us.

In his Letter Augustine Rebukes the Nuns of the Monastery for certain turbulent manifestations of dissatisfaction. . .and Lays Down General Rules for Their Guidance.¹

As I see it, what Augustine said had nothing to do with homosexuals or adulterers or broods of vipers. It wasn’t even a complete thought. It was a prepositional phrase that modified something else in his sentence.

We might make our misstatement of St. Augustine’s prepositional phrase biblical if we said something like, “Love one another (Jesus said that) and hate our sins (Paul said that).” Or, something like in Psalm 97:10 –” Let those who love the LORD hate evil”; or say something like Amos 5:15 –“Hate evil, love good.”

The next time you hear someone say that, or the next time you’re tempted to say it, think. Let’s just make sure the way we respond lines up with Scripture and we don’t respond with this un-scriptural worn out platitude.

¹NewAdevent.org;St. Augustine's Letter 211

13 thoughts on “Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner Is Disingenuous. It’s Not Scriptural.

  1. I believe it is in error to feel this phrase is used exclusively for the sin of homosexuality. I teach parenting classes and have always separated the worth and love for a child to be separated from their negative or positive behavior. Sin is sin and people are people. Everyone sins and fall short of God’s glory. Where Satan revels is that he deceives people to think that they cannot love someone unless they accept the sin in their life. Jesus proved in His life on this earth, one can love one another and not condone the sin in their life. Emulate Jesus. Blessings.

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    1. Dorothy, thank your for your comments. I agree with you. I didn’t say the phrase is used EXCLUSIVELY for the sin of homosexuality. I said, the phrase has, morphed into a disingenuous catch phrase for the church’s dismissive attitude towards homosexuals. We ought to hate all sin and love one another, as Jesus commanded. I agree totally with your statement, “Jesus proved in His life on this earth, one can love one another and not condone the sin in their life.” My thought was the phrase has become almost a cliche and the church remains unwilling, in my opinon. to deal with sin in its midst, whether it be homosexuality or adultery or envy or greed or whatever. I applaud yoou for teaching parenting classes. We see lots of young people getting married who have no training in their families of origin as to what healthy, loving parenting is all about. Good luck and God bless you and your efforts to teach parents how to be parents.

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    2. Thank you, Dorothy. You are right in that that terminology is not used exclusively for homosexuality or any other sin. I can hate the sin of judging other people without hating the people who are judgmental…or the sin of gossip without hating the person who is a gossip.
      Although the words are not Biblical, I believe they are not contrary to anything in the Bible.
      Yes, let’s continue to love one another and not condone the sin in their life. I pray others will do the same for me.
      And, blessings to you, too.

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      1. I did NOT say “Hate the sin and love the sinner is used exclusively for homosexuality!” What I said was, “It’s morphed into a disingenuous catch phrase for the church’s dismissive attitude towards homosexuals. As if to say, “We hate their sin but ya gotta love homosexuals.” That’s condescending and patronizing. It’s a blanket statement of generic acceptance. And, it’s not scriptural.” which, to me, does not imply exclusivity. I get aggravated when I post and members who comment back twist my context or misquote me to criticize me to further their personal agendas. We’re supposed to be “Christian” members in this group, but, I certainly don’t feel the love. No wonder some non-believers call us intolerant and judgmental.

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  2. The distinction you highlight is not contained in Scripture. The writers don’t separate people from their actions – good or bad. And more importantly, people themselves are judged and sent to heaven or hell, not their actions. We are evaluated by our actions and choices, and judgment handed out from there.

    For believers, Christ has already paid the wage of death for our sins. Those who continue in their sinning will be judged by their own lives.

    God does call us to love each other, and one step further, our enemies. We can do this in different ways – but to close our eyes and try to separate evil deeds from people goes against the clear teaching of Scripture. The woman caught in adultery was not a victim of her choices or society – she was full complicit and responsible – as are we all. But Christ did exactly what he does with each believer – forgives AND demands the sinner not continue in that path of sin…

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    1. Excellent comments, Steve. I really appreciate your stopping by and adding to this conversation. Great thoughts. God bless.

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  3. Thanks for this, Steven. It stirred a memory of something that CS Lewis said in ‘Mere Christianity’, and I’ve added it here:

    “Now that I come to think of it, I remember Christian teachers telling me long ago that I must hate a bad man’s actions, but not hate the bad man: or, as they would say, hate the sin but not the sinner.
    For a long time I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life—namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why l hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things. Consequently, Christianity does not want us to reduce by one atom the hatred we feel for cruelty and treachery. We ought to hate them. Not one word of what we have said about them needs to be unsaid. But it does want us to hate them in the same way in which we hate things in ourselves: being sorry that the man should have done such things, and hoping, if it is anyway possible, that somehow, sometime, somewhere he can be cured and made human again.”

    What do you think?

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    1. I AM going to comment on this. I need to read it closer and study it, but I will read and reply soon. Thanks for sharing. It will make me rethink my premise I believe.

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    2. I will reply to this soon. I want to read it closely. It may take me a few days because of my schedule. But I really appreciate your sharing it with me. How is Katie and the family and your mom?

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      1. Food for thought – I’ve got a lot of time for CS Lewis but I need to read his writing in small doses otherwise my brain hurts!
        All well here, thanks. Mum is much better with meds and the children are both fine at the moment. We’re trundling along nicely, thank you. 🙂

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      2. I love your word “trundling” What might an American English equivalent be? I’d like to use trundling some time.

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    3. Amen, exactly! Just as we love our children and hate the bad things they do sometimes, or hate the things we ourselves do, we can love the person and hate the action. They are not exclusive! Our Heavenly Father loves us and did before He sent Jesus, but sent Jesus to redeem us because He hated the sin!

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      1. Loopyloo, thank you so much for your comments and encouragement. This post drew some skeptics, but Scripturally we are to love one another and hate sin of all kinds, including ours. I think some Christians use the phrase dismissively about homosexuality. But that’s another post. Thank you again. Good to hear from you always. God bless.

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