Should we Hate the Sin but Love the Sinner?

HomeChristianity and the BibleShould we Hate the Sin but Love the Sinner?

“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” These words aren’t found in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean they’re not biblical. They are, of course. However: that doesn’t mean they’re always useful.

We Should Definitely Love Sinners

God loves sinners. We who follow Jesus are to love sinners, too:

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1 John 4:8–9

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:43-44

We Should Definitely Hate Sin

God hates sin. We who follow Jesus are to hate sin, too:

O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 97:10

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. Hebrews 1:9

Hate evil, love good. Amos 5:15

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9

What’s the Problem?

Who could argue with hating sin? Who could argue with loving sinners? At first glance, these statements don’t seem to be controversial at all. Unfortunately, when we use this phrase, we sometimes choose one of two extremes: we either focus on sin and exclude love, or focus on love and exclude sin. We need both, but not in equal measure.

Extreme Hate

Sin harms the sinner, destroying us from the inside out. We were made in God’s image, displaying His character. Sin obscures that character, reducing us to far less than we were intended to be. Our relentless pursuit of power, pleasure, and selfish gain will bring nothing but heartache in the end.

Sin also harms the innocent. It ruins lives, often across generations. Sin spreads beyond the initial offense, affecting even strangers. A single terrible act may hurt dozens, or thousands, of uninvolved bystanders. When we consider the immense damage done across time and around the world by lies, gossip, theft, cruelty, rage, rape, and murder, hatred seems an appropriate response. Sin is bad, and we should hate it with every fiber of our being.

When we focus solely on loving the sinner, we gloss over their sin. As a result, we also gloss over sin’s consequences. Where sin goes unchallenged, it will continue unabated, always doing more harm. We should take sin seriously enough to point it out so it can be recognized, and root it out so it can be avoided. Hating sin inevitably leads to less of it.

Extreme Love

Let me be clear: we don’t hate sin just because it’s bad. That only leads to more anger, bitterness, and despair. Instead, we hate sin because we love people.

God loves people, and His love for us is certainly extreme. He loved us while we were His enemies. We wanted nothing to do with Him, yet He stepped down from Heaven, took on flesh, was born as a man, and lived with us. In response, we killed Him. We turned our backs on Him and went our own way, rather than trusting Him… yet He did not punish us. He took the punishment we deserved on Himself, dying on our behalf, all to express His extreme love. His love for us is evident, in spite of our sin.

We are important to God, and He forgives our sins because of His great love for us. As followers of Jesus, we want to echo toward others the extreme love that God has shown to us. We should seek to emulate Him in all we do, so our love for others should be evident, in spite of their sin.

When we focus solely on sin, we lose sight of the value of each sinner. When we gloss over sin, we do the same: we act as if sin will not devastate everyone it touches. If we value others the way God does, we will hate sin… but we will hate it for the right reason.

We love because he first loved us.


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