Of course the only way we can really know if we love the sinner is by spending time with them and helping them when they’re in need. How do we really feel about the drug addict with needle scars and missing teeth? What is our real attitude towards the homeless person who hasn’t bathed or changed their clothes for days or weeks? Do we really love the gay man or woman at work (or in our family) or do we merely tolerate them? Do we pretend to love people but then say derogatory things about them behind their back? We only know the true nature of our heart when we are confronted by someone we struggle with. And let’s be honest about our struggles rather than hide behind “love the sinner; hate the sin.”
Another reason why this saying is so wrong is that often the sinner and the sin are inseparable. In other words, someone’s behaviour often defines him or her as a person so when we say we “hate the sin” what the person hears is “I hate you.” The Bible talks about loving the person – “For God so loved the world!” (John 3:16).
The statement “Love your neighbour as yourself” is found nine times in the Bible – divine emphasis for a reason. In Galatians 5:14 the apostle Paul says that this truth sums up the entire law. In James 2:8 this command is called “The Royal Law.” Jesus illustrated how we are to love our neighbour as ourselves by telling the story of The Good Samaritan. Samaritans were hated and despised by Jews in Jesus’ day. The Samaritans were half-cast Jews because they had intermarried with Gentiles. They were viewed as worse than gentiles – the lowest of the low, the greatest sinners. Jesus could not have found a more powerful illustration to prove His point. He didn’t teach “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” He taught “Love the person like they were you.” May this challenge us to the core of our faith!