Love the Sinner—Hate the sin.* I’ve heard the phrase so often I almost believe it. Then I realize that’s only something God can say—not me. And when God says it, I’m standing among the sinners, for we’ve all fallen short of God’s standard of perfection. (Romans 3:23) If I think I’m standing next to God and waving a condemning finger at the one who I deem is living in such a way they deserve being on the receiving end of that statement, I’m playing the role of the elder brother in the story of the prodigal son, and in that story he’s the brother who never makes it to the “party.” (Luke 15) I want to have a seat at God’s party for sinners! And while the elder brother certainly hated the sin of the younger brother and what that sin cost him, he wasn’t able to hate the sin and love his brother.
It’s true—there are a number of passages in the Bible that indeed cite God’s hatred toward sin.
Proverbs 6:16-19: Here are six things GOD hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family.
But, I’m reminded that once again, when I think and act like God needs my expert opinion and help; then take on the role of “Assistant General Manager of the Universe,” I am guilty of the sin which might indeed cut me off from God’s love and grace—the “mother of all sins”—pride. Of the seven deadly sins (covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy, and sloth), pride is the one most insidious and hideous. Jesus’ anger was directed not at the ones who knew they were sinners, but toward the ones who thought they were better than the sinners, and had earned the right to pass judgment.
In my opinion, Jesus is clear that as a sinner myself, I am utterly incapable of loving and hating at the same time. To even imagine such a preposterous life-stance is the epitome of pride and ego. Luke 18:9-14 is like a bucket of cold water poured over my soul when I start getting haughty and self-righteous, thinking I am capable of doing God’s job.
He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’ “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’ ” Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”
It is the proverbial case of pointing one finger in judgment, and having three other fingers pointed back to me.
“Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you, for God will judge you in the same way you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others. Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log in your own eye? How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)
However, that doesn’t mean I’m to turn a blind eye to the sin and behavior which may be destroying my brother or sister’s life. I am challenged to reach out in compassion, with humility and gentleness of spirit and action. So let me amend an earlier statement: I can only love my follow sinner, and when standing next to each other, turn our hatred toward the sin which plagues us both. That is the genius of the twelve-step movement. Alcoholics can talk the truth to each other in ways non-alcoholics cannot, and what is true of alcoholics turns out to be true across the board for all the behaviors that separate us from God, ourselves, and the people we love. The key is the empathy of one sinner truly talking with another as equals. When I can approach the one who suffers from the place of knowing from personal experience what it feels like to be in my brother or sister’s place, I am loving the sinner as I love myself, and we both stand against that which is strangling our lives. It is only when I become vulnerable and transparent about my sin that I can connect with my brother and sister who also struggle and suffer. That is the polar opposite of how the phrase, “Love the sinner—hate the sin” is tossed about!
We’ll get the white board out Sunday and talk more about the temptation this phrase presents and how it sends us in the wrong direction – A direction Satan celebrates.
* Note: “Love the sinner—hate the sin” is usually heard these days as a judgment of the LGBTQ community. I want to be very clear I no longer consider a monogamous same-sex marriage to be sin. Marriage is marriage, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities. At the same time, I consider promiscuity to be the common threat to our sacred relationships we share as human beings, regardless of our sexual orientation.
More Sunday…Here’s what I have on my desk…
LAST CHANCE! THE ST. ANDREW YOUTH GROUP WILL COLLECT PRE-ORDERS FOR THEIR ANNUAL WREATH SALES FOR THE LAST TIME THIS SUNDAY! Sunday, October 31ST, the youth group will be in the fellowship hall taking orders for Christmas wreaths, garlands and centerpieces. These greens are a great gift for everyone on your gift list and will be available for pickup on Sunday, December 4TH! All money raised will go toward their Caravan mission trip the summer of 2017. Thank you for supporting our youth group!
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13TH: NEW MEMBERS INFORMATIONAL CLASS —11:30 AM in the Conference Room. Join Pastor Rich for a light lunch and discussion on what it means to be a member of St. Andrew.
RSVP for your lunch and to request child care on your Communication Card this Sunday
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 20TH: BLACK DOG LUNCH—11:30 am IN THE CONFERENCE ROOM. St. Andrew is hosting a lunch for those who suffer from any form of depression to join together for mutual support and encouragement. To view the Black Dog video created by the World Health Organization, go to the following website: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc or Google “Black Dog Video”.
RSVP for your lunch and to request child care on your Communication Card this Sunday.