Monday, June 14, 2010

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

I hear a lot of religious people use the quote “Love the sinner, hate the sin” when referring to homosexuality. Did you know that this phrase was not coined by any Christian? It is not found in the Bible, or any book used by the LDS church. It was Mahatma Gandhi who actually coined the phrase – but it has been adopted as the Christian homosexuality theme.

A while ago, someone who I consider an “online friend” commented on a Salt Lake Tribune story that was related to homosexuality in the LDS church. She stated the following:

“To 'love the sinner and hate the sin' is a clever use of misdirection. It allows the speaker to judge others while calling himself/herself virtuous.”

This got me thinking a lot about a phrase I myself have championed in the past. I wondered what it might look like if someone really did love the sinner, while hating the sin.

If I turn to examples of Christ in the scriptures, I can think of three in particular where this catch-phrase could apply. The first is the woman caught in adultery; a common example throw into the face of homosexuals by anti-homosexuality Christians as an illustration as to how they think God would treat us. The second is the thief on the cross. The third is the man who lacked faith that Christ could heal his child – a story that coined a catch-phrase of its own: “Help thou my unbelief.”

I don’t think anyone would deny that Christ loved these three people. He defended the woman caught in adultery, proving to all her accusers that her sins were no worse than their own. I would imagine such a touching display from a man such as Jesus would change her life in unexpected and profound ways. Christ’s admonition to “Go and sin no more” came with no threats or condemnation, even though he, himself, as a perfect man – and I think a lot of people think that is the most important part of the story.

I disagree.

While studying this story while a missionary and after, I was always impressed by the fact that Christ writes on the ground just after the woman’s accusers ask him what should be done to her. Studying this one specific point of the story led me to only one small piece of information – that writing as such was a way in which Christ was showing distain or disrespect for the accusers… sort of a Jewish way of blatantly ignoring someone. I believe it is the words that follow that are the point of the story – “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

I do not believe it is possible for imperfect, sinful people to love the sinner while hating the sin. To find out why, we need to go to the next story.

On the cross, a thief looks to Christ and says “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Christ’s response was, “Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.”
There is much speculation as to what Christ meant by “paradise.” Did he mean heaven, or just the paradise that is in the spirit world? Either way, Christ was able to look past the faults of this man to recognize his faith in the atonement. Christians literally believe that the thief’s petition in faith alone saved him.

Is it easy for us to love this thief while hating his sins because Christ had already forgiven him? What about the other man being crucified with Christ? Do we love him the same, regardless of what he did to earn his spot on the cross?

In my final example, we have a man without faith, who petitions Christ on behalf of his child. Does Christ sometimes reward someone’s faith before even they, themselves have it? Do Christian people love this faithless man in light of and, perhaps because of, his sins?

I very rarely see such love in today’s Christian world when it comes to the subject of homosexuality. Many of those who profess such love show exactly the opposite by their actions.

If you believe homosexual behavior is a sin…

You cannot love a homosexual unless you love those who are celibate, those who marry members of the opposite sex, and those who are in homosexual relationships alike.

You cannot love a homosexual if you are so preoccupied with the “sin of homosexuality” that you overlook the fact that the person is a child of God.

You cannot love a homosexual if you condemn them to Hell, judging a group without taking an individual account of its members.

You cannot love a homosexual if you kick them out of your churches and drive them away from Christ.

You cannot love a homosexual if you refuse to understand how they feel, or why they make the choices they do.

You cannot love a homosexual if you compare them to people who victimize children, adults, or animals.

You cannot love a homosexual if you compare them to people who commit crimes.

You cannot love a homosexual if you are so polarized over the issue that the subject of homosexuality is taboo.

You cannot love a homosexual if you believe homosexuals are the ones defining themselves solely on their sexual behavior.

You cannot love a homosexual if you remain silent while fear and mistrust is seeded, and lies regarding homosexuality are forwarded and encouraged.

You cannot love a homosexual if you believe salvation is contingent upon the impossible change of attractions.

You cannot love a homosexual if you do not understand why the word “impossible” was in the last sentence.

You cannot love a homosexual if you do not realize that Christ alone can effect change, and realize that there as simply times where change is not in his plan.

You cannot love a homosexual until you are willing to invite one who is promiscuous, drug and alcohol addicted, unbelieving, feminine, and well-dressed, to sit next to you in a worship service.

You cannot love a homosexual until you have a prayer in your heart that the spirit of Christ will touch him or her, and are willing to accept that when that spirit of Christ does, it will confirm to him or her that they are the way God created them.

You cannot love a homosexual until you are willing to watch destructive behaviors be erased by the love and light of Christ, and willing to accept that when that happens that person will be your equal as a gay Christian.

You cannot love a homosexual until you realize that the atonement of Christ will cover his sins just as they will cover yours, and until you see your own sins as equally deserving of Hell-fire as his.

Then you can start to love a homosexual.


JonJon said...

So very well put. I recently started not liking the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin." The truth is, like you said, most of us sinners aren't good enough at parsing out what a person does from who they are to be able to say that we love the sinner. And saying that we love the sinner still feels a little bit judgmental and condescending because we are labeling others as sinners. I also think the word hate doesn't belong anywhere in the teachings of Christ. I don't think Christ hates sin. It's a necessary part of our mortal experience. I like your blog, dude.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Amen. That's all I can say.

Ben said...

Nice post.

Good to be Free said...

Beautifully written!

skyefire_777 said...

I have a prob with that saying too. but it didnt come from Ghandi, it came from St Augustine in AD 338. And he was a christian.