“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a recognizable phrase in many parts of the world. Though it’s a common saying I, myself, grew up hearing, that doesn’t mean it’s biblically correct. For many decades, people have confused old expressions with biblical truths. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is an excellent example.
The saying “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not found in the Bible. When I first became a Christian during college, I remember looking in my Bible for a long time. After failing to find it there, I searched online and discovered “love the sinner, hate the sin” is an old saying spoken between people. Even though the phrase isn’t in the Bible, the concept of its biblically accurate is a popular debate.
When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God no longer sees our sins when He looks at us. Instead, He sees the sacrifice of His Son, and His wrath is satisfied. In this sense, our sins are forgiven and no longer associated with us. Christ’s followers are to love all people, yet we often struggle not to associate people with their past sins. God washes away our sins, but we have difficulty seeing people as He does. Even when our heart’s intent is aligned with God’s will, it can be hard to love someone if they are entrenched in destructive behavior. Without the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive at salvation, and we cannot authentically love the difficult people in our lives. Though we have trouble forgiving and forgetting, in Christ, we can become a conduit of His love.
God alone is capable of unconditional, agape love. His love for us far exceeds the love a parent has for their child or husbands and wives share in marriage. God is love, and His love is perfect. There are days when our family, friends, children, and spouses get on our nerves. They hurt us, and we hurt them, making it hard for us to love each other. The natural curse of sin we all live under prevents us from fully loving each other without the intervention of Christ Jesus, Himself.
The unconditional love of God is found in His Son, Jesus Christ. It is through Jesus’ death on the cross we are made right with the Father. God cannot stand in the presence of sin, so it was vital for Jesus to die for our sins. We are forgiven the moment we place faith in Jesus, and our sins will never be held against us. This doesn’t mean we have a free license to sin. The transformation changes our hearts, and we begin to desire good and follow God. God loves people despite their sins, but He does not condone sin. Sin is utterly wicked in God’s eyes, and He despises it. None of us can stand in the presence of God tainted with sin. It will truly be a mournful day when unbelievers are standing before God. Through faith in Jesus, we are forgiven for our sins, made right with the Father, and given eternal life (John 3:16-17).
“We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” 1 John 4:16
Love doesn’t come naturally to us, so intentionally choosing to love the people in our lives, we need God’s help. God’s love is unconditional towards us, and His love propels us to love others in the greatest capacity we can through Christ, despite their sin and ours. While we struggle to separate sin from ourselves and others, God does just that. Psalm 103:12says, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” We can’t remove our sins any more than we can negate the sins of another. Only through Christ can any of us come into the presence of God despite our sinful nature. Love is more than a fleeting feeling; it is a choice we make regardless of emotion. We don’t have to like or agree with someone to love them. God calls us to love everyone as He does.
There will be times when we are frustrated and angry with our loved ones. This might come in an unexpected argument, or something major might happen. We can feel it is impossible to love a person in these times. We hate sin because we are unable to see the person without it. For example, if someone repeatedly lied to you, it would be hard not to label them as untrustworthy and a liar. This could damage your relationship and cause you to love them less. This reaction to hurt is human. It is extremely difficult to love someone when they hurt us, are mean, or lie behind our backs. People can be mean, and we are tempted to love them less than we did before they hurt us. Our normal human emotions impact the level of love we have for others. Humans have genuinely kind tendencies, too, and when they do nice things for us, we tend to love them slightly more. As we can see, it can be really hard to adhere to the belief of loving the person but hating the sin.
Even though our human ability to love is unreliable, God’s love for us never varies. He loves us despite all our sins and flaws because He is God. He loves us because He created and desires a relationship with us. We love our family and friends, yet none of us can say with complete honesty that we have never held bitter feelings toward someone who hurt us or sinned against us. God is the only One who can proclaim perfect, unconditional love for us, despite how we have turned from and grieved His heart and knowing our complete history!
The goal is to love everyone as Jesus does, even though it’s not always easy. The temptation to give in to hate is hard to resist when we are in pain because of someone else’s choices. Loving people despite how they have hurt us can seem impossible. However, God loves us despite our sins and never hates us. God is disappointed when we sin because His will and plan don’t lead down the path of hurt sin always yields. Yet, He never stops loving us. Knowing that God loves us despite all our faults, flaws, and sins is wonderful.
“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is not in the Bible, and while it’s an impossible reality for us apart from Christ, it is not impossible for God. He hates sin but loves us despite our many sins. Though it’s hard for us to forget the sin we, and others, have succumbed to, it’s important to trade our perspective for Christ’s. The Lord loves us, and He can help us grow in our ability to love by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can learn to love others even when they hurt and sin against us with the Lord’s guidance and support.