Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin… ?

Abbotsford Pride Parade (PG) abbyprideparade

The Christian world is over saturated with clichés!  Overly simplistic statements that are often injected into deeply complex situations.  They can be brutal.  One such statement, and there are many, is “love the sinner, hate the sin!”

Case and point.  The conversation with the LGBTQ community, wherein this ‘cliche’ could carry innocent, if not ignorant, intentions, but horribly ventures into the realm of dehumanization and reveals a posture of judgementalism. 

At the risk of quoting the whole book, which is a temptation, I think Andrew Marin gets it right here in his important book “Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.”

Among gays and lesbians, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is the most disdained phrase in the Christian vocabulary. If behavior equals identity, then hating gay sexual behavior is the same thing as hating the gay person. The most common rebuttal they use to counter that slogan is Jesus’ words regarding judgment in Matthew 7, where he speaks about the plank in our own eye and the speck in our brother’s. “How can Christians pick this one sin and make it greater than all the rest? The Bible also says not to [for example, “eat crab”]. Straight people and yet are still accepted.” As the Barna Group discovered in research commissioned by the Fermi Project, this logic has earned Christians a reputation for being extremely hypocritical and unrightfully judgmental.

The easiest way we can start to change these negative perceptions is to remove “love the sinner, hate the sin” from our vocabulary. Clever catch phrases that try to make Christianity accessible to the masses don’t translate to all different populations. As soon as we drop the notion of loving the sinner and hating the sin, the pressure is then off of us to drag a GLBT person from their current “corrupted state” to our “holy state,” just as the pressure is off of the GLBT person to continually build up their defenses to try to guard against the slogans that hurt them time and again.

Andrew Marin. Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Kindle Locations 457-465). Kindle Edition.

Which clichés, or common multi-use Christian phrases have been used or offered to you in complex situations?  Have you ever made the connection that ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is, or could be judgemental?


  1. Ryan Robinson · May 30, 2013

    I’ll have to paraphrase a little bit but Tony Campolo has been quoted saying something along the lines of “Jesus never said ‘love the sinner; hate the sin.’ He said to love the sinner and worry about your own sin.”

    I would say that the sentiment behind the phrase may have originally been a good one. Unfortunately it is now used almost exclusively to allow angry condemnation of certain things while saying that it is out of love. It’s kinda like how Augustine argued that you could love your enemy while running a sword through them.

    How about “everything happens for a reason” as another cliche that doesn’t help? We were talking about Romans 8:28 last night in HomeChurch and this idea came up with it usually not being nearly as comforting to the person hearing it – usually making the problem sound trivial – as the person saying it thinks it will be.

    • Chris Lenshyn · May 30, 2013

      Ugh. That one is quite harmful actually! Trivial, brushes over pain, misses the point and gives a shallow view of who God is!

      Thanks for the Tony Campolo paraphrase! It is quite helpful!

  2. blue moose · May 30, 2013

    “Jesus is the answer.”

  3. AO Green · May 31, 2013

    Was the “crab” comparison fair? You alluded to something under the Law when the Law no longer applies. That is the same argument liberal politicians employ when criticizing Christianity in general.

    Whereas there are clear statements regarding same sex relationships in the New Testament regardless of how you interpret them. I am liberal but I also try to be fair while being so.

  4. garethbrandt · June 4, 2013

    I also destest that line, but I do not like Marin’s equation of behaviour and identity. Our identity is so much more than what we do, and definitely more than who we desire sexually or who we have sex with. It is a small part of it, but identity is deeper and more complex than behaviour. “The End of Sexual Identity” by Jenell Williams Paris has some provocative anthropological insights on the subject of sexual identity.

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