Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?

This Sunday we continue our sermon series based on the Adam Hamilton book Half Truths. Learn more about the full series here.

This week’s half-truth is, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I have to be honest that this – to me – is the worst of all the half-truths we’ve explored in this series. Why? Because the Christ I affirm, the God whose call I experience so often, the Spirit who continues to empower me for ministry, never calls me to hate. I don’t always do a great job at loving everyone, but I think I do pretty well at avoiding hatred. I feel guided by Jesus command to love God with everything I have and to love my neighbor as myself. And this guiding principal is reflected in Jesus reminder to love our enemies.

But here’s another thing. With an instruction to “love the sinner, hate the sin,” that puts us in a position to judge. And here’s what Jesus had to say about that…

Matthew 7:1-5
1“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

Consider these questions:

  1. Do you hate anything or anyone? Who or what? Why? How does that feel specifically and internally to you?
  2. What do the scriptures referenced above tell you about love?
  3. This love/hate phrase seems like a call to judgement to me. Does it seem that way to you?
  4. What are some examples where you have felt judged? How did you feel?
  5. In your faith life, do you feel judged by others? Do you feel judged by God?

Post-sermon update on 5/30

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).

This conclusion of the Half-Truths series explored what – for me – is the most common phrase of this bunch. And it’s the phrase that I’ve heard more directly targeted towards our LGBTQ siblings. Perhaps that’s why it’s my least favorite. During the message, we explored “love the sinner, hate the sin” as a whole and in parts – and largely found that we just need to stop after the first word: love.

As a part of going deeper into this exploration, consider these scriptures:

  • Matthew 9:9-13 – Jesus called Matthew, a tax collector. Given the cultural perception of tax collectors at the time, did Jesus’ actions reflect “love the sinner, hate the sin?”
  • 1 Corinthians 4:3-5, Romans 14:4-13 – In these passages from the Apostle Paul, he notes that we humans shouldn’t be in the business of judgement.
  • Matthew 7:1-5 – Jesus gives his own words about the dangers of judgement, alongside the hilarious vision of someone with a log in their eye trying to see someone else’s imperfection.
  • Acts 11:2-18 – Peter experiences a vision that helps him to understand more clearly the importance of seeing all people as precious children of God.
  • Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus was another tax collector and the community expected Jesus to condemn him. Instead, Jesus invited him self to Zacchaeus’ house for a meal.
  • 1 Peter 1:18-2:3 – Peter writes that expressing love in the way that God loves us, we are transformed in unexpected ways.

Consider these questions:

  1. What kind of people did Jesus eat with? Associate with? Did Jesus love these kinds of people? Are we called to do the same?
  2. Do we ever ignore our own shortcomings? Why? What spiritual practices have you found that strengthen you to resist the urge to judge others?
  3. Have you ever felt nudged by God to reach out to someone unexpected? How was that experience? What was the result?
  4. Polling indicates that many consider Christians to be judgmental. Is judgement compatible with “love your neighbor? How can you work against this perception in your own small way?


    Hope Anderson

    Hate is a strong word. I used to hate Brussels sprouts, but then my sister-in-law served them roasted in a delicious way that changed my mind. I think it’s like that with people, too. If you take a strong dislike to someone, there is usually an angle through which you can view them with empathy, and have compassion for them even if you don’t enjoy their company.

    Terre Frank

    This half truth rings truer than the others for me. To begin with, we often say man is flawed; we are all sinners, and that thought seems to remain constant throughout our religious teachings. The sin would be something that is harmful to mankind.
    Specifically, I think of the situation where a child takes drugs and harms himself. A parent still loves the child, but hates what he’s doing.

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