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Why "Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner" Isn’t Working

According to blogger and Pastor Jarrid Wilson, “Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner” isn’t working out very well for the Christian community. It is his desire, he shares, to better reflect actual attitudes and teachings of Christ, rather than the all-too-common caricatures of modern Christianity. He writes,

“The ideology of, ‘hate the sin, not the sinner’ has NOT converted well in today’s culture. If you take a moment to look around, you’ll notice that we are very good at showing hate to the people whom God has called us to love. Shame on you. Shame on me. Shame on us.”

According to Wilson, the reason the adage isn’t working (and, he thinks, never has worked) is simple.

“When hating the sins of others, people just simply don’t know how to separate the sinner from the sin. I encourage you to instead ‘Love the sinner, not the sin.’ Remove the word hate from your vocabulary, and start reflecting an image of Jesus that portrays him differently than a man standing on a soap-box wielding a megaphone.”

He finishes by reflecting,

“I can’t ever recall a person who came to faith because of hate. Learn to love like Jesus, serve like Jesus, and forgive like Jesus. Let’s start a movement of people who are willing take hate out of the equation, and love people regardless of their sins.”

Many Crosswalk authors have taken on the idea of “hate the sin, not the sinner,” or “love the sinner, hate the sin.” In his piece Beyond “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin,” Tim Challies muses on the difficulty homosexuality poses to this adage, since sexuality is considered such a core part of one’s identity, not so much a separate, outside sin like stealing or abusing alcohol.

“The Bible is clear that homosexuality is sin. As the designer of humanity, as the designer of gender, God has both the ability and the right to tell us what is consistent with his will and what is radically inconsistent. Homosexuality is inconsistent with his will and, therefore, sinful. Christians have long held this and have sought to hate the sin even while loving the sinner. Those words may help the Christian as he thinks about that particular sin, calling him to affirm the wrongness of the sin and at the same time to affirm the value of the person who commits that sin. But this phrase brings no comfort to the homosexual; because his sexuality is so closely tied to his identity, it is nearly impossible to believe that I can truly love him, even while I reject his sexuality. My words in effect say, ‘I love you; I hate you.’”

In her book Permission Granted, Margot Starbuck also thoroughly explores this topic, delving into what it means to truly be the light of the world and the salt of the earth, how Christians mess themselves up by playing too much “theological twister,” and how a gospel-centered Christianity proclaims that everyone is loved and God is “for” each of us.

What do you think? Do you find it difficult to “love the sinner, hate the sin?” Or do you, like Jarrid Wilson, prefer to “remove the word hate from your vocabulary”?

Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor for

Publication date: January 14, 2014