Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin?
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” – Luke 23:24
I’ve never been a fan of the dictum: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” It always struck me as a way to feign love for someone right before kicking them in the teeth.
And even if we could separate “the sin” from “the sinner,” the fact that both are damnable categories makes it extremely unlikely that a loving response will trump a hateful one. Hate, in this case, gets the last word.
And since this phrase has been directed at LGBTQ folk far more than anyone else, well, that only puts a bigger bee in my bonnet. It is SO time to drop the hate. Especially theological hate, the most lethal kind of all.
And yet, following the Supreme Court’s affirmation of marriage equality last month, I’ve found myself invoking this ill-conceived phrase more often than I care to admit. Why? Because I’m doing my darndest to love those who are sinning boldly in their amped up condemnations of same sex relationships and marriage while claiming to be the new persecuted class due to their less inclusive beliefs.
And (duh) it’s not working. I’m not becoming more loving and less scornful. I’m riding the same high and haughty horse as any other crusading love-hater. Maybe I should try something else. Maybe I should do what Jesus did, love the sinner and love the sinner some more, and pray the prayer he prayed: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Loving Creator, forgive them—and me—for we know not what we do. Give us the faith and courage to love like Jesus.
Matthew Laney is the Senior Minister of Asylum Hill Congregational Church, UCC, in Hartford, Connecticut.