Hate the sin, not the sinner! Is that right?
Recently I wrote about my views, as a Christian, about the gay marriage/equality debate and I was asked if I was looking at it as ‘Hate the Sin, not the Sinner’. At the time I replied to that person that I hadn’t thought of it that way but it sounded like that was what I was saying. Well, I’ve been thinking on that for a while and I can’t get it out of my head. So, I thought I’d write something about what is whirling around in my grey matter.
What I tried to express in that previous blog, was what I thought Jesus would think/do and therefore what we as true Christians should think/do. Which was, love the people and support their cries for equality and not think, for one moment, that He would support their lifestyle. How does that work? Well, for example, do you have a friend or relative with a habit that you don’t like? For example smoking. You still support that person in every other way, don’t you? But you don’t encourage their smoking, you accept it, but you don’t encourage it. I know it’s not really the same thing but it’s kind of the same, especially in a Christian perspective because a lot of Christians see smoking as wrong too.
So, it’s the action that is being performed that we hate and not the people themselves. Because, if we follow Jesus example and teachings, we should associate with sinners and not condemn them. Here’s His example, He dined with Tax collectors and saved a prostitute from being stoned to death. Tax collectors? They don’t sound so bad… but they were in those times. They were siding with the enemy and collecting money for them, sometimes taking a little extra to line their own pockets. They were considered the worst of the worst. This is why Jesus spent time with them, to show that they are still people who need love and support – or in other words… acceptance. He doesn’t condemn them and say I can’t be near you because you do the wrong thing. He did tell one that asked him, that he should give away his fortune and follow Him. Jesus actions and words show He loves them, not because of what they do or don’t do, because of who they are, a child of God. He wants to be their friend, He accepts them, and He tells them how they can enter Heaven to be with Him.
The prostitute was even worse than the Tax Collectors, in the peoples eyes, because they sold their bodies to have sex, with more than one partner. That was severely frowned upon, to the point that if someone was caught doing this, the law said they should be stoned to death. This leads me to the situation outlined in the Bible, where a woman was caught in the act of prostitution and bought to Jesus. Now, Jesus doesn’t see any sin as worse than any other and doesn’t see the difference between the punishment laid out for one sin over a different punishment for another sin. Here’s the deal, in Jesus eyes, you sin and you die without being allowed to be with God. That’s it, doesn’t matter what sin, they all separate us from God. The way they tried to say sorry to God, was to perform a sacrifice of an animal or food and then the slate was wiped clean. So, back to our situation, here are these men, condemning a prostitute to death, asking Jesus what should be done (they’re really trying to trap Him into doing something wrong) and he responds with a question – “He, who is without sin, should cast the first stone.” The result is that no one throws a stone but walks away and leaves the prostitute alone. Jesus looks at her and asks where her accusers have gone. It’s a statement that tells her that He doesn’t accuse her. She tells Him that they are gone and Jesus says, “Go, and sin no more.” He had every right to stand with the accusers and pronounce her doom but He didn’t. He accepted her for who she was, a sinner and He tells her how she can stop the same situation from happening again, “sin no more.” Now, he doesn’t do anything that might lead others to think he supports her, and He doesn’t do anything that might be unacceptable in their society. In my view, I see acceptance by Jesus of who this woman is and what she does, and no encouragement of her actions. She is a child of God and He wants her in Heaven too.
I have outlined Jesus responses to two groups of people that were considered the worst sinners by the religious people of the time. His own followers, by the way, tried to get Him to spend time with others (the ‘good’ people) and not these sinners and Jesus response was that He wasn’t here to heal the healthy but the sick. He recognises that these people are not His followers or even religious in any way. Quite the opposite I’m sure. But these are the people that needed Him the most. They needed to know that He accepted them for who they were. Did He want them to change? Yes. Did He force it on them? No. He accepted them for who they were and asked them to stop what they did but didn’t do anything to force that, except be their friend.
Now, here’s the crux of my thoughts. Did Jesus hate the sin? He definitely didn’t hate the sinner, but did He hate the sin? I don’t think Jesus hated anything. Even when He got mad at the sales people in the temple, He didn’t hate them. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness there was no mention of hate towards him. In fact, I think I sense sadness. Sadness over what the devil threw away to become who he is (but I could be very wrong about that). My point is that there is no hate, even towards His bitter enemy. If you were to ask Jesus, He would probably say He doesn’t even have enemies. The devil declared himself the enemy… but I digress a little. Does Jesus hate sin? He doesn’t want us to commit sins and He doesn’t hate us when we do. He gets sad. It’s us, as humans that want to have something to hate, something to blame. Something we can point to and say, ‘that’s not right,’ and get all high and mighty over it, all judgemental, all… wrong. And I hate to say it but religious people can be the worst at that.
Hate the sin, not the sinner. No, I’ve changed my mind on that. It’s not what I think after all. I’ve been angry at the sin in my own life in the past and I get angry when someone sins against me… but I don’t hate them. I still accept them for who they are, I thank God that they are in my life and I ask Him to forgive them. I don’t hate the sin but I don’t like the sin either. I accept it, and the person/s that perform it, and I forgive them. Even when it’s me, because I’m far from perfect.
Maybe, it’s just a case of accepting the person, loving them for who they are, no matter what they do or who they do it too (or how they look) and treating them as an equal. Harder said than done, I know. But, that’s what my Jesus does… so I have to do it too.
Accept and forgive the sin, accept and forgive the sinner (but I want to add, that doesn’t include not punishing if it is a punishable offence by law).
Bottom line, how do you want to be treated? That’s how you treat others too!