Love the “Sinner”…or the Person?

Pastor Romell Weekly, founder of the Gay Christian Fellowship discussion forum, has a new blog, Affirming Theology. These sites occupy a unique niche in that they are theologically evangelical and grounded in Biblical studies, yet gay-affirming. Below, an eloquent passage from Pastor Weekly’s recent post about the “love the sinner, hate the sin” catchphrase that’s so popular with anti-gay Christians:

…[H]ow realistic is it to identify a specific sin that we despise, yet draw a clear line of distinction between that sin and the ones committing it, so as not to allow our disgust to seep onto people? I submit that when we narrow our hatred of sin to a specific list, we make it near impossible to draw this distinction. In fact, something in us causes us to look more favorably upon those who don’t commit those particular sins, while harboring some degree of disappointment or even indignation toward those who do.

The phrase itself calls attention to the “fallenness” of the one being judged. “Love the sinner” refuses to lift the person supposedly being loved from the profession of “sinner.” It ever-reminds people that while they’re loving someone, they’re loving them “in their sin.” But, Scripture’s description of love says that we aren’t to keep a record of wrongs (1Co. 13:5). So, why does it suffice us to classify, relate to, and even love people on the basis of their status as sinners? Why can we not love on the basis of a person’s quintessential human quality—the inestimable value of their being created as an expression of God’s image and likeness (even though we all fall short of that wonderful intent).

It doesn’t seem to occur to us that every Christian sins, which means that this saying applies equally to the entire human race. In being so broad in its application, the phrase loses all potency and purpose, and becomes nothing more than a self-righteous way to justify the negative feelings we have toward people.

I submit that Jesus didn’t love “the sinner”, while hating their sin. I believe He simply loved people. He saw all of us as falling short of His grace, and simply loved us. He loved the adulterous woman, the Gadarene demoniac, and even the self-righteous Pharisees who were so busy pointing out the sin in the lives of others that they neglected to deal with their own.

So, I think the phrase needs to be completely retired from Christian vernacular. Since we all sin, yet should all be loved, let’s just take it as a general rule that we should hate sin, while fiercely loving everyone. Let’s not perceive or relate to people on the basis of their sin, and just worry about our own sins, while encouraging those around us to strive, along with us, to be the best servants of God that we can be!

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