My post last night bothered me a bit, partially because I don’t think I did a good job of explaining myself. Chalk it up to lateness of the hour and dealing with a cat that was trying to use my laptop as warming pad. So, I wanted to offer another post to share some thought on “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” and why there is a good reason to chuck it and a good reason to keep it.
On using it selectively Most people who object to the phrasing say it is used for only certain sins (ie: sexual sins). Other sins never have anyone saying this out loud. If people use this phrase to condemn a sexual minority, but never say it with other sins, that’s a telltale sign of hypocrisy and should be called out for it. Either it is used all the time or not used at all.
Words and actions As I said last night, my own mother has lived an ethic of loving the sinner. Here it is used out of love for the wayward soul. Pointing out someone’s sin is something that needs to be done from time to time, but it has to come from a place of love, not condescension.
What Ever Happened to Sin- The big reason that I am always a bit wary of chucking the phrase is because we in American society don’t really want to talk about sin. We don’t want to talk about the sin of others and most certainly don’t want to talk about our own sin. Most of the time when preachers talk against this phrase, there is no caveat about dealing with sin. We live in a culture that wants to feel good about themselves and others- they see religion more often than not as too judgemental. I agree that this is a problem. But there is still the matter of sin. How do we be truly honest with each other and not use words to condemn? Sin happens; how do we talk about it without being judgemental jerk?
About 15 years ago, I met a gay man in his 50s. I knew he had a boyfriend what I didn’t know is that he had another boyfriend as well. It was a threesome. This was new territory for me. I didn’t want to appear judgemental, so I said nothing to the man. I don’t know if that was the right thing, but it’s what I did. A few years later, the gentleman left to accept a job working for a religious organization in California. I found out that he lost his job for issues related to the threesome. His position was one that took place in the public and for that charity it was just too much to deal with.
Should I have said something earlier? I don’t know. What I do know is that for most of us in mainline/progressive churches we would rather not deal with sexual issues. Like many liberals, we want to believe all things are possible as long as there is consent. But aren’t Christians supposed to aim a bit higher?
Love Is All You Need- If you look at the image on top, you can see that the last panel has someone saying “love covers a multitude of sins.
There is something unsettling about that. Is that to mean that we should just ignore whatever sin is going on? Did Jesus really ignore sin when he was on earth? Did he only focus on the Pharisees, but everyone else was okay?
Growing up I did have a more strict upbringing that I ran from..kind of. I don’t want to head back to it, but isn’t just saying love is all we need nothing more than cheap grace? Does our faith require us to be better people?
So yes, criticize how people use that phrase. But if that is all we talk about, then we are sending the wrong message to people in the pews. I want to close with what I said in 2012:
Is there a way we can hold each other accountable and yet not be judgmental and condescending? I’d like to think so, but how do we practice that? Christian Piatt is correct to bring up that Jesus told folks not to worry about the splinter in our neighbor’s eyes and ignore the plank in our own. But does that mean we never to talk about what might be going on in another person’s life? What did Jesus mean when he said this? When is it right to “butt in” and when is it right to stay out?
Can we use this phrase in a way that doesn’t beat LGBT Christians like myself?
Those questions you asked in 2012 seem to constitute a huge qualifying “but” on Jesus’ words about judgement: “But, Jesus, what happens if I want to/need to judge anyway?” I think the heavy burden of proof is on us as whenever we attempt to bypass Jesus’ pretty clear words on judging others. Peace to you.