Often times Christians will say that we should “hate the sin, but love the sinner” and that God Himself hates the sins of humanity, but loves all sinners. For some reason or other, some people have taken issue with this saying though for different reasons. Some argue that it’s not a biblical saying because it isn’t found in The Bible. Others argue that it is impossible to separate sin from sinner and thus if you hate the sin, you hate the sinner and if you love the sinner, you love their sin. It’s impossible to do both.
First of all, although the precise saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner” isn’t found in The Bible exactly as it’s phrased in the quotation marks, the concept clearly is.
“Hate the sin,….”
“Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 97:10
“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” – Romans 12:9
“The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverted mouth, I hate.” – Proverbs 8:13
We see from these verses that if we truly love God, we will hate what is evil. Those who love God and fear God will hate evil deeds (i.e sin). You cannot be a true Christian if you have no hatred for sin.
“….but love the sinner.”
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18, cf. Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 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.” – Matthew 5:38-44
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you only love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:27-36
These passages command us to love our neighbor as ourselves — which means to take the same kind of care of our fellow man as we take care of ourselves. We naturally make sure we have everything we need (food, water, shelter, medicine, comfort), and we wouldn’t think to deprive ourselves of these things. We just naturally make sure we have everything we want and need. We should love our neighbors with that same kind of care. We should make sure our fellow man is not lacking in anything. In other words, by “love your neighbor as yourself”, Jesus is essentially saying “Do unto others exactly as you do for yourself.” The other passages I cited command us to love our enemies! We should love our enemies, pray for those who do evil, and hurt us, and abuse us, we should do good to those who do evil to us.
The Bible definitely teaches that we should “love the sinner.”
Is “Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner” a biblical saying?
Yes. The Bible commands us to hate what is evil, while loving our neighbors and our enemies, who have all done evil (see Romans 3:23, Psalm 14:2-4). “Hate the sin, but love the sinner” is merely a man-made phrase that communicates the joint teaching of The Bible passages we just looked at.
Is It Possible To Separate The Sin From The Sinner?
But is it possible to truly hate sin while loving the sinner performing the sin? I think it definitely is. Can a mother love her son even when he disobeys and throws temper tantrums? Does the mother love the tantrums even though she loves her son? Or does the mother hate her son if she hates the tantrums? I think any parent reading this blog post would answer “yes” to the first question, and “no” to the 2 latter questions. You never stop loving your child even when he disobeys. You hate the fact that he won’t just do as he’s told, and throws a fit whenever you deny him something he wants, but just because you hate the sin (the tantrums) doesn’t mean you don’t love the sinnER (i.e your child). You separate the person from their sin, why can’t God? You separate the person from their sin, why can’t Christians?
It’s absurd to think that parents only love their children when they’re behaving and hate them when they’re misbehaving, yet that is the logical entailment of saying you can’t hate the sin without also hating the sinner.
C.S Lewis had this to say about the phrase in his book “Mere Christianity”; “I used to think this a silly, straw-splitting distinction: how could you hate what a man did and not hate the man? But years later it occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life — namely myself. However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself. There had never been the slightest difficulty about it. In fact the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man. Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”
Lewis realized that he never had a self loathing problem in spite of hating the things that he did. I can relate to what Lewis is saying. I too have absolutely abhorred my sins, and grieved when I kept falling into them, yet I never once hated myself. This shows that it is possible to bare hatred towards a certain action or behavior while not also hating the one doing it.
Does God Hate The Sin And Love The Sinner?
We’ve already established that The Bible commands us to love sinners while hating their sins, but does God do the same thing? Does God command us to do something that He Himself is unwilling to do? No. God loves sinners and hates sins just like Christians do. The Bible teaches that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Who does God love? The world i.e every person on the planet, the global population. God loved the world so much that He became incarnate and died on the cross for the sins of every human being. Jesus was tortured on the cross so we wouldn’t have to be. Jesus suffered Hell so we wouldn’t have to suffer Hell. Jesus died in the place of sinners. Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrated His love for us in the death of Jesus on the cross, and it says He displayed this love for us “while we were still sinners”. Does God love sinners? Yes. He loves “the world” (John 3:16) and showed His love for the world by His death on the cross (Romans 5:8). Jesus said before His death that sacrificing yourself to save others is the highest display of love that there is (see John 15:13). Moreover, 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16 teach that “God is love”. In other words, God’s very essence is love. Love is an essential property of God.
But does God hate sin? Absolutely! Proverbs 6:16-19 says “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.”
Moreover, Habbakuk 1:13 says that God’s eyes are so pure that He cannot bare to even look upon evil. The verse says that He cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
God The Father says to God The Son, “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Psalm 45:7 cf. Hebrews 1:9)
There is nothing theologically inaccurate or unbiblical about the saying “Hate the sin, but love the sinner” or telling people that “God hates sin, but loves sinners”.