“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
If I’m being completely honest, I’ve never much liked this term. It always sounded so flippant, so condescending, as though I were making an excuse after saying something particularly rude. Yet, over the years, I’ve heard this phrase come up in Christian circles with surprising regularity. We seem to use it whenever we're talking about Muslims, or atheists, or even our political rivals. When I mentioned this fact to a non-Christian friend of mine, he simply laughed and called it, “condemnation with a smile.”
“We don’t hate you,” he said in a mocking voice, “we just hate everything about you.”
His words have troubled me for a long time, but in the past year they’ve taken on an almost sinister note. With so much political and social strife happening in our society, it feels as though many Christians have put aside Christ’s command to love their neighbor (Mark 12:31) and are instead gearing up for another culture clash. The Good News is no longer something to be shared, but rather protected from the outsider. Over at Relevant Magazine, pastor Scott Sauls appeals to believers by asking them to remember the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Where most onlookers wanted to stone her, Jesus had a very specific response. He writes,
“But not Jesus. Jesus, left alone with the woman, simply says to her two things: ‘I do not condemn you. Now leave your life of sin.’ The order of these two sentences is everything. Reverse the order of these two sentences and you’ll lose Christianity. Reverse the order and you’ll lose Jesus.”
“As was the case with Jesus, so it will be with his people when we create environments that communicate ‘no condemnation’ first, before we ever start talking about law, obedience and ethics. Because with Jesus, grace and love establish the environment for the morality conversation. It is not our repentance that leads to God’s kindness, but God’s kindness that leads to our repentance.”
“After 18 years of pastoral ministry, I have never met a person who fell in love with Jesus because a Christian scolded them about their morality or their ethics. Have you?”
The idea that Christians are judgmental has become pervasive within our culture, and Sauls is not the only believer hoping to restore our reputation. Writer and blogger Titus Benton recently published an article titled, “50 Groups/Individuals Jesus Says You Can Hate”,
“In other words, you have Scriptural permission to hate, cast out, demonize, distance yourself from, and hold grudges against all of the following fifty groups or individuals.” He writes, “You don’t have to be kind to them, serve them, or even associate with them. You have Biblical mandate to talk badly about them, condemn them, and wish failure upon them.”
His list was blank.
Right now, Christians are living in a world of tension. It would be simple for us to close the church doors and focus on protecting ourselves, but to do so would violate everything Christ commanded. Jesus told us to love our neighbor and our enemies, to pray for those who were different from us, and to welcome the stranger into our midst (Matthew 5:43-45, Hebrews 13:2). Put your love into action, and be the reflection of Jesus our neighbors need.
What about you? Do you think Christians have become too comfortable with condemnation? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
*Ryan Duncan is an Editor for Crosswalk.com
(Image courtesy of Thinkstock)