I’d like to uncover some truth here that may just bother some people. You know the saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner”? (or any of the myriad of ways this has been said). Well, believe it or not, this was a proverb brought to us by Gandhi, not Christ. Christ never told us it was ok to hate the sins people committed. Actually, he gave us a completely different example to live by: just simply love people and abstain from sin. He gave us no right to use hatred in any form save to despise sin itself.
Let me clarify what I mean. There is a difference between hating sin and hating the sins of others. Hating sin denotes recognizing, staying as far away from and/or battling things that would take one’s eyes of Christ or would harm someone else. Hating someone else’s sin means finding something about someone else, judging them as a sinner, and justifying hating something in someone else life. Do you see the difference?
It’s like this: I’m a smoker. I’m not entirely proud of this fact and I realize that the blatant disregard of my bodily health is considered sinful. This has, over the course of my smoking life, caused a number of people to judge me as a “sinner” and treat me differently then they would a non-smoker. Good intentions or not, these people have been “kind” enough, giving me all the little hints and advise they think will help me quit, regardless of how their judgement makes me feel ashamed, which in turn causes me to smoke more; some have just completely cut me out of their lives, slowly and politely. Do you want to know the most unfortunate thing, the vast majority of these people have been my fellow Christians. It’s like spending time with me tarnishes their “holiness” and it gives them a reason to keep their distance.
My non-believing friends, coworkers, enemies, employees, bosses, etc. have little to no judgement other than a mildly sincere concern that I will get really sick. They don’t judge me for smoking because it’s sinful, they remind me that what I’m doing is harmful to my body because they generally don’t want to see me sick later on in life. They have something many Christians these days don’t (or, at least, many that I have encountered): compassion and understanding that they are, themselves, not perfect.
The Bible says to abstain from any appearance of evil (1 Thes 5:22), not hate the sin in others. To abstain from something is to make a decision not to take part in it if it comes up and to actively avoid sinning. The chapter this verse comes from also says: v15 “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”
May I ask an interesting question? Oh good! Is it good to look down on someone because they have sin in their life? Is is good to treat someone differently because they have a different sin than you do, or than someone else you know? Is it good to make the people around you feel ashamed or worthless because you don’t agree with something in their life? NO! It’s not at all good, so why do we do it?
All I am trying to say here is, stop using sin as an excuse to judge people. We are called to be “children of the light” (1 Thes 5:5), loving our neighbours, be they friend or foe, regardless of what might be happening in their lives. The more we judge, the more we turn people away from Christ’s love, the more we live in and of the world, instead of in and of Christ our Saviour, redeemer, and friend.