Working on another article, I recently did a search to find the Bible verse that says, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” To my surprise, that quote was not in the Bible. This prompted me to dig a little deeper to see what the Bible really says about loving sinners and hating sin. What I found is very interesting and I wanted to share it with you.
I went to BibleGateway.com and searched for the word “hate” to see how many times it came up in the new testament. Why only the new testament? Because my reasons for doing this have to do with Christian living and it matters to me what the new testament says. It matters to me what Jesus said about hate. It matters to me what Paul, Peter and John say about hate.
They will hate you because they first hated me.
What I discovered is that almost half of the times that the word “hate” is used in the New Testament, it is in the context of being hated, not being a hater. Fifteen times in the New Testament the word “hate” is used by Jesus and John to say that the world will hate you for being Christian.
In Luke 6:22 Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”
This paints an entirely different picture of hatred from what the “love the sinner, hate the sin” quote portrays. Instead of telling us to hate anything, Jesus is telling us to expect to be hated, for His sake.
You know, this lines up with my recent Bible study about love (1 Cor. 13). The first word in the famous love list is patient. Love is patient. What is patience? It is the act of enduring hardship and adversity calmly and without complaint.
Well there you go! The fifteen times that the New Testament uses the word “hate” in this context, it is in the context of “love.” When we endure the hatred of this world, calmly and without complaint, we are exercising the same love for this world as God did when He sent his only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16).
When You Hate
The second most common use of the word “hate” in the new testament is to demonstrate how love of God and hatred of people cannot coincide in the same person.
1 John 4:20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
Six times the word “hate” is used in this context. Another interesting verse in this category comes a little earlier in 1 John:
1 John 2:11
But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
This is something I have long recognized, not only in other people but also in myself. Hatred is blinding! When we hate, we are often so blinded by the darkness that we don’t even recognize our hatred for what it is.
But what about “love the sinner and hate the sin?” How does this category fit in with that quote?
Easy answer… It doesn’t!
Once again, this category of the usage of the word “hate” helps paint a very different picture.
Love Your Enemy
Two times in the New Testament Jesus uses the word “hate” in the context of loving our enemies. He pointed out that hating an enemy was the acceptable wisdom of that day but taught us to love instead.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Be perfect by loving those who persecute you so that you can be children of God! Once again our search for “hate the sin” in the New Testament has come up short.
There are two occurrences in the New Testament when the word “hate” is used in the context of hating ourselves. Now that’s a bit surprising to read if you have borderline new-age tendencies! Doesn’t this go entirely against what is commonly taught today? We are taught to love ourselves first and from that love of self our love for others will overflow into other people’s lives.
Love of self has another word…selfishness. And guess what…selfishness cannot be satiated. It is impossible to satisfy your own desires because when you try, your desires will grow. This is how all manner of addictions are had. Addictions are manifestations of selfishness or “love of self.”
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
There are only three verses in the New Testament that even come close to saying “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
- Romans 12:9
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”
Instruction for how to live – not for judging others.
- Hebrews 1:9
“You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
Quoting Psalm 45:6,7
- Revelation 2:6
“But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”
Unfortunately, there is nothing here to indicate that we have been instructed to hate someone else’s sin. My understanding is that these three verses are meant as guidance for how we should live our own lives, not as a standard we are to hold other people up to. When I love righteousness, it will affect my behavior. When I hate sin, then it will be more difficult for me to sin because I will hate it. The instruction to hate someone else’s sin is not found in the New Testament.
I am one of the many thousands of people who have said, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Now that I’ve done this little bit of research, I realize I was wrong to ever use that quote. We live and learn, right?
The bottom line is that there is no place in our Christian lives for hating other people NOR the things they do wrong. Instead of hating their sins, Jesus told us to endure them (calmly and without complaint). I know there are people, Christians, who will disagree with me on this point, but you can pile up as many scriptures as you like, I’m going with what Jesus taught because He is my Lord and Savior. Love trumps sin every day. Love is the light and sin is the darkness. When we love our neighbors, we bring light into their lives and that casts out the sin. John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
So I would like to amend the infamous quote to read, “Love the sinner, amen!”
Is it more complicated than that? No, I prefer the word complex. There are multiple parts to this issue, but the issue itself is a simple one. Love the sinner, amen!