In the second of our guest blog posts, campaign supporter Alison shares her thoughts on the phrase, ‘Hate the sin, love the sinner’. Don’t forget you can send us your own story too and tell us why you believe there’s Nothing Holy About Hatred
Having been a Christian since a young age, I am all too familiar with the phrase “Love the sinner, but hate the sin”. Initially, this seemed a sensible idea to me – I could love my friend, but dislike her gossiping about others behind their backs; I could love my neighbour, but not approve of the way they cheated on their partner; I could love my siblings, but not agree with them borrowing my clothes without asking (a crime punishable by death in my house!). However, it becomes a little more complicated when applied to attitudes towards homosexuality. Christian groups have used this mantra as an excuse to deny a vulnerable minority group of their civil rights, incite revulsion and disgust towards them, force them to undergo reparative conversion therapy, and, in extreme situations, to encourage hate crimes to be committed against them, all the while claiming that they ‘loved’ those people that they were vilifying.
The experience of coming out to conservative Christian family and friends (and in that process, sharing that we had strong theological reasons for not considering homosexuality to be a sin) really brought this home to my (now) wife and myself. We received emails warning us of “dire consequences” of our actions and our “lifestyle choice”, of the writers’ fear for our souls and our eternal position before God, and even, at times, of their intention to cut off contact with us. Every single one of these communications was prefaced with a declaration of their love for us as people. Yet somehow we walked away from those interactions with the overwhelming feeling of being condemned, rather than cared for; of the alleged sin being hated, rather than the sinner being loved.
Other friends, though sharing the same theological opinions as the aforementioned group, reacted differently. Those friends suggested that, while they disagreed with our conclusions, they trusted us to have truly sought after God’s will, to have thoroughly studied the Bible and other historical texts, and they trusted God to continue to lead us and guide us, and, if we were wrong, to make this known to us. They offered no condemnation, and no hatred, only a challenge for us to continue deepening our relationships with God.
Reflecting on these two very different responses to homosexuality, I am convinced that the mantra “Love the sinner, but hate the sin”, is not one that is evident in the Bible. Yes, Jesus addressed people’s sin (the women caught in adultery is an often cited example), but he did so in a way that challenged their faith, rather than demonstrated hatred towards them. Jesus loved and included all peoples, especially those whom society had rejected or cast out. Additionally, both Jesus and Paul warned specifically about hypocritical judgement of others: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things” (Romans 2v1).
So let’s throw this unhelpful phrase out, and instead focus on doing things that will build each other up, rather than tearing each other down. There is nothing holy about hatred, but if you commit to loving other people in spite of what you perceive to be their flaws or sins, that’s when we really see Jesus reflected in this world.
Alison is a 28 year old grad student currently undertaking a Master’s degree in psychology. She and her wife Becky blog about their experiences as a same-sex Christian couple at http://thealisonandbeckystory.tumblr.com, with the aim of building a bridge between the LGBT and Christian communities in the UK and further afield.