“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” was the first statement we looked at in our new teaching series that started last week: “Shoot Christians Say.”
“Shoot” was a Southern Baptist substitute for the more colorful cuss-word. Saying “shoot” was fine in that world. Saying the other word was not. We compromised in the series by using punctuations marks: “S*@#! Christians Say.”
I ran out of time before I ran out of sermon – which is not unusual. So, in this space, I will finish.
“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” has most often been used to refer to the LGBT community. I first heard it some 15-20 years ago. It was an attempt to maintain and express a strong protest against a behavior while showing a love for the individual.
I never used it. It didn’t ring true to me then. It certainly does not now.
To me, it is like saying “I love left-handers but hate their left-handedness.” Strangely enough, being left-handed was, at one time, associated with sin and still is in some circles. Throughout the Bible the right-hand is given higher status than the left. People took the metaphorical use of “right-hand and left-hand” and developed a theology around it. Left-handedness became associated with evil. In 19th century Europe homosexuals were referred to as “left-handed.” In Protestant-majority parts of the United Kingdom, Catholics were called “left-footers,” and vice versa in Catholic-majority parts of Ireland and Irish America.
“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is not just a statement about what someone is doing, but about who they are.
To condemn the behavior is to condemn the orientation. It’s like saying, “I love you, but I hate your freckles.” “I love you, but the color of your eyes is unacceptable.”
A friend told me that it was after he heard a preacher state “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” that he attempted to take his own life. Certainly, his despair was not due to the pastor’s statement alone but the statement was, to him, the tipping point. To hate the behavior was to hate him and who he is.
Our society is split on the issue. Our churches are too. The position held by the church has changed over the years. There was a day in which the church did not even recognize the possibility of sexual orientation. Homosexuality was a choice and choice only.
There are 6 passages in the Bible, written by Moses and Paul, that address some form of same-sex behavior. Today, a growing number of Christ-followers, myself included, wonder if these passages express God’s will for us today. Think about it:
*Is it possible that these writers describe same-sex acts that even LBGT folks today would condemn?
*Many scholars question whether the Biblical writers even had “sexual orientation” in their mental dictionary.
*Are these passages similar to the Bible passages that very clearly condone slavery or prohibit women from speaking in church or from teaching older boys and men – verses that reflect a cultural norm rather than God’s will? (Am I the only one who has a problem with the Bible condoning slavery or prohibits women from teaching?)
I have friends and members of the church I pastor, who are on different sides of the issue. Some see me as compromising the truth. I get that. I would have said the same thing about me at one time in my life.
Regardless, I want to love. In the context of love we can understand. We can grow.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll look more closely at some of these phrases many of us say without thinking of what they really mean.