Is It Biblical to Love the Sinner, and Hate the Sin ?
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, that we should love the sinner, but hate the sin. Some people probably think that saying comes from the bible, but it doesn’t. The idea expressed in that saying, comes from the bible, but the saying itself was made up by man.
I believe the saying was first attributed to a man named Augustine, who was often called St. Augustine, because he was a Roman Catholic. He lived between 354 and 430 AD. It’s said that in a letter to a commune of nuns, he encouraged them to “Act with love for persons, and hatred for sin”.
Another person who was known for commenting on the idea of loving the sinner, but hating the sin, was Mahatma Gandhi. In 1929, Gandhi wrote in his autobiography; “Hate the sin and not the sinner, is a precept, which though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred, spreads in the world.”
Gandhi argued that this phrase is an excuse to judge another person, because it cannot be effectively practiced. (you’d be judging someone by referring to them as “a sinner”) Now I’m not sure if Gandhi was arguing that it actually CANNOT be effectively practiced, or simply that it DOES NOT get effectively practiced.
Whichever it was, I believe he’s right about one thing; Hatred is so widespread around the world, because it is RARELY practiced! And I believe that fact has never been more evident in this country, than it is right now, as we see people literally hating one another, because they have a different opinion, one from the other.
People on both sides of the political aisle, are literally wanting to kill one another, for the beliefs that they hold. And what’s really sad, is that it’s not much different with a lot of so called “religious people”.
What Matters is What the Bible Says
But let me read to you a bible passage. This is what it says in Romans 12, verses 9 thru 20; “Let love be without hypocrisy. (love your fellow man, right?) Abhor that which is evil (hate sin) Cleave to that which is good (love righteousness, right?)
“In love of the brethren, be tenderly affectioned, one to another, in honor, preferring one another.” (In other words, put the other person ahead of yourself) “In diligence, not slothful; Fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; Communicating to the necessities of the saints, given to hospitality.”
“Bless them that curse you, bless and curse not.” (it would be a sin for someone to curse you; So then again, love the sinner) “Rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly.” (that has to do with pride, doesn’t it?) Be not wise in your own conceits.”
“Render to no man, evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men.” (If someone sins against you, don’t sin back at them) If it be possible, as much as lies within you, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God; For it is written, Vengeance belongeth to Me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.”
“But if thine enemy hungers, feed him; If he thirsts, give him to drink; For in doing so, you shall heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Have you ever wondered about the phrase, “you shall heap coals of fire upon his head”? It’s actually a quote from Proverbs 25, verses 21 & 22; Here’s what it says in Proverbs; “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat. And if he be thirsty, give him water to drink. For thou will heap coals of fire upon his head, and Jehovah will reward thee.”
So then, doing good to your enemy, is likened to “heaping coals of fire upon his head”. That would hurt, wouldn’t it” Having coals of fire poured on your head? To say the least, that would hurt! And it wouldn’t just hurt for a minute or two. That would burn, and that would hurt for a long time. So what’s the point? God doesn’t want us to hurt our enemy, does He?
Well, in a way He does. The last verse that we rad from Romans says; “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” That’s what you’re doing when you do good to your enemy. You’re overcoming evil with good. Did you ever hear the phrase, “Kill ’em with kindness”? To “heap coals of fire upon his head”, is about the same as “killing him with kindness”.
What part of your enemy are you going to “kill” by doing good to them? Well hopefully, you’re going to kill his nasty attitude, and hopefully you’re going to kill his desire to do evil unto you. And hopefully, he’s going to feel the guilt of his actions.
A lot of times, when someone does something bad to you, he WANTS you to do something bad in return. By returning good for evil, you’re going to make your enemy feel his guilt. His own conscience is going to hurt him, probably worse than anything else you could do to him.
Listen to what we’re told in Romans 2, verse 4; “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God, leads you to repentance?” The goodness of God, lead us to repentance. When we continually do evil, God continually does good. It take a pretty evil heart, to withstand the goodness of God. Sooner or later, and honest heart is going to repent.
That’s the principle being taught in Romans 12, verse 20; “But if thine enemy hungers, feed him. If he thirst, give him drink. For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire upon his head.” And if you just keep doing that, if you just keep on repaying evil with good, you could very well lead someone to repentance. And you will be overcoming evil with good.
We Are All Guilty Of Sin
The idea of loving sinners, is expressed over and over again in the bible. The fact of the matter is, everyone is a sinner, and we are instructed to love everyone. The second greatest commandment ever given, is to “love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mathew 22, verse 39) And our neighbors are sinners, just like each and every one of us is a sinner. And on top of that, in Luke 10, verses 29 thru 36, when He told the parable of the good Samaritan, He taught that ALL people should be our neighbors.
Actually, let me clarify something. The specific point that Jesus made with this parable, is that when we do good to someone, like the good Samaritan did to the man who had been beaten and robbed, we then prove ourselves to BE a neighbor. In other words, a neighbor, is a person who DOES the good works that need to be done.
So then, that’s the lesson being taught by Jesus, that it is our good works, done for others, which make us a “neighbor”. The word “neighbor” means “one who is close by”. And what Jesus is teaching us, is that each one of us, needs to be, that “one who is close by” when someone else needs help.
And so, we should BE a neighbor to everyone, and everyone should be a neighbor to us, and we should “love our neighbor as ourself.”
Now, Jesus did NOT tell us, that we should love our neighbor, IF they are without sin. Because no one is without sin! “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1, verse 8.
And Jesus did not tell us, that we should love our neighbor, only if our neighbor is a member of the church. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves, whether they’re in sin, or out of sin; Whether they’re in Christ or out of Christ; Regardless of whether they’re a member of the church, and regardless of their religious beliefs, and regardless of their lifestyle. The good Samaritan did not have the same religious beliefs as the man that he stopped and helped. And so, loving your neighbor, has nothing to do with our neighbor’s religious beliefs, nor does it have anything to do with their lifestyle, nor does it have anything to do with whether they have been forgiven of their past sins.
As a Christian, and as a sinner, each one of us has the obligation to God, to love other sinners. That’s as plain as it can be said, and that’s exactly what the bible says.
To a Christian, to love the sinner, doesn’t mean that you put yourself above the sinner. To love the sinner doesn’t mean that you’re judging the sinner. But rather, to a Christian, to love the sinner is simply to have the mind of Christ. “While we were yet sinners, He died for us.” Romans 5, verse 8.
That’s an interesting statement; “While we were yet sinners”. Are we no longer sinners, after we receive forgiveness in Christ? Are we now “better” than other people, because we’ve been forgiven of our past sins? Well, we’re certainly in a better condition than we were in, but we’re no better than anyone else.
But you see, that’s exactly what people want to accuse Christians of. They want to accuse Christians, of “thinking” that they’re better than other people. And I’m sure that there have been some Christians who have fallen into that trap. And I’m sure that satan wants you to fall into that trap. The trap of arrogance, and the trap of looking upon someone else as “less valuable”, or possibly, looking at someone, as if they had NO value at all.
Maybe someone is living a lifestyle that we know is sinful, and we look down on them because it. But that’s exactly what the bible is referring to when it says; “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” We were ALL living a lifestyle that’s sinful! That’s the whole point of Christ. He came so that we could all be forgiven, of our PAST lifestyle!
Remember what Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 6, verse 11; “And such were some of you, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”
“And such were some of you..” Such what were some of you? Verses 9 & 10, tells us what some of them were; “Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, abusers of self with men, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners.”
What do we think of people who are involved in those kind of things? Do we look down on them, because they’re so sinful? Dow e think that we’re better than they are? Do we hate them? If we do, then we need to be repenting, of all of that. “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed, lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10, verse 12)
If we think that we’re better than people who are involved in sinful lifestyles, and if we look down on them, and if we hate them, then we HAVE fallen, and we better take heed, so that we don’t stay in that condition. And we better humble ourselves, and get back up and repent, and ask God for forgiveness, and ask that our hearts be softened.
Are Christians supposed to hate sin? Of course they are. We are to pattern ourselves after God. Proverbs 6:16 thru 19 says; “There are six things that the Lord hates. Yea, seven are an abomination to Him.” God hates sin, and so must the Christian. And we need to be very honest with ourselves; It can be difficult to say the least, to hate sinful actions, and sinful lifestyles, but still remain compassionate, and loving towards those who are involved in sins.
Hopefully, when we became a Christian, we turned away from the sinful things that were in our lives. And hopefully, we do our very best every day, to keep those things in the past. Romans 6, verse 2, asks us this question; “How can we who have died to sin, live any longer therein?”
We’ve got our work cut out for us. Hate the sin, but love the sinner. It may not be practiced near as often as it should be, but if we’re going to call ourselves Christians, then we, of all people, need to learn to practice it.
This article has 6 Comments
I’ll conclude these comments with this note.
I think I understand 1 Cor 5:9-10 However I have to notice 2 Cor 6:14.
The problem is the fellowship with sinners even as they sin. Those that would bring with certain illicit relationships adultery, same sex, drunkeness etc. Sinners who have no interest in changing the way they have chosen and would impose you to accept it and embrace them as if all is normal. Then outwardly it would seem we sanction and enable such things and choose family over God. I hope to gain a better understanding to the correct approach to these matters, even though I still struggle with my understanding here.
I do know for a fact what the word says to do if it is a fellow christian.
(1Co 5:11) But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.
Your answer might lie in just how close the relationship is, that you have with those of such sinful behavior. In a “casual” relationship, there would probably be no need to delve into their personal lives very deeply. However, in a close personal relationship, a Christian MUST speak out against all such sin, while maintaining a loving attitude. One’s attitude plays such an important role here. Making sure that they know without a doubt that you still love them, and want only what’s good for them, yet standing firm in in your opposition to their lifestyle, and also letting them know that such a lifestyle is definitely NOT for their “good”. If you believe that your association with them is giving them the impression that you condone their lifestyle, then it could be, that for the sake of your conscience and for their sake, you very well may have to withdraw, to a large degree, your fellowship from them, so as to show clearly your disapproval (and most importantly, God’s disapproval) of their choices. I realize that the closer the relationship is, the harder this all will be.
If our (non-christian/denominational) neighbor or family member is living openly in sin such as adultery, fornication, etc..
How do you think the word says we should deal with this. (I know we should warn them). But do we embrace them and Love them as if all is well. Seems we would give the world the impression that we are ok with it. I’m referring to a real life situation that even the world finds objectionable.
I think of Romans 1:32. And while we may hate this behavior we would appear as if we were ok with it if we were laughing and rejoicing together at family gatherings, going shopping together etc. even as a new person is now with them and a innocent, sick spouse has been abandoned.
Would appreciate your interpretation of the word regarding this. Knowing the right approach to this is difficult for me.
Keep up the good work, I find your articles well written and really good for my study.. Thank you
Thank you for your kind words. You have a difficult situation there. I believe that the scriptures are clear that something must be said to the sinning person persons. You are totally correct in thinking that if you say or do nothing, that would be just like condoning their sinful behavior. 2 John 9 thru 11 seems to be absolutely clear on this.. “Everyone who goes on ahead, and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you, and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, because the one who welcomes him, shares in his evil deeds.” In other words, if we DON’T rebuke such behavior, we are in essence “partaking in it”. I don’t believe that this would apply to total strangers living in sin. However, you describe the situation as if you are very familiar with the people, and thus that puts you in the position of responsibility to address this behavior. Granted, things like this are very uncomfortable and difficult, however, this IS the will of God as pointed out very clearly in the verses that I have cited. Also there is the more general instructions given in Ephesians 5:11.. “Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” It is our responsibility as Christians, to take the lead in exposing sin. Does this help you any? Please let me know.
Thank you for your answer.
Yes that helps but I’m struggling with my approach to such sinful behavior. I may be wrong to reject them due to such behavior.
If it was your friend or family member and they were not subject to church discipline as a fellow christian. Do we invite them over (or leave them out which is also awkward and causes trouble) for dinner or activities as if all is ok. Even if they bring the other party with them?
Sorry to present such to you but it troubles me. Seems similar to allowing alcohol or drugs in the house. Yet Im afraid it is wrong to reject non-christians due to sin. However they perfectly understand adultery as being wrong.
I’ll keep studying.
Again, very thankful for your work. Will pray for your work in Wyoming.
Please consider these verses.. 1 Cor 5:9-10; “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people; I was not including the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.” If a brother or sister in Christ were behaving immorally, we would be obligated to cease fellowship with them. However, with non-Christians, we have no command to cease our interactions with them, but we are obligated to let them know exactly how we feel about their sinful behavior. By letting them know exactly what the scriptures say, and exactly how we feel, we in no way condone their actions, but yet rebuke their actions, in love.
I should have asked.. Are any of these people actually living in your home with you? I assumed no, but ??