Hate the Sinner – Love the Sin

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If you are a professing Christian chances are pretty high that you have uttered the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” at one point or another. At the least you have probably heard it tossed around here and there.

The sentiment is fairly straightforward. It conveys the idea that you can entirely disagree with, and be at odds with someone’s behavior, while still caring deeply about them. The idea itself is fine. We really are at odds with a lot of dangerous behavioral stuff in this life. Hopefully we’re more at odds with the junk in our own closet rather than someone else’s. The problem with this idea isn’t that it’s untrue. It’s that we don’t actually mean it.

Generally whatever particular sin issue is driving the conversation usually dominates said conversation. This leaves little room for lovingly engaging people who might be neck deep in the issue at hand. God is amazingly loving, and forgiving, but how can you demonstrate that to someone if you are too busy telling them how much God hates what they’re doing. It’s like trying to give someone a brand new car by running them over with it. Or giving someone dying of thirst a drink by tossing them in a lake.

Christian, you are the face of God to this world. You are Jesus with skin on. Often people will respond to God in accordance to how you respond to them. Not always, but many times.

Also, you need God too. We all do. “Hate the sin, love the sinner” is a fine description of how God feels about the situation, but it’s a pretty crappy summation of Christian human reaction to sin.

God does hate sin. He hates all sin. He is completely good like that. God does love sinners. He loves all sinners. ALL OF US. He is completely good like that. But I have yet to meet the Christian who hates all sin equally and loves all sinners equally, and that certainly includes myself.

No, we pick sins that are obvious and we hammer them, leaving those trapped in that sin beaten and broken like some old rusty nail. Never mind that Jesus allowed himself to be beaten, battered, and nailed for them. All the while we ignore our pet sins and keep them in our most secret places. Even the villainous religious leaders from John chapter 8 had the good sense not to throw stones because of their failures. Would we? I have met a lot of people who went looking for God at some point in their life and wound up battered and bruised by the stones thrown their way.

I’ve spent over a decade reaching out to college students. I’ve had hundreds of conversations with non Christians. It is amazing how many people are turned away from Christianity, not by Jesus, but by the people who represent him. In their eyes we hate the sinner, but we love to talk about their sin.

December 23 – The Free Gift

Romans 6:15-23

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 ESV)

Either by willful commission or apathetic omission each of us sin. We do the wrong things, or we choose not to do the right thing. But our sin is not the central message of the Bible.

If sin were the main theme of the Bible it would be a book primarily focused on morality. And while I do believe that the answers to all moral dilemmas are found within its pages, I don’t believe it is because morality/sin are its chief issue. Jesus is the central focus of the Bible.

Every book points ahead to Christ. Every book of the Old Testament is a Spirit-inspired wrapping—just as every book of the New Testament is a joyful declaration of the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus is the Good News. Jesus is the hope of the world. Jesus is the central figure of human history, the main idea of the Bible, and the Free Gift of God.

November 4 – Breath of God

And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. (Mark 15:37 ESV)

In the beginning God made the heavens and He made the Earth. He made all of the beautiful vistas and unbelievably epic sunsets. Then he wadded up some dirt, ever so carefully, and breathed life into it, and called it Adam.

Adam went on to disobey God and lead his family into sin. A choice which set a course for the remainder of all of humanity, and even history itself. Someone would have to account for the sinfulness of man. And we were found to be entirely incapable of the task at hand.

But God had always known the score. He knew Adam would fail to lead his family. He knew sin would enter the world. And He knew He would need to take on the form of man and become Jesus. He knew it all. He knew it before Adam breathed that first breath drawn straight from the breath of God.

God’s breath put life in our lungs and limbs. It inspired us to create. To reach for the cosmos and ceases wonders by the tail. It called us on to follow Him. To love Him. And to serve Him. But when we were incapable He did not abandon us.

Our Heavenly Father did not forget His people when they failed Him. He did not forsake us when we cursed Him. Instead, He became one of us. And then, He died for us, so that with His last breath we might become like Him.

November 3 – Prophecy: Death of the Messiah

By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (Isaiah 53:8 ESV)

Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46 ESV)

Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would die. His Old Testament writings are sometimes called the fifth gospel because they are full of so much prophetic writing about Jesus. Jesus fulfilled all of Isaiah’s prophecies. Jesus did die on the cross.

Some people today do not believe that Jesus actually died on the cross. They believe he was crucified, and that he just passed out or something. That’s just simply not the case. Jesus died. He breathed a final breath. His spirit left his mortal body.

Jesus final breath marked a turning point in the history of humanity. His sacrifice was complete. There was still some stuff left for him to do. But the dying part was over. It had happened. It was complete. And sin was paid for.

November 2 – Prophecy: Sinless

And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:9 ESV)

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:21, 22 ESV)

The prophet Isaiah said that the Messiah would live his life without committing any sins. Jesus died because of sin, but not his sin for he had no sin of his own. Jesus was sinless.

We sin. Either my intent or ignorance, action or inaction, we disobey God and step into the realm of human pride and selfishness. We exotic the holy and enter the haughty. Jesus did neither.

For every bad choice, horrible decision, and disastrous consequence—Jesus suffered. He took it all upon his very capable shoulders. He carried them to the end. And he dumped it in hell with death itself. He was sinless, and so the wages of death have been paid in full by one who did not owe the bill. The Law fulfilled by the life of Christ.

October 30 – Forsaken

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 ESV)

Have you ever felt forsaken? Perhaps you have. It’s that wretched feeling you get when someone you have absolute trust in has abandoned you. But being forsaken is more than just a feeling of abandonment. It is an action. It is being walked away from. It is having someone turn their back on you in a moment of absolute need.

Jesus needed God the Father for instruction, encouragement, and support. But just in the moment when Jesus’ need was greatest God was out of his reach. It sounds absolutely horrible doesn’t it? If that were how the story ended it truly would be horrible.

You see, Jesus became the recipient of all human sin, for every person for all of history—past, present, and future. He accepted all of it onto himself. And then he placed himself between us and God the Father. Being a perfect man, in perfect communion with God, he was accustomed to a direct line of communication with God. However, sin interrupted that. Our sin.

As Jesus took the sin of the world, he isolated himself from the glory of God Almighty. God did not forsake Jesus out of anger, malice, or disgust. And he doesn’t turn his back on you or I when we find ourselves making poor decisions. No, God forsook the sin that Christ had recieved—sin which exacted its price upon the Son of God. Jesus was momentarily forsaken, but he was not forgotten. Today, the children of God stand in a place made ready by the sacrifice of Christ. A place where Scripture declares that we are neither forsaken nor forgotten.

September 28 – Peter & Jesus

Luke 22:55-62

And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:62 ESV)

Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times and Peter refused to believe it. Jesus also told Judas that he was the betrayer and Judas knew it to be true. What was the incredible difference between these two followers of Christ? I believe that the most significant difference between Judas and Peter rests in their response to their sin against Jesus.

Judas hung himself before Jesus was even crucified. He knew his guilt. And he felt trapped by it. Peter wept at the realization that he had sinned so greatly by denying Christ. The difference in these two responses is incredible. It’s a point I have written about often but I believe we cannot look at it too closely. Judas regretted his actions and killed himself. Peter showed genuine remorse, and sought forgiveness.

Peter betrayed Jesus. He knew that he had done it. He felt horrible. But he also recognized that there was a way back. No, not immediately, but he did take his sin to Jesus. Jesus reminded him that he knew about it before it had even happened. He forgave him.

Peter and Jesus had a unique relationship in terms of teacher and disciple. But all Christians share a similar experience with the two. In the connection between redeemer and redeemed we are all Peter, and we all need Jesus.