Ray Rooney, Jr.: “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”?
Monday, November 04, 2013 1:41 PM

As I see it, the problem with the Church today is that it wants everyone to like it.  Look in our churches.  Of the few who are willing to take a stand against sin even fewer are willing to say “That’s not right and neither are you” to the one(s) committing it.  “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is the mantra of many Christians today.  Convenient.  When you only come out against the sin you get to remain safely cocooned within your love bubble.  You don’t have to say anything directly to anybody.  You get to just stand to the side and yell “Sin is wrong!” without ever looking anyone in the eye while you do it.

Every churchgoer should remember the soap-operaesque story of David and Bathsheba, right? (2 Samuel 11-12).   King David gets a little peeping tom action in on a beautiful woman taking a bath.  He lusts.  She’s married.  He gets her pregnant anyway.  He tries to fool her husband unsuccessfully.  So he has him killed.  Like I said, a biblical soap opera.  Into the story steps Nathan the prophet.  He tells the king a story about a rich man with many sheep who takes the solitary sheep of a poor man.  David roars that the rich man ought to be killed for his transgression or at the very least make restitution to the poor man fourfold.  Does Nathan take the modern day tact of “hate the sin, love the sinner” and walk away leaving King David to figure out for himself what he was getting at?  No.  The prophet stands toe to toe and eyeball to eyeball with the King of Israel and says, “You are the man!” He then proceeds to tell the David just how much trouble he has bought for himself with his sin.

“What is your point?” you ask.  I too, hate the sin but love the sinner.  However, loving the sinner does not permit me to refrain from confronting him or her about the sin.  Actually, loving the sinner compels me to speak directly to the sinner.  You see, David’s response to that nosy preacher’s lecture about his sexual sin was, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  Bingo!  A confession of personal sin.  To which Nathan said, “The Lord also has put away your sin.”  Now, if we truly love the sinner isn’t that supposed to be the goal?

Christians need to stop deceiving themselves that they love sinners if they refuse to confront them about their sins.  If you really believe “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (that is to say “it is a sin”) then you really don’t love the sinner if you do nothing directly that would lead him or her to say as David, “I have sinned against the Lord.”  I’m not picking on homosexuals here because I feel the same way about adulterers, gossipers, liars, etc.  Stop saying you hate the sin but love the sinner if you are perfectly willing to let the sinner go to hell.  Nathan didn’t tell David that adultery was wrong and leave it at that.  He told him that he was wrong and would answer to God for it. 

“Go, and from now on, sin no more” Jesus told the woman who was guilty of adultery (John 8:3-11).  He didn’t moralize about the sin.  He identified her with it and told her that she should stop engaging in it in the future.  He didn’t follow her around or tell His disciples to keep tabs on her.  But neither did He refrain from loving her by telling her to stop practicing sin.

Jesus told the familiar parable about the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-36).  One of the points of the parable is that the priest and Levite sinned by not helping the injured man.  Isn’t everyone ensnared by sin mortally wounded?  I wonder when the “love the sinner” Christians who think they are being loving to those engaged in sin are going to recognize their own sin in going around the stricken sinners rather than personally addressing them and their issues?

I, too, believe in hating the sin but loving the sinner.  It’s just that my idea of loving the sinner doesn’t include empowering him or her with my silence.  Loving sinners means attempting to bring wholeness and healing just as Nathan did for David.  It can be dicey and uncomfortable but if you really “love the sinner” how do you just stand by and watch as evil consumes?

Ray Rooney, Jr.

[1]The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Paragraph 304.3.