Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Loving the Sinner

"Love the sinner, hate the sin."  This is probably one of the most popular phrases in church life, particularly when we are talking about interacting with our society and/or culture.  It sounds good from inside the church.  I suspect it sounds meaningless or, worse, like a cop out from the outside.  I was recently listening to a Focus on the Family broadcast which inspired me to rethink this concept.  You can find the broadcast here and you can skip to the 14 minute mark if you want to hear what caught my attention.

What if we (Christians) were required to demonstrate our love for the sinner before we could say anything about our hate of the sin?  I'm thinking of Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar when he could not tell a lie.  How often would I be rendered mute if I were physically prevented from speaking against a particular sin before I had actually loved someone guilty of the sin I am ready to rail against?  How would this change my behavior and speech?  How would this change the perception of Christians by the outside world?

I don't have a magic wand, birthday candles to wish on, or any other way of bringing this about other than persuasion and our self-control.  Too often, we say we love a particular "brand" of sinners (pornographers, LGBT, mean people, etc) and we never have anyone in mind, just a faceless mass of imagined people.  What we mean, at best, is that we like to think that we would love them but we have made no effort to get to know any one of them.  In fact, we usually go out of our way to avoid contact.  At worst, we don't mean we love them at all but we say we do in order to get permission to speak against something that disgusts us.

While I'm not an advocate of heading down to the strip club to demonstrate my love for those who work there, it is worth noting that Jesus engaged those that the religious leaders of his day would not.  We have no record of Jesus entering into a house of prostitution or collecting taxes but Jesus did not shy away when prostitutes and tax collectors came to him.  True love dictates that we confront sin but it is instructive to me that, in John 8, Jesus disbanded the mob and said to the woman caught in adultery "Neither do I condemn you," before He said, "Go and sin no more."

It has consistently amazed me that Jesus confronted sin but sinners still flocked to Him.  Recently my pastor, Bro. Frank Whitney, explained this well when he said that Jesus "talked to them like they mattered."  What if our actions (done beforehand) made people feel like they mattered even as we clearly communicate our disagreement with their behavior?

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