Thursday, March 22, 2012

Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin.

How many times have I heard the phrase "Love the sinner, hate the sin"?  It sounds so biblical, holy, righteous, Christian and rolls off the tongue easily. 

According to Reverend Dr Cheri DiNovo, Love the sinner, hate the sin' is not Christian.

Did you know that the saying, "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has absolutely nothing to do with our faith? It is not to be found anywhere in the Bible. It was said by Mahatma Gandhi on one of his not so good days and it has been used to beat people up. It has been used to do violence to people ever since. Something Gandhi would never ever have wished.

What is sin exactly?  Is it stealing the stationery supplies from work?  Is it getting so drunk you throw up?  Is it not going to church on Sundays?  Is it swearing?  Is it looking at a man or woman with lust? 

What does ‘sin’ mean biblically? It doesn’t mean ‘bad’. It doesn’t mean ‘bad things’. Sin means, and there are two main words for it, a Hebraic word for it, ‘chatta’t’ and there’s a Greek word, ‘hamartia’. Hamartia and chatta’t mean, approximately, separation from God. Hamartia is an archery word. It means that you let the arrow go and you miss the mark. The arrow goes astray. Somehow all of us have taken a wrong turn, a wrong path. We’ve taken a wrong road. We’ve turned our gaze from the divine, the source of all love and become embroiled in all sorts of other ‘stuff’. That’s sin.

The opposite of sin is not purity or goodness. The opposite of sin is faithfulness. When we turn toward the divine we are saved.

That alone is a radical thought.   How about an even more radical thought?  Loving the sinner and forgiving the sin.

Candace Chellew writes in Whosover Magazine... Time after time we see Jesus forgiving the people around him -- even those who finally persecuted and killed him. How much clearer could Jesus make his call to us to exercise our God-given power to forgive? Nowhere in the gospels do we find Jesus hating anyone for anything -- instead, we find him forgiving everyone, even his executioners. This is not a model of "loving the sinner and hating the sin." Indeed, this is a model of "loving the sinner and forgiving the sin."

In the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples forgiveness is key. In the Lord's Prayer we ask God to "forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). If the phrase isn't clear enough, Jesus expounds upon the directive in verses 14-15: "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Parent will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Parent forgive your trespasses." 

How could Jesus be clearer on our purpose? Our goal is to forgive, not once but "seventy times seven," (Matthew 18:22) if necessary. 

Can we do that?  In my experience it can be easy to forgive and love someone who is your friend or who does things the same way as you do but its much harder to forgive or love some one who behaves different to you.

You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." Matthew 5: 43-48 TM

We are called to live generously and graciously towards other, because that is how God lives towards us.  I don't know if we can live that way without the daily help of our loving Father and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us. 

If we hold onto the 'Love the sinner and hate the sin' philosophy, we haven't truly heard Jesus' call to love your enemies and His call to forgive.

And another Gandhi quote comes to mind right now.."The weak can never forgive because forgiveness is the attribute of the strong".

May the strength of the Lord be with us.  And may we all walk in love and forgiveness.  Amen

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