AN UPDATE: 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin

 

In October 2013, I wrote an essay titled 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin. In it, I ask my fellow Christians to stop using that phrase. Because UGH. And ACK. And has there ever been a phrase less symbolic of a Jesus who welcomed outcasts to his table, and who discarded rules in favor of mercy every time? Has there ever been a phrase quite like ‘Love the Sinner and Hate the Sin,’ intended to express love, that falls so dramatically short of its goal?

Now, a  year and a half later, 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin is seeing an online resurgence. Over 100,000 people have viewed it in the last two weeks. Granted, that’s not the 750,000 who’ve read The Day I Pooped My Closet, but there’s no accounting for taste, friends, and if you look at both posts together it becomes very clear, very quickly that we humans sure do like reading about THE MESS, don’t we? The mess in the closet. The mess in our hearts. The mess in our church. The mess in the ways we communicate.

It’s OK, though! This is a messy space. We welcome the mess here, always.

And a mess it has been. Very, VERY messy, in fact, because 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin has made some of my fellow Christians Very, VERY angry. And, while some have expressed their consternation kindly and rebuked me with obvious love, some have called me Heretic and False Teacher, A Disgrace to the Faith and a Liar.

Now, as this post has surged, I’ve left it alone, intentionally commenting very little because I think a) it’s important to have a healthy dialogue which only happens when we allow other people their say, and b) we welcome all comers to this space. That’s what we do here. It’s who we are. We welcome people.

There comes a point, though, if I continue not to comment, where I end up creating confusion or, at the very least, a one-sided conversation where I’ve lobbed the first ball, you hit it back, and then I refuse to continue… and, well, that’s not very helpful of me, is it? At the end of 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin, I asked for your agreements and disagreements, and then I zipped my lips.

Here I am, unzipping my lips. Because it’s time. And because it’s important to clarify a thing or two.

If you need to read 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin first, head on over. We’ll wait.

Ready? Here we go.

What 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin IS Saying and Also What It’s NOT:

To be crystal clear, 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin is talking about the PHRASE ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ and why we should discard it. It’s a post about our Christian lexicon and the ways we need to evaluate our words. That’s what the essay IS.

As far as what it ISN’T, you don’t need to scroll far through the comments on that original post to see that some of my fellow Christians are very dismayed by this essay. They think I’m saying a) that sin doesn’t exist and b) even if it does, we should ignore it and let everyone blithely go on sinning… like, WHEEEE!

To those people, I say, maturely, “Am not.” I am saying neither that sin doesn’t exist nor that we should ignore it, though I AM saying that it’s rarely our role to confront it, that we’ve grossly mistaken “confronting sin” for loving our neighbors — exactly the opposite of Jesus’ example and words — and, finally, that we ought to be EXTREMELY, EXTRAORDINARILY cautious about the whole “calling out sin” thing. We have, in other words, gotten the whole Jesus message dreadfully wrong, and we owe it to people to humbly apologize and ask their forgiveness. More about that in a minute.

Sin, Crime and Injustice

Another confusion I found in the comments is in our collective understanding of sin, crime and injustice, which became obvious in comments like “so you think what Hilter did was AWESOME” and “so when your kid is abused, you’ll just congratulate the abuser.” For the record, I’m going with no on both of those.

“Sin,” by definition, means “a transgression against divine law.” “Sin” should not be confused with “crime” which is “a transgression against the law of the land.” Crimes must be reported, friends. Nor should “sin” be confused with “injustice” which means “a lack of fairness or equity.” We — Christians and NonChristians alike — must report crimes and work toward fairness and equity for all people.

It’s not that sin, crime and injustice don’t overlap. They do. Often. Abuse, for example, is certainly a transgression against divine law. So it’s a sin, right? But it’s also crime and needs to be handled by the law, folks; the Church has gotten itself into a world of hurt by trying to “hate the sin” out of abusers, overstepping the bounds of what the Church is and is not equipped to handle.

Instead, the word sin refers in the context of this essay to immorality. A transgression against divine law. And this is exactly the connection I tried to make in 3 Reasons I Quit Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin. We Christians are eager to point out immorality. Spend any time at all on Facebook and that’s obvious. And this is the message we’re getting SO WRONG, folks. We decry sins like promiscuity, adultery, intoxication, and so many more, focusing in ways Jesus never did on others’ outward actions, all the while ignoring our own sins of the heart — the sins on which Jesus did focus — like pettiness, cruelty, harshness, rage, greed, and hatred.

Imagine this, though. Imagine a Church that LOVES OTHERS. A Church that welcomes the stranger. A Church that LETS EVERYONE IN, not to change them, but to ADORE them. A Church that seeks, not to reform others or call them to repentance, but seeks to reform ourselves. To repent for the ways we’ve lacked mercy. To ask for forgiveness for all the finger-pointing. To act like Jesus came to set us free, not trap or trick us. To humbly admit our fear and our pride and our anger. To work to grow and change.

Over and over, Jesus’ lessons to us were about the ways we are unkind, uncharitable, unmerciful, unloving. Those are what I see as our deep sin. As MY deep sin. And that’s what I wish we’d correct. Together.

We Really Do Need to Stop Using That Phrase, Friends

In the words of my brother Jeff, we can debate between the “Love/Don’t Judge” verses (Matt. 22:37-39, Matt. 7:1-5, Luke 6:37, John 8:7, 1 Cor. 4:5, etc.) and the “Accountability/Live Holy Lives” verses (James 5:20, Rev. 2:6, 1 Cor. 5, etc.) forever. FOREVER AND EVER. This is complex and takes the most learned theologians LIFETIMES to suss out and, even then, they don’t all agree with each other. I think, then, we can probably agree that a six-word phrase — ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ — does not do justice to that complexity. And in over-simplifying, it devalues and hurts people.

HOW we confront each other or hold people accountable MATTERS. And uniformly, the people who have been on the receiving end of ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’ report it as hurtful. If you’re using this language with people, it hurts them. Please stop.

With love (and hatred for our sins)(ha!),

Signature

 

 

 

P.S. I don’t actually know if any of that makes sense, but it’s 10:30pm and I’m stuck sitting criss-cross with my laptop on a bed in between two sweet, smelly, sleeping 8-year-olds, so I’m hitting publish so I can try to extricate myself from this position before my legs crap up. I hope you understand.

P.P.S. I meant to write, “cramp” up in that first P.S., but I didn’t do it right. I’m leaving it because it’s symbolic. Sometimes when I try to write one thing, crap comes out, instead. I hope you understand.

P.P.P.S. Before you criticize my theology, I’d like to give you more to criticize. Not really; I’m actually not interested in more criticism, though I understand it’s part of the gig and likely to continue, so whatever. I do think it’s helpful, though, when you have a more complete picture. In addition to the “Faith and Doubt” section you can find at the top of this page on the left sidebar, I’d encourage you to read Sanctuary, The Real Reason I Still Go to Church, and especially On Parenting, Faith and Imperfection. I hope you understand.

ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
187 comments
  1. Why do you suppose these is in the Bible?

    What about 1 tim 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear.

    Lk 17:3 If your brother sins against you rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

    Prov 27:5 open rebuke is better than secret love.

    Prov 9:8 Rebuke not a scorner, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.

    James 5:20,20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

    Oh and that verse Matthew 7:1-5, Look at verse 5. It read first take the board from your eye. then you can see to take the splinter from your brother’s eye. We are supposed to rebuke the sin that we find in our breathren–not in a condemning manner but in a loving manner. Sin is the enemy of all who claim to be Christians. What you and Beth Woosley call love is tolerance. Tolerance is not love. Hebrews 10:24 states that we are to spur each other on to good works. Sometimes, that hurts.

    Matthew 18:15 15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16“But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

    Sin is the enemy! Too many Christians have bought in the tolerance of this Politically Correct society and it is destroying the church. If we believe in Jesus, then we ought to obey him and spur each other on to good works.

    I do not beat anyone. I do recognize that sin is our enemy and should never be ignored.

    1. Hi Michael,

      I will respond to your biblical citations one at a time (:

      “What about 1 tim 5:20 Them that sin rebuke before all that others also may fear.”

      If you look at the context of this verse, it is referring to “elders who direct the affairs of the church”. It says a sinning elder, accused by more than one witness, should be rebuked. This makes sense because the leaders of a church should be practicing what they preach, yes? If a leader of a church is preaching that one should not do a particular sin and then two or three witnesses say this leader does this very sin, then they should be called out; it is not clear what they should be rebuked for. It could be argued they should be rebuked for their hypocrisy.

      It is important not to take verses out of their context as this can result in large inaccuracies in the message. For example, if you were to say to a friend one day “I don’t like drinking hot cocoa on a warm summer day” and a week later that friend tells another friend, “my friend Michael doesn’t like hot cocoa”, is that really an accurate statement for your friend to make?

      “Lk 17:3 If your brother sins against you rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”

      Now this verse is talking about a transgression against you personally, not sinning generally. Let’s examine the sin of theft. Say you find out someone you know is prone to stealing. They haven’t stolen from you, but they’ve stolen from a stranger. This verse is not saying you can rebuke that person. You could only rebuke them if that thief stole from you. This verse does not support the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”.

      “Prov 27:5 open rebuke is better than secret love.”

      Now this verse is far too ambiguous to claim it supports hating the sin of others. Open rebuke of what? Are you rebuking someone in particular? This verse could mean do not pretend to love something when you don’t; Openly say you don’t like it. That isn’t giving you a free pass to hate others’ sins. I suppose you could apply this to openly rebuking a sin but there are much clearer passages that suggest you shouldn’t do that, as Beth has pointed out.

      “Prov 9:8 Rebuke not a scorner, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.”

      Hmm, it seems you searched for all the verses with “rebuke” in them, haha. Calling readers to rebuke does not automatically mean it applies to sin. In the context of the rest of the passage it seems to be referring to teaching and instruction. We are only called to love, not to tell each other what is sin and what is not. I believe this is far more effective. If we show sinners the love of God, and they truly feel the love of God through us, God’s love will turn them away from sin, yes? Or do you believe God’s love is not enough? That your mortal, human rebuke of a person’s sins is needed equally as much as the power of God? Hmm.

      “James 5:20,20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

      Ah, this is a good one (: Consider this, how are we to turn this sinner away from their error? It does not specify. Perhaps with love? In fact, earlier in the passage, verse 16, calls us to pray over each other. This is quite a different response from rebuke, yes? We are called to pray, to ask God to change them. In fact this whole passage is about praying for sinners. Not one word of reprimand or rebuke. Remember to examine a verse in context whenever possible.

      “Oh and that verse Matthew 7:1-5, Look at verse 5. It read first take the board from your eye. then you can see to take the splinter from your brother’s eye. We are supposed to rebuke the sin that we find in our breathren–not in a condemning manner but in a loving manner. Sin is the enemy of all who claim to be Christians. What you and Beth Woosley call love is tolerance. Tolerance is not love.”

      Yes, but consider, we are never able to remove this board from our eyes without Jesus. So, if we can never remove this board ourselves then we can never then begin to take the splinter from our brother’s eye. In fact, our brother cannot remove the splinter from his eye either without Jesus. This brings us back to Beth’s commentary on Jesus and the stoning. No one can throw a stone, no one can remove a board or a splinter — only Jesus. It is not tolerance but humility; it is recognizing you have no right to judge anyone but yourself because you are not Jesus; you are not God.

      “Hebrews 10:24 states that we are to spur each other on to good works. Sometimes, that hurts.”

      Firstly, looking at the context this passage appears to address holding on to our faith despite the doubts and the habit of “giving up meeting together”. Secondly, we spur each other to good works but it does not say to spur each other against bad works. This again, does not support the “love the sinner but hate the sin”. It is a verse and passage about encouraging each other, and holding each other up. Nothing about tearing each other down for the sins we have committed.

      “Matthew 18:15 15“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16“But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17“If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

      Firstly, Jesus is referring to a member of the congregation, not just anybody. He is referring to those who supposedly said they would follow the laws of that church, follow Jesus. If they have gone back on this promise and are no longer abiding by the beliefs of the church they are no longer considered part of the church; they are just like Gentiles and tax collectors; they are just as if they were never Christian. And what were Gentiles and tax collectors to Jesus? How did He treat those who were not or no longer following Him? How are we, not Jesus, called to treat those who have strayed? We are called to address our own sin, not theirs. We are only called to love them.

      I hope you will sincerely consider what it is I have said. I believe I have presented you with strong counters to what you believe support the “love the sinner but hate the sin” message.

      Finally, in reviewing this comment I encourage you to, in future, examine the context of each verse you read. We should not look at verses in isolation as this can be very misleading.

      Best,

      Nikki

  2. I thought your first article made total sense. I agreed with it wholeheartedly. I also read my Bible, study it and try to look at life through the eyes of Jesus and think what would He do or say in any given situation. Your first article was right on target. I find many fellow Christians don’t really know the Word and assume oft repeated phrases come from scripture. It saddens me. How can we say we know God or what He wants if we don’t meditate on His Word? A relationship requires communication and it’s not all one way. When we get angry with someone, we must decide why and where the anger is coming from. Is it justified? Then act righteously. We must not sin in our anger. (Think Jesus in the temple rebuking and overturning tables.) It would seem to me, calling you a liar, etc because a reader disagrees with you is itself a sin of vanity through ignorance of gospel. Forgive me if I am wrong for no one can truly judge another’s heart.

  3. I have just read Jason Clarke’s ‘Prone to Love’. He simply asks the Father to show him how He feels about people… and gives them messages of love that melts their hearts and draws them to Love Himself. He says we do not need to defend God, but reveal him, as Jesus did. There is a ‘displacement’ that happens when we are truly loved. The sin drops off because our hearts are melted. Then we truly repent.

  4. Found the original post through a link on Facebook, then came here to find the update. I’ll just say this:

    I have been struggling with my faith fir the past 8-9 months. It hit a crisis a couple of months ago. I told a friend, “I don’t even know what Jesus looks like or sounds like anymore.”

    Reading your original post, I thought, “THIS is what Jesus looks like and sounds like. Finally!”

    My prayer lately has been for HOPE. This is a good start. Thank you for this!

  5. While I enjoyed reading your post, I can’t help but think you would be a person who is unwilling to share the whole gospel with sinners. It is true that we are called to love others (both saved and not), but this love (especially our love for Christ) is what drives Christians to share the Gospel. The Gospel can be an uncomfortable light (even when examining our own lives) so for sinners it would not be surprising that when faced with the Truth born out in the Gospel they become uncomfortable. The point of the Gospel is to call us to the forgiveness offered thru Christ and to repent of our sins so that we may have a personal relationship with Him. If you’re not sharing the full Gospel, your robbing the very person you claim to love of the power of the Gospel to mold lives through the Holy Spirit. While I have many other points I would like to make, unfortunately I have to go, so I will simply state I think the watered down Gospel you present and many advocate for in the comments will do more harm than good for the very people you claim your doing it for (making it (the Gospel) acceptable for). So yes, love the sinner, but never be afraid to hate/ call out sin for what it is, so that people may repent.

    1. If your purpose is really to get your neighbor to stop sinning, then “calling out the sin” is a really lousy way to proceed. The almost universal reaction to being called out is to become defensive. Like I used to feel when it occurred to me that *I* was one of the church leaders who were praying “Thank you, God, that I am not sinning like that poor wretch over there. . . ”

      Indeed, we Christians have become so good at talking in prayer, and so unpracticed at listening, it is amazing we have the intestinal fortitude to even pretend we recognize sin when we see it. Sin is not simple. It is not a matter of what you *do*, but of your relationship to God, or *why you do it.” So to accurately know sin, we need to know the motives of others.

      If we try to call out sin by simply looking at people’s actions, or worse, to say “doing this must be sin, because in most circumstances it would be sin. . .” we are likely to be wrong at least part of the time. And how will we know which part?

      I found it distressing to ponder all of the things that good, church-going Christian leaders have historically agreed upon were sins, at one point or another. Watching movies, ever remarrying after divorce, playing cards, purchasing anything on Sunday, purchasing anything on Saturday, working on Saturday, not working on Saturday, not paying the fee your church of record assessed you, wearing make up or colorful clothing, both cutting and not cutting your hair, and even refusing to return run-away slaves. Philemon has a lot to say about that one!

      I think now that working on Saturday is not a sin. Yet God is unchanging, so if it were a sin at one time and not one now, then we religious leader-types must have been wrong about what constituted a sin at that time. If we were wrong then, why should I believe we are not wrong now, in the eyes of Christian leaders in the 22nd Century? And doesn’t this simply elevate our human societal and cultural standards to the Word of God by trying to put words into the mouth of our Creator?!

      I shudder at that possibility. And confess, that the more I study God’s word and learn more about God through living in the light of God’s Spirit, the less I am sure about many things I used to believe were absolutely unassailable.

      So would I then turn the other way and allow Hitler or a child abuser to continue their evil ways, unhindered?

      This is, in logic, what is called a “straw man.” To create a nonsensical position by assuming all the most extreme things about the other position, and then reject it as patently false.

      God determines what sin really is, and it is the job of God, our Creator, to confront each of us about our own sins. My job is to love others, especially God. Now is it possible to talk with someone about concerns you might have about their behavior, without starting out by assuming you are absolutely correct and that you have the whole picture (omniscience, like God)? Of course! In fact, those people we love the most are most susceptible to being influenced about what we think!

      So if I want to influence someone to do right, my first step should not be to start condemning their sins, but rather to start by loving them. Then once *they* are absolutely certain I love them, and I understand more about their heart and their relationship to God, I can have a heart-to-heart about my concern about how they might be messing up their lives.

      We don’t have to condone sin to love someone, any more than we have to condone sin in order to follow one of the many self-identified Christian leaders who have been proven to have abused others, especially sexual abuse of people dependent upon them. I can surely say “it is right to love God” even if this person who so publicly confessed their sins said I should do this, after they had committed the sin and before they had confessed it to anyone.

      Love is about climbing out of the judge’s chair and into the neighbor’s chair. Both might recognize what they think is a crime in the other’s life, but only one has the professional responsibility to conduct a full investigation, hear all of the evidence, and then to make a determination on behalf of the people.

      Ultimately, the sin I need to be most concerned about is the sin I can actually do something about. . . the speck in my eye. That is the sin God asks us to be on guard against, and monitoring this is a matter of my relationship with God. I could even ask someone to stop doing something that bothers me, out of personal preference, without calling anything or anyone out.

      But then, are smoking and moderation in consumption of alcohol sins? It depends. . .

      1. While I would like to rebuke your points one for one, I simply do not have time. How do we know what is sin? Start and finish with the Bible ( the Word of God). While you call out a straw-man argument, I never created one in my post (like you did). It is true that a straw -man takes an exaggerated belief to it’s logical conclusion which is absurd (that belief however is generally only a small element of what the other person’s full argument is). Additionally, taking someones logic (not pieces of that logic) to its logical conclusion does not negate the argument. People who complain about this, often complain because they know their argument fails because they can’t define an ending without being logically inconsistent. Now with regard to the moral relativism espoused in your post, yes there are items/actions I can say are sin without knowing the exact intentions (Now if I knew intentions, there would potentially be a lot more items that would be defined as sin). What I can’t say is the person has a personal relationship with Christ and therefore has or has not received forgiveness for their sins.
        Finally, on to messaging with regard to sin. You seem to be of the belief that you can’t call sin out without being hateful/hurtful. Why? Have you never heard a tactful approach to pointing out sin in a brothers life or serving as an accountability partner. I agree this can be uncomfortable (and difficult) but the Bible calls us out of our comfort zone numerous times to grow. Yes the Bible tells us not to judge and to forgive; but it also calls us to put on the full armor of God (yes the Bible is our weapon against sin/darkness) and use the light of the Gospel to lovingly correct/ admonish others.
        Alas, I would love to continue, but I have to go.

        1. Cal, Roy clearly indicated that he feels there is appropriate ways to address a “brother” with your concerns about certain behaviors, but only after they have come to trust your love. Even you must admit that being someone’s “accountability partner” requires they first admit to having a problem, and trusting you to help them abstain from whatever harmful behavior they engage in. The point is that there is already a relationship there on which to build loving rebukes or criticisms.

          Perhaps it would be helpful for you to define where you think Beth would fall short in sharing the Gospel. Do you feel she isn’t successful sharing the love of Jesus until she gets an “unbeliever” to say the “sinner’s prayer”? Is this a race to rack up confessions? A contest to get as many seeds to sprout as possible? For me, the Gospel is that God loves us and sent Jesus to model that love for us. If I can help someone see God’s love, I trust that God will convict them of any time their actions do not reflect God’s love (i.e. sin).

          1. Nathaniel, the Gospel is also Jesus coming to die as an atonement for our sins, Him defeating the death caused by sin, thus allowing us to be accepted as righteous because He has taken and defeated sin’s death on our behalf. Jesus is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world. It is our sin that made Jesus’ death necessary. That shouldn’t be forgotten.

  6. I didn’t realize until I read your essay why I was always uncomfortable with this phrase, but your comments made it clear to me. Jesus attracted people to Him with His love, and they voluntarily ASKED what they needed to do to turn their lives around, He didn’t have to confront them. The people He did confront were the Pharisees who put themselves out there as if they were sinless – he confronted hypocrisy, and those who had the arrogance to tell everyone else they were sinners. Now I understand the origin and context of the phrase, this all makes sense. Thank you for posting.

  7. Hello. I really liked your first essay. This one is good too!
    The kind of people who do all that sin-hating are why I stopped going to “church”. Now I draw a distinction between Christians and Churchians. Fortunately I have enough friends to still manage to share fellowship, worship, pray and otherwise live. Thanks for such a great pair of articles!

    1. I mean enough friends who are more like Christians and less like churchians…

  8. Thank you for writing this! I wrote about this same topic earlier this week. I only with I had read this first. It ties in perfectly with what I was trying to say. Thank you.

  9. I am fascinated by the number of people who have a stranglehold on the idea that they get to “judge” other people’s sins. That kind of pride is a sin in itself. The question is WHY? Why is so important to you to put yourself in that position?

    Just as Man’s law does not allow any one individual to be judge, jury and executioner so does God’s law. It is our job as Christians to bring to people to God. He will do the rest. And how does one bring people to God? Through LOVE. Jesus gave us a very clear instruction. Try following it for a while and just see the difference in your own life as well as those around you.

  10. I’m 100% behind you, Beth!

    The eager implementation of this phrase made me leave the “established Christianity” for good.
    And I’m happy I did.

    Way to go, girl!!!

    Rita from Latvia (mom of 6)

  11. Hi, from another Beth. Found you because of “Pooped my closet” but so glad I dug further because you have expressed exactly how I feel about how many Christians are handling the recent changes to US law re: Marriage Equality. I’ve actually been planning a post of my own about the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”, so I’ll make sure to link back to you, as your posts have now become part of my thought process about it.

    Regarding “Love the sinner, hate the sin”: the thing that has been eating at me is that in the case of homosexuality, most gay people are convinced (as am I) that they were born that way and that there is no element of choice involved, except whether to act on their sexual identity. When a Christian says, “I love you but I hate the sin of homosexuality”, what they are in fact saying to a gay person is “I love you, but I hate who you are”. How can those two things be separated? It’s no wonder the message of love is so lost in that phrase. How about just, “I love you”.

  12. My only problem with this whole discussion is that it obviously has zeroed in on the recent rulings about gay marriage. I have gay family members and gay friends that I love deeply, but their sexual lifestyle (married or not) is a sin before God. I do not discuss the issue often, but they know what I believe. What about a Christian who never marries? He or she will be celibate for their entire lives if they follow God’s instructions. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for those people, much harder than it is for me to try to fight my sins of gluttony. Sex outside the boundaries of a male/female marriage is a sin and I can’t run away from that no matter how much love I try to show.

    But, it’s hard to honestly argue with the words of St. Paul in
    Romans 1:
    “20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Just as Martin Luther did, I have to stand with God’s Truth regardless of what is popular, or if I seem judgmental.

    It is not a sin to be a gay person anymore than it is a sin for me to have depression, but it is a sin to engage in homosexual sexual activity, just as it is sin for me to allow my depression to make me slothful and bitter. The best I can do for the gay folks I know is to try to sympathize with the crushing realization that they may never have the intimate relationship that God intended through marriage. It must be devastating. The world is so very broken that people have to suffer this way. May the Lord return soon and restore His people.

    1. This should help: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2012/04/the-best-case-for-the-bible-not-condemning-homosexuality/

      Also, the “one man, one woman” model of marriage is NOT the only form of marriage shown in the Bible, as evidenced by this rather tongue-in-cheek video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFkeKKszXTw

    2. I understand that you are a Paulite (following Paul’s words as though they are Gospel). Paul was speaking of ritual pagan orgies to those who participated in them. I highly doubt that Paul (or anyone else) would consider a ritual orgy to be a loving, committed relationship.
      I stand with God’s truth: to LOVE my neighbor as myself. If I want to hoard rights all to myself and to deny those exact same rights to others based on the fact that those others were born differently than I, that is not at all loving. In fact, that is a very hurtful and hateful thing do to. It causes severe damage.
      Jesus said that one would know a tree by its fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and vice versa. The fruits of prejudice and discrimination are: mental, physical, and emotional damage, pain, suffering, depression, hopelessness, and sometimes death. They also contribute to a lifespan that is shortened by 12 years. Who would consider that good fruit? It’s quite clear that denial of marriage and other rights to people who were born gay and lesbian (and calling their loving, committed relationships a sin) does great damage to them, and bears extremely bad fruit. It’s also not in line with any of Jesus’s teachings.
      Yes, you can choose to denounce people and call them sinners for wanting loving, committed relationships with another consenting non-related adult. You can choose to denounce them and call them sinners for wanting happiness and love that does not hurt anyone. However, keep in mind that your choice IS hurting others. It causes harm.
      I question anyone who says, “I love them, but I really don’t think they deserve love and happiness in their lives: love and happiness is reserved only for those who were born like I was.” Does that sound like love to you? To me it sounds a lot like hate and selfishness.
      LOVE your neighbor as yourself. Love God above all. One way to show love of God is through love of neighbor. Through denial of equal rights, through condemnation of others for wanting to have joy, love, and happiness in a committed relationship with another consenting, unrelated adult, both commandments are broken.

    3. It’s actually not hard to address this particular interpretation of St. Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans. Specifically in this quoted passage because Paul is actually addressing the fertility cult of Cybele, which was rumored to have involved a lot of sexual practices as a part of their worship, likely because most of its followers were women and castrated men, other citizens weren’t allowed in their temples during worship. When you look at that context, Paul isn’t condemning homosexuality, but the worship of a pagan god.

      http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_bibc3.htm

      1. Leviticus 20:13If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination (for context, the law is discussing incest and bestiality)

        God’s character is constant. Why would he HATE / consider something an ABOMINATION and then change His mind hundreds of years later? That doesn’t make sense.

        In fact, the idea of marriage parallels Jesus and his bride the Church.

        Regarding marriage, Jesus said:
        Matthew 19:4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made[a] them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’[b] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?[c] 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

        Then look at Ephesians 5:
        22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

        25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[d] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

        You can plainly see from the Romans and the Leviticus verses that homosexual sexual activity is a sin. Marriage was designed for man and woman, each with their own role. Woman is to submit, man is to lover her and present her unblemished to God.

        1. Actually its quite likely that the verses in Lev.20 are in the same context as Rom is quoted above. if one studies the use of abomination in the OT its clear that 80% of its use is directly related to idol worship. Other verses like this one in Lev. don’t give this as a context, but my hermeneutics would say to follow the context of the known and only say it wasn’t idolatry if the context clearly says it isn’t.

    4. My question, however, is “Why is it your job to point out their ‘sin’, whether to them or to us?” It’s God’s job, plain and simple. He will judge in his own time. You don’t get to be the one to tell the world it is sin and talk about this, apparently, behind their backs. You may call them “family and friends” but you aren’t showing the love either deserve. I’m not trying to be mean here, I’m not trying to call you out. It’s just that you have missed the whole argument. It’s God’s job to decide if this homosexuality is sin and it’s between HIM AND THEM, at no point is it between the three of you. You say you don’t talk to them about it but they know how you feel. So a) you haven’t even bothered to try to understand your own friends and family; but b) you have decided to sit in judgement anyway. And is it because you are following what the bible says? Because you are only picking out the parts you want to read. You are being prideful, judgemental, and untruthful in your relationships. Yet only GOD can decide if that is a sin or not.

      1. God already told us homosexual sexual activity is a sin.

        1. No he didn’t. Your interpretation of certain Bible passages that you clearly don’t understand told YOU that “homosexual activity is a sin.”

  13. Beth,
    Both articles were amazing. They remind me a lot of our church here in Colorado. “Me Too” is what we say around church. As in we all have our own “shit” and are trying to work through it. Church is suppose to be a safe place for you to work out your stuff with God.
    http://www.flatironschurch.com
    Thank you for writing!

  14. Hi Beth,I’m an 85 yr. old woman, new to your blog. Found you through Progressive Christians. I loved this 3Reasons viewpoint.it was very helpful for learning this. Only had Internet. 1 yr. a whole new world of understanding is coming to me. Thank you for it. A women’s understanding is so rewarding.!

  15. Hi Beth,
    The main things that came to mind in reading your articles on this subject are 1) Scripture calls for a difference in how we treat those in the Church who embrace certain sins (“expel the immoral brother” – 1 Cor. 5) and the lost who can’t help but sin.
    Our job is to learn to fish for the lost so their sin shouldn’t surprise us but if someone claims to be a Christian and they, for instance, sin in a similar way the brother did in 1 Cor. 5 (sleeping with his step mother)then we are called to judge them (but never judge an unbeliever for their sin).
    2) I think it’s important to note that John the Baptist (Mt. 3:2), the disciples (Mark 6:12, Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19, Acts 8:22, Acts 17:30) and Jesus (Mt. 4:17)told people to repent and that Jesus taught His disciples to make disciples and teach them everything He taught them (Mt. 28:19-20). So, I’m sure people back in the day didn’t like to be told to repent either. Some probably found it offensive and felt hurt by it. Even so, it is what the Lord taught and it is clear throughout scripture that His disciples told people to repent. Now, the tone of voice I’m sure meant everything. If we say it with concern for their eternity they are likely to hear it differently than someone pounding on them.
    I think we as a Christian culture in 2015 just need to be careful not to get too soft. We, the saints, need to always be judging ourselves, confessing our sins to one another, repenting and getting transparent with each other so that we can hold each other accountable in our areas of sin struggle. Surely this is what removing the plank from our eyes looks like so that we’re qualified to help other brother’s remove the specks from their eyes. (Mt. 7)
    Oh, if the Church would take off the masks and get real about their sin struggles and accept other’s knowing their business and let them speak into their lives – HUMILITY is BEAUTIFUL.
    Anyway, I just think it’s helpful to think of Jesus as a good guy instead of a nice guy because I see way too much soft and fluffy (Joel Osteen type) teachings in the Church but very few are teaching the balance of love and righteous judgment among the believers, nor are they practicing it (which means sin has spread like yeast in a lump of dough, which effects the whole Body).
    Of course, if someone is new to the church they should never be judged. I’m getting way off topic. Love the sinner, hate the sin, right? Right.
    When Jesus said “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know you are My disciples” He was speaking of the way Christians are to love each other (love among the brethren) – have you considered that this is a different type of love than how we’d be loving the lost (the prodigals/sinners) or our enemies with? Also, you know that there are children of God and children of the devil, right? I just want to be sure because some people group us all together as “God’s children”. The devil’s children (religious people who don’t have a clue who God is) got some choice names thrown at them from Jesus and John the Baptist. So, obviously Jesus and John weren’t too careful to try to be loving when they rebuked them. Just something to think about because we want to be as innocent as doves yet as shrewd as snakes. The bottom line about those outside the Church…we need to fish for them. We need to be tapped into the Holy Spirit to know how to fish for them and if He wants us to say “Repent, be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit!” We sure as heck should do so.

    1. When Jesus said “Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know you are My disciples” He was speaking of the way Christians are to love each other (love among the brethren) – have you considered that this is a different type of love than how we’d be loving the lost (the prodigals/sinners) or our enemies with?

      umm, no, haven’t considered, personally, that I am anywhere near as righteous as Jesus. I think he meant that LOVE is how people would recognize His influence.

    2. I think there is some value in loving other believers in a real dynamic way that others can see. But I don’t think this will speak anyways near as effectively as loving the unbeliever. That’s when I find God speaks to them and they are willing to hear what I have to say, when they know I have loved them more than anyone else has.

  16. Beth,

    Excellently said.

    I believe that your first post was led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, we want to be the ones to do His “good works”, like pointing to the speck in someone else’s eye. When we get in the way of the Holy Spirit by trying to do his work, we impede his ability to touch those that need to the the Love of God.

  17. As someone who is frequently subjected to the “Love the sinner, hate the sin” I really, really appreciate these two posts. I have never felt loved by anyone who claimed this. It always feels like the person who says it is doing so so that they feel better. Scripture is not a weapon. Thank You.

  18. You have put into words on this post AND on the original post the exact sentiments of my heart. In my opinion you are spot on! Thank you for your insight! Love it!!

  19. And how did Jesus deal with sin…. He forgave it. Even if we say we hate sin… the Jesus response to the sin in others is simply to forgive it. You offer a grace filled loving response to our neighbors and ourselves who find ourselves less than perfect… we are forgiven. God continues to encourage us to live without sin. And if we fall, God forgives us and encourages us to live without sin…… and on and on and on until God calls us home. Keep up the good work.

  20. Here’s where I get all confused. My now 16yo daughter and her best friend of 10 years (same age) had a lesbian “affair.” It was instigated by the best friend. “If no guy ever likes you, would you consider being gay? Why don’t we give it a try?” My daughter should have known better, but she is easily influenced and got into it. About a month later the best friend cut it off, but they stayed best friends. My daughter fell in love with her and didn’t want it to end. She told us (her parents) about it a year later. ALL about it. Every word, act, detail. We wanted to deal with this with the best friend and her parents, but the best friend denied that ANYTHING ever happened (still is), and the parents believe her. My daughter and our family decided that this friendship and all association with this girl should be cut off. My daughter has since repented and turned away from the lesbian temptations. I’m sure she will struggle for a while, but I believe she is being honest with me about it, and is reading the Word more, and really wanting to live for the Lord.

    So, what are we to do about this ex best friend? Love her? How? We have confronted her, she denies anything ever happened…so?

    1. That is her cross to bear. She probably is ashamed of her actions, but no one can bring her to accountability until she learns to forgive herself for what she did or did not do. Forgiveness begins from within. Continue to love her, but from afar. I’m sure it is a very bitter pill for her to swallow, and constant exposure to the situation will only serve to push her farther from her personal healing. When she’s ready, she’ll come forward. For now, communicate with her parents. Show concern and compassion for their daughter. Just an intermittent, “I was thinking of her today, I hope she’s doing well” can make all the difference in the world.

      Also, with your own daughter, be sure to encourage her to continue on her path to her personal healing. Never let her feel ashamed of her sins, only grateful to have seen them and chosen a different path for herself now. To err is human. To learn to forgive yourself when you err is truly transcendent.

    2. I’m not sure why you needed to confront her? Surely if she had been a boy who broke your daughter’s heart you would not have done so? It really isnt so different. Love her as you love all those teen crushes you had. Chalk it down to life experience and move on.

      1. JR,
        If I found out that a boy my daughter had been close friends with encouraged her into a sexual relationship, then changed his mind, but still wanted to be friends, I would have to confront that situation. Often, even non-sexual romantic relationships with teenagers end in hurt feelings and difficulty in continuing a friendship, so it’s not always necessary to talk out the issue with the other kid, who isn’t around anymore anyway. But if he wants to remain in a friend relationship with my child, who is confused and hurting (and in need of repentance and forgiveness), you bet I’m going to have to make sure the air is clear about what happened, why it was wrong, and to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Sex outside of marriage is sin, period, gender is irrelevant.

    3. Tracey – she is who she is. If she is a lesbian, than that is who she is. Don’t try to change her. Let her grow into herself. As parent you have two important jobs Give you children roots and give them wings. Don’t make her fly away and never return. You’ll never forgive yourself. Don’t talk. listen. Love her. that’s what you need to do.

  21. A W E S O M E ! ! !

    Thank you so much for this post. It Blessed my day and I was so proud to share it on my Facebook for others to enjoy and be Blessed by it as well.

    Your writing style is fun and I only had to look up 2 words for meanings. lol Bless you for this message as I’m sure you touched a lot of souls with it.

  22. Thank you so much for your posts, this is so incredibly refreshing to hear. I can share it with my sister, who is so turned off by the judgmental tone of Christianity she does not want to go there at all. Thank you, keep posting!

  23. You keep it going girl i like the esay and understand the passage better. YOU ROCK!!!

    1. By the way, I had Five kids as well and I know how that is!!! Just keep going and praying.

  24. I think your original blog and the update are perfect. It makes me happy to know that there are people like you out there. I love you!

  25. Thank you for these devine words. I’m very excited to delve into your blog now and catch up on more of your articles as this one and the other were fantastic! Ps. It’s not your job to worry about what others are saying about you. There will always be people who are going criticize or hate no matter what you say. So just keep spreading the Word of Love and keep your eyes on God and whatever message He has given you to share.

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