How am I supposed to hate the sin and not the sinner?

advice header image

How am I supposed to hate the sin and not the sinner?

Aug 27, 2007 |John Thomas
Question

We're all called to be like Christ, with that we must love the unlovely ... but what if the unlovely makes you ... sick?

We're to hate the sin and not the sinner, but lately I'M JUST HATING! I hate that I do but, I'm just so sick of people and their GRAY areas. What's worse is that I'm a minister, worship leader and student leader. Shouldn't I love EVEN MORE?

I just have a problem with loving those I know. It's easy to love the unlovely when you don't know them. Aren't I being a hypocrite when I'm looking at all their wrongs? It just feels like the more I let them see and watch me live for Christ the harder it is. I just want to SAY SOMETHING! like WAKE UP! The Lord wants you but you don't want HIM!

I know I can't make them love Jesus, but I think I'm ruining it for myself when they see me get so frustrated.

Please help, I need to know what I should do when I get this way. I have very high standards, and I often put those high standards on others because I think if I can do it, anyone can. Is that the wrong mentality?

Answer

Well, yes, if what you're feeling is hatred toward a person or people, for whatever reason, then of course that's wrong. If the two most important truths in all of existence are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and to love your neighbor as yourself, then that doesn't really leave much room for hating anyone.

But I'm guessing you really don't hate people. Clearly, the choices they're making are about to put you over the edge, but "hate" is probably not what's going on. Without a doubt, you're feeling something, so let's try to figure out what it is.

Anger is a possibility, and under certain circumstances might be appropriate. We might think of Jesus at the Temple famously knocking over the tables being used by the scam artists who were trying to make a buck off of a holy practice. Jesus' zeal for His Father's house resulted in a sort of righteous "anger," although the writer doesn't tell us whether Jesus was angry. But even in this, the root of Christ's emotion wasn't anger, but love. It was His love for His Father that guided His actions.

Paul implies that there is anger that is sin and anger that isn't sin. He quotes a psalm and instructs, "Be angry and do not sin," which gives us the idea that one can be angry and still not sin. Love for God does lead to anger about some things — sin, for instance, in our own lives and in others' — but never leads to hating someone. No one is ever hated, as it were, into the Kingdom of God.

I think what you're feeling is what all serious Christians feel at times when they look around and see how casually it seems other believers are taking their faith, claiming that Christ is the center of their lives when the evidence seems to prove otherwise. I've been there before myself, and I can tell you that love was not the root of my feelings; pride was.

The writer of Luke tells the story of a Pharisee who scoffed when "a woman who had lived a sinful life" washed the feet of Christ with her hair, perfume and tears. Jesus makes the point that he who has been forgiven much, loves much, and "he who has been forgiven little, loves little."

I don't think He's making the case that the more sinful the acts we committed before we became a Christian, the more we love Him after we're born again. I believe He's making a point about one's own awareness of how truly depraved he is, whether a prostitute or an Eagle Scout, and to the extent he is aware of his total and complete depravity — that he brings nothing to the table but a sinful heart — that is the extent to which he loves God.

We must be absolutely tenacious about dealing with "spiritual" pride in our lives. We can easily become like the Pharisee who obviously didn't see his own depravity, only that of others. Had he understood the reality from God's perspective, he too would have been on his knees right next to the woman, weeping over his sin, clinging to the feet of his Savior. What Jesus is saying to the Pharisee is, I can tell by her love that she gets it, and I can tell by your lack of love that you don't.

When we don't understand our own depravity — that it is only by the grace of God that we can even utter His name or think a thought of worship — we slip into pride. But when we stay broken before Him, He reaches out to us and pours His love on us. The result vertically is a humble and deep gratitude toward God, who loved us and died for us while we were still sinners. The result horizontally isn't hatred for those who've not experienced that unspeakable grace, but rather sorrow and love.

As frustrating as it is to see others who don't seem to want to take their faith seriously, we can't become like the Pharisee who just didn't get it. The more you understand your own depravity, the more you realize what a recipient of grace you have been, and how little you are able to stand in judgment of others. Far from hatred, you'll begin to weep for them, pray for them, and pour yourself out like a drink offering for them, and it will be a privilege.

Blessings,
JOHN THOMAS

Copyright 2007 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

If you have a question you'd like us to consider for this column, please send it to editor@boundless.org. Please note that all questions we select for this column may be edited for clarity and privacy and become the property of Focus on the Family.

Donate

Like what you see?

If you’ve enjoyed this article, will you consider giving a tax-deductible gift to Boundless right now? We’re a donor-funded ministry, and we rely on friends like you to help keep us going! DONATE NOW »

References
  • .

THE BOUNDLESS BUZZ

Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter and see all our latest content every Thursday.