Friday, June 13, 2014

Christians, No More “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.”

“Love the sinner, hate the sin,” this is one of those popular catchy things Christians say. I guess most Christians say it as means to demonstrate the Christian love for people, as well as to defend the Christian dogma.

However, for starters, which you are probably already aware of – this saying may not be of a Christian origin. This saying is said to be from Mahatma Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography. While some may argue that a good saying is a good saying, regardless of who said it, but that’s probably because they are unaware of the context in which Gandhi says it: “'Hate the sin and not the sinner' is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practised, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.” – Quote unquote directly from Gandhi’s “A Tussle with Power,” Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth.

Another context where this saying may be derived from is Augustine’s Letter 211 (c. 424), in which Augustine says, “For this reason, the man who lives by God’s standards and not by man’s, must needs be a lover of the good, and it follows that he must hate what is evil. Further, since no one is evil by nature, but anyone who is evil is evil because of a perversion of nature, the man who lives by God’s standards has a duty of ‘perfect hatred’ (Psalms 139:22) towards those who are evil; that is to say, he should not hate the person because of the fault, nor should he love the fault because of the person. He should hate the fault, but love the man. And when the fault has been cured there will remain only what he ought to love, nothing that he should hate” (Bettenson 2003).

At the surface level, we may easily come to the conclusion that “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is the sum of Augustine’s writing, but which is not true. The original Latin words that Augustine used for “He should hate the fault, but love the man” is “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which roughly means, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Despite the possible debate over the theological view on original sin that may arise out of this part of Augustine’s writing, coming from a wild lifestyle, Augustine’s personal experience must have given him some insight into his choice of words. His choice of words reflects how he perceived people who sins.

Most Christians believe that they are being loving when they say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” But the hearer may actually feel quite the opposite: “When you say ‘love the sinner,’ who are you referring to as the sinner?” “So, are you saying that I’m the only one here who sins, and that you don’t?” “Are you saying that I’m the one who needs to be ‘fixed,’ but not you?”

So what exactly are the problems with “Love the sinner, hate the sin?” First, go about calling people sinner is dehumanizing. It’s a way of saying that “I don’t see you as a person created in the image of God, and with a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. You are but a sinner to me.” Second, it’s proud. You falsely believed that just because you are a Christian, so you are immune from sinning. Yes, we are justified by Grace, and thus are perfect in God’s eye. And that’s my point exactly – the righteousness that you have is from Christ, and not from you or your outstanding virtue. Finally, this saying is not even biblical. Based particularly on Christ’s teaching in Matthew 7 on judging, the saying should more precisely be, “Love the sinner, hate YOUR OWN sin.”

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