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Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

A post in the Christianity series.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” is a phrase I’ve grown up hearing, but I’ve been contemplating the actual meaning, source, and use of this phrase. Where did Jesus tell us to do this? Would Jesus really command us to hate anything? What does it even mean to “Hate the Sin”? Through some research and reading, I ended up confirming a couple of my suspicions: this phrase is misused, misattributed, and far more damaging than it ever is helpful. We should stop using this phrase entirely, for the following reasons.

First of all, this phrase is not biblical. Many people prefix their use of this statement with clauses like “Didn’t Jesus tell us to …” and “Jesus commanded us to…” Jesus never uttered this phrase or anything resembling the idea. The source of this phrase seems to be Saint Augustine in his Letter 211 to the convent his sister was leading. The original phrase is regularly translated as “with due love for the persons and hatred of the sin” (See Section 11). So while there are Christian themes in the core of the original statement, claiming that this is biblical teaching is a lie.

Second, as I’ve described in previous articles, Christians believe that we are all sinners, and using this phrase is effectively singling out a person or group as a worse sinner or more sinful than the utterer. Uttering this phrase is, then, explicitly anti-Christian. There are no better or worse sins in the eyes of God and it only takes one single sin to condemn us.

Following that, the phrase today is almost exclusively used against LGBTQ+ individuals and communities. Christians use this phrase as a bludgeon to justify excluding these people from “normal society” as well as punishing them for their non-heterosexual lifestyle. I plan on diving far deeper into this topic in a future article so right now I’ll just point out the blatant hypocrisy of singling out the LGBTQ+ group when heterosexuals are just as guilty of sexual sins.

Third, the result of using this phrase is almost always hating the person. In fact, under the Christian belief that sin is intrinsic to the human condition, then a person’s sin is indistinguishable from the actual person, making this statement impossible to apply anyway. Look behind the curtains of any politician pushing anti-transgender and anti-gay-marriage legislation and you will find self-proclaimed Christians using this phrase to justify their hatred, disdain, and disgust of these people (often also hidden under the guise of “fear”). Jesus calls on us to love everyone because God loves every one of us unconditionally.

I, then, vow to never use this phrase, or any phrase with a similar message, ever again. Using this phrase is negative and destructive and the exact opposite of how Jesus commands us to live and interact with each other.