I am not sure what a “trite statement” exactly is, but if there was ever a sentence that would seem to meet the definition … this would be it.
“Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
Stated so often that after the first two words everyone can finish the sentence. Sounds good on the surface, but it’s actually difficult to explain how it works in real life. It’s the thing you say when you are not sure what to say.
Where do these little nuggets of wisdom come from anyway? How do they get repeated so much that they become ignored and end up the punch line for jokes? And why do they keep getting repeated anyway?
Maybe because there is some basic truth that underlies this statement.
Hate the sin. I get where that comes from. I hate the sins I have committed in my life. I hate seeing sin in the lives of my community of faith. I hate a world in which there is so much pain and abuse caused by sin. I hate sin because I have seen the consequences in ruined lives. I want sin defeated and destroyed. I want everyone to be set free from the chains of guilt and shame that sin brings. I want to be forgiven from the sin that would separate me from my God.
But I am so glad and thankful that God loves a sinner like me. Jesus loved me enough to die for me even while I was still a sinner. I love sinners. I love my Christian family so much that when one of them sins, I will do whatever it takes to help them repent and feel forgiven. Help them manage consequences. Help them change, do better, and not fall back into sin. And still love them if they do.
I love sinners so much that I spend my life telling people the story of Jesus so that if they believe it, they can be forgiven and delivered from their sin.
I love sinners so much that they are welcome in my home. I hate sin so much that they are not welcome to bring their sin into my home, or my church. It is a hard and difficult feat to pull off. To love people so much that they know I will do anything to help them follow the one who died to forgive their sin. And to love them so much that I will hate the actions that will destroy them.
Love the sinner. Hate the sin. And pray I never confuse the two. Never hate the sinner. Never love the sin.
Maybe the problem is not the statement. The problem may be in living it out.
Hate the sin and love the sinner.
Steve loves to tell the story of Jesus. He is the Director of Ministry for Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth Ministry, and serves as an elder at the Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, TX. He is a popular speaker for Lectureships, seminars, and retreats, and his latest book is “Can I Tell You a Story?” He and his wife Marsha have two children and five grandchildren.