Monday, August 20, 2012

Hate the sin love the sinner?

We are in a series called "That's not in the Bible" and this Sunday I talked about the phrase "Hate the sin love the sinner."

Here's the main hilights:

- When Augustine used the phrase, he used it about his own sin.  When we use the phrase it's always about someone else's sin or some group of people's sin.

- The sin we are usually talking about is homosexuality...what about all the other sins in the world?
- When Ghandi used the phrase he talked about how difficult it is to practice.  Here's his quote: “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.”

- When we use the phrase it comes across as judgmental.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer said this about judging: “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”  Even if we are well intentioned in our use of the phrase it comes across as judgmental.

- We should only use judgment on those who have given us permission to do so.  There is a place for a type of judgment or fruit inspection or accountability...but only for those that have given us permission to do so in their lives. 

- Using the phrase comes off as self-righteous because it's always about someone else's sin and not our own.  It comes across as "I'm better than/holier than/more Christian than you are."

- If you are going to hate someone's sin, hate your own!

- While I agree with the message of the phrase, I do not think humans have the capacity to practice it's precept because we have such a difficult time separating the sin from the person.

- When it comes to being an effective witness in the world for Christ Christians should start with love and grace not with judgement. 

- For these reasons, Christians should put this phrase in the grave never to use it again (unless teaching against using it)!


Chris Macedo said...

Good write up Rich. I'm not sure I completely agree with one of your points.

"We should only use judgment on those who have given us permission to do so."

There are places in scripture where prophets and the apostles judge others without permission. Example is Acts 2. When Peter addresses the crowd in response to them saying they were drunk, he says, "Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,put him to death by nailing him to the cross."

Sounds like judgment and calling them out to me. It ultimately culminates to a call of repentance. 3000 are added to their numbers.

While I generally agree with your statement, I would nuance it a little differently. If you're going to judge someone without their permission, you better make darn sure that God gave you permission first. Peter, being full of the Spirit, was acting in the Spirit and therefore had permission. If we don't have permission from God, then we run the risk of sinning against and harming that person. Usually we don't ask permission. We just judge. Shame on us.

Rich Tuttle said...

Yeah, I see your point Macedo. I have a tendency to generalize a point if I see it as a negative witness for Christians in our culture. Judgmentalism definitely fits that category. I would rather someone err on the side of not judging in our culture than judging and giving Christians (and God)a bad name.

I agree with you that if God gives us permission we have the green light. However, I don't think permission equals a command. God may give us permission and leave the decision up to us. A green light gives us permission to go but it is still up to us to make sure it is safe (wise) to make the turn or cross the lane.

Good point though, I think if I preach it again I will add that nuance in.