So I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the frequently used Christianese phrase “Love the Sinner, hate the sin.” (LTS HTS) Is it just me or is that a really obnoxious thing to say? I figure that there are only really two types of people in relation to some ‘sin’ – those who ‘know’ it to be sin and those who don’t. Say for example, if I were, in a moment of weakness to walk out of Guitar Center with a Les Paul Custom. I know that is stealing and it’s wrong so if you were to say LTS HTS about me I’d say, yeah, i know I was wrong apologize and move on.
However, if I came from a society or a belief system that didn’t believe in personal property and I didn’t know that stealing was wrong I might be offended if you said LTS HTS about me. And I might be even more sensitive if there were lots of people constantly telling me I needed to repent of this supposed sin or I would go to hell; or perhaps treating me like I was less than fully human just because I steal stuff.
Now imagine for a moment that something that is at the core of your self-identity is the ‘theft’ in my analogy. How pissed off, offended and not inclined to reasonable discussion would you be if people kept telling you that you’re a sinner but we love you anyway. You’d be be inclined to tell them to take their ‘love’ and shove it back up from whence it came.
So the next time you feel like interjecting ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ into a conversation (particularly a public one) – consider for a moment how that ‘sinner’ is going to take your label and perhaps focus on just loving people where they are and trusting in God to convict their hearts.
*note* I am not advocating for moral relativism. My interest is pastoral and evangelical. No one was ever convicted of their own sinfulness (myself included) by being told that they were a sinner. Everyone was convicted first by meeting the risen Christ and letting His light shine into their lives and second by becoming open to the consistent teaching of the Church. Lord knows (and I mean that literally – I am continually amazed at His grace and patience with me) that things I thought to be licit even five or six years ago I have since been convicted through my open-hearted (and minded but it’s the heart that matters I think) study of the teachings of the Church.