Love the sinner

Guess who.

Guess who.

“I am who I am because somebody loved me.”  – Cornel West

I’m having trouble with the “love the sinner; hate the sin” thing for a number of reasons.

I don’t like it because it’s too easy. So that means I can love anybody by eliminating the part of them I hate, and love what’s left? Gosh, I can love anybody this way. I love you; I just hate everything I don’t like about you. How do you embrace a sinner and not embrace their sin?

I don’t like it because it cuts people up into pieces, i.e. I can love this piece, just not that other piece. How do you do that? If I’m a sinner (which I am), part of me is my sin. If you’re going to love me and hate my sin, where does your hate stop and your love begin?

I don’t like it because it makes us the judge of someone’s sin, and whenever I focus on someone else’s sin, I always get in trouble with my resident Pharisee. I see their sin and not mine. I’m trying to recover from being a Pharisee, and this doesn’t help at all. Besides, Jesus told us not to judge anyway, so that should be enough right there to get us out of this activity.

I don’t like it because it’s not biblical. It’s not the way Jesus loves us. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ embraced us along with our sin and that’s why He died. How can we expect to love without dying if it took Christ’s death to love us?

Right now I’m seeing a lot of Chandler’s sin and that’s making it very hard for me to love him; I’m too busy judging him – trying to catch him in the act. There you go, you did it again. What do you think Chandler’s experiencing from me right now? Not much love. If I try loving him and hating his sin, I’m never going to get around to the loving part; I’m too busy hating.

I have to love him and embrace his sin, and I can’t embrace his sin without embracing my own. That’s why I have to die, just like Jesus. He loved us, embraced our sin on the cross, and died. When I embrace Chandler, I’m joining him, embracing my own sin and dying to it. This is why there is death in love. You can’t love somebody and stay separate from them at the same time. Death is the requirement of love, that life might be born anew in us all.

So I think I can make this a lot easier … just love the sinner; we’ll figure out what to do with the sin later. When you love the sinner, you are loving yourself in the process.

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17 Responses to Love the sinner

  1. Kim says:

    Yikes – teenagers are tough. When they are young you really do control what they do and who they hang out with, but what I have come to realize is that you can’t control their thoughts or what they really would like to be doing, etc. .. until the day they rebel and won’t speak to you (five years now for me!) and you don’t even know why. I keep thinking maybe all those years my daughter was so obedient, a real joy to be around, she was really “stuffing” her feelings, while here I was saying what a great kid she was … so maybe it is best if they say what they really think and make mistakes – at least then there is a dialogue you can start with. Who knows. I guess our best best is just to pray for our kids every day – with expectation that God will bring along reconciliation in His time. I’ll be praying for your household …

    • Mark Seguin says:

      Dear Kim: i’ll be happy to mention your daughter & you in my thoughts & prayers that you both are able through & because of God’s grace & kindness find a way to end this sad 5 yrs….

    • jwfisch says:

      Yes, it’s better to have it out on the table. I will pray for you, too. Silence is worse than anything.

  2. Hi
    Yep! On both sides of the issue… To not be loved when you are sinning and to be caught with self-righteousness or harsh words or thoughts flowing like a river. Children and grandchildren, always a target for our enemy! Praying for all of us! I can recall in an argument when I was not showing that good girl side, crying and angry and saying, “can’t you love this girl also, even if she seems impossible to even talk to? There are few people you can be safe with… Result? Up goes the mask.
    C

  3. Mark Seguin says:

    Thx Pastor John 4 today’s Catch becauz i just kind of dealt w/ this very issue last week on Facebook (FB). I got un-friend-ed from the Christian woman, but oh well at least she sent me an Instant Message (IM) in FB telling me she doesn’t what to discus it w/ me, yet because I made to horrible and dumb mistake of ‘saying’ to her what she had done & ‘said’ in the post wasn’t good & very nice and being judgmental by writing “that’s appoints God.” And hate the sin, but love the sinner.’ Now i agreed w/ her, yet like a big dummy I can be @ times: I wrote back and said I’ll let God judge as far as i know God as never given me the right to judge anything, or anyone.

    But I was told by an IM she doesn’t care to discus it w/ me and deleted me, or un-friend-ed me – Oh well can’t plz everyone all of the times… 🙂

  4. Maybe this will make it a little easier. Love the sinner and let God deal with the sin. That’s how I look at it now. I don’t condone things, but loving the person must come first. God says he’ll be the judge… thank goodness for all of us!

  5. I’m afraid I disagree here. If we don’t separate the person from the sin, we wind up identifying them by the sin and that undoes what Jesus did on the Cross. For one thing, note Paul’s use of the past-tense when he says, “while we were yet sinners.” One of the most encouraging things in the Bible, for me, is the recognition that, thanks to Jesus, I was a sinner but not anymore: I don’t have that condemnation dragging me down and preventing me from getting on with the life God has for me. I also know that Jesus’ sacrifice is for anyone who’ll receive Him, so by ignoring/condoning/winking at someone’s sin, would I not be judging them to be unworthy of the Blood? I thank God that there were people in my life who loved me enough to show me a better way and help me see where I had gone wrong. They didn’t stick an accusatory finger in my face and tell me how bad I was (a couple did, but they weren’t the ones who really had an effect on me), but they showed me this better way of living through their own words and deeds. Remember that Jesus says that anyone who breaks the least of the commandments and teaches others to do it too shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; James’ closing words in his epistle are, “he who converts the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

    • steve says:

      I like what my pastor says on this: have they invited you in on their life? If so, offer loving feedback. If not, you have one job and one job only – love them.

    • jwfisch says:

      I’m saying that if we love someone, we love them along with their sin. Not that we love their sin, but we embrace the whole person, and when we do this we realize our own sin and forgiveness in the process. I don’t think we are in disagreement — just another way of looking at it.

  6. Tim says:

    I have adopted the attitude, love others and hate your own son.

  7. Martha Nelson says:

    Thank you for this post! I never thought of this mantra in this way, although I do believe we are suppose to speak the truth in love but do it with gentleness and respect. We must always remember what James said – if you have kept the whole law and failed in one point you are guilty of all. This keeps ANY of us from being able to feel superior! Only Christ was sinless and I, for one, am so humbled and grateful that He has taken my sin on Himself so that our Father God can see us in robes of righteousness! Thank you for your ministry! Lord bless and keep you! Martha

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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