A writer for the popular theology website DesiringGod.org defended the approach of "hate the sin, love the sinner."
In a column titled “Love the Sinner — by Hating His Sin,” Greg Morse of Desiring God wrote about the need for “more men and women who do not fear making someone uncomfortable in order to protect their soul.”
“Of course, this does not justify becoming brash, graceless, and harsh. But we also want to avoid creating safe spaces for sin in our fellowship where the cane of specificity is outlawed, even when used to get one another to safety,” wrote Morse.
“God, save us from nurturing spaces where we never address individuals, call all standards ‘legalistic,’ secretly coddle our own iniquity, and think wrongly about humility. Consider these four dangers in turn.”
Morse drew the historical parallel to the Allied captain at the Normandy invasion on D-Day 1944, who individually struck soldiers under his command with a cane in order to encourage them onward.
“Some did not move — they were already dead. But the living, having been generally called and personally admonished, snapped out of it and went on to better cover,” Morse explained.
Morse went on to note the importance of believers offering correction when necessary, calling for Christians to “patiently and lovingly address individuals, build good habits together, invite others to hate our sin, and think rightfully about humility.”
“We love the sinner by hating his sin. We hate our own sin, first and foremost, and we take others’ sin seriously because we take their eternal good seriously. We do not wound to cause harm. We wound as the Almighty does: to bind up and heal,” he wrote.
The cliché “hate the sin, love the sinner” has garnered its share of criticism in both mainstream American society and within churches.
Adam Hamilton, lead pastor of the Church of the Resurrection, which is the largest United Methodist congregation in the United States, has critiqued the term in the past.
In a video posted to YouTube in 2016, Hamilton argued that the phrase was never spoken by Jesus and that “the Scriptures don’t teach us this.”
“Jesus said ‘love your neighbor’ and the reason he didn’t say ‘love the sinner’ is because the moment we begin to see the other as a sinner and not as our neighbor, we begin to judge them. We begin to feel morally superior to them and we begin to look down upon them,” said Hamilton.
“The scriptures also don’t tell us to hate somebody else’s sin. Now there are certain kinds of sins that we should hate – injustice and oppression – but when it comes to ordinary sin, we’re not called to hate somebody else’s sin.”
The apologetics website gotquestions.org weighed in on the debate, noting that while the specific phrase does not appear in the Bible, the overall idea can be found in Scripture.
“Sin is to be hated, not excused or taken lightly. We love sinners by showing them respect (1 Peter 2:17), praying for them (1 Timothy 2:1), and witnessing to them of Christ,” stated the site.
“It is a true act of love to treat someone with respect and kindness even though you do not approve of his or her lifestyle or sinful choices.”