I meant this to be a 3-part series, but as often happen other important topics come up that are worth addressing. Here I want to suggest that a paradigm shift might be the most helpful way to really understand the “hate the sin, love the sinner” idea.
We need to understand the difference between Sin (capital S) and sins (small s).
According to the scriptures, Sin is a universal human condition, inherited from the fall. Sin is a disease that haunts the human race and has dire consequences. The wage of Sin is death. The immediate cost is broken shalom and a destruction of the relationship between us and God as well as between us and our neighbors. All evil, conflict and strife is the result of this Sin. In fact, all of creation has been impacted and in many ways is disintegrating before our very eyes. That is why as believers we long for the eschaton — the end times, when all things will be renewed… a new heavens and a new earth!
In contrast to Sin, we also have sins. These sins are really the symptom, not the disease. Selfishness, anger, stealing, sexual immorality, judgmentalism, hypocrisy, lying, gossip, etc, etc — these sins are the result of Sin. This is what Calvin, for example, means when he talks about human depravity — it is not about the sins, but Sin.
Jesus died to conquer Sin. In the midst of that, our sins are also forgiven.
God hates Sin and will do anything to destroy it — even offering his very life. God knows the tragic and horrific consequences of Sin and those consequences show up as sins — both big and small — in our world.
Whether we are talking about Darfur or the AIDS pandemic or Fred Phelps or Bernie Madoff or whatever… the rout cause is Sin. The results are horrific and damaging sins.
But God knows this about our world. I actually think that he expects us to fail (and commit sins) more than we expect it of ourselves. God’s grace (through the cross) already covers your sins… past, present and future! Now that is amazing grace!
So how does this all apply to our discussion?
Perhaps we need to have a better theological understanding of Sin (and sins) and learn to hate Sin (as God does). We should weep and mourn at the brokenness of our world. We should weep and mourn at the injustice and disease and starvation and conflict. We should weep and mourn at the broken hearts and lives we encounter everyday. We should weep and mourn for the ways that the great gift of sexuality has been so warped and disfigured and abused in our world. We mus hate Sin, because it is evil and contemptible and it cost Jesus his life… and because God hates it.
But let us never forget that sins are merely the symptom of the greater problem… of the curse we all live under…
And let us never forget that Jesus is moved with compassion… came to seek and save the lost… is ever-patient… and that in his cross and resurrection, has wiped us clean from guilt and shame and sin — past, present and future!
We must hate Sin. We must mourn and weep over the consequential sins. We must love as Jesus loves. And we must persevere in hope, knowing that full redemption, restoration, and reconciliation await those who are in Christ.