Sunday 20th April 2014,
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The Biggest Lie I’ve Ever Heard

Benjamin Sledge September 12, 2012 Blog, Dishonesty, Honesty, Lies 28 Comments

Attention! Due to some valid points and concerns raised over this post, I’ve written a follow-up piece you can read here.

“LOVE the sinner, but HATE the sin.”

@media 2006 - Geek tattoos

I hear that crap-tastic comment tossed around like it’s the mission statement of Christians everywhere for the 21st century.

Any time I have students that go out and get hammered and wake up in a van wearing a Spiderman costume only to trudge their way across campus I get to hear that Christian ethos tossed in my face about their behavior.

What a crock….

Yeah I said it.

Do you realize what a ridiculous saying that is???  Do you realize just how stupid it makes you look when you say it?  Here let me put it in perspective for you.

By saying “Love the sinner and hate the sin” you’re effectively saying, “I love you, but everything you take pleasure in, everything that you find enjoyable, everything about your lifestyle, I HATE?”

PLEASE PLEASE tell me how you can love someone but effectively hate everything about them!??  It makes no sense!

 

“Oh I love you, but I hate your homosexual lifestyle”

You just said you hate them!

Untitled

As if this method ever REALLY works……

Do you see why the rest of the world and even Christians that have fallen into sin feel so judged even when you’re trying to love them?  Because you’re not.  You love the potential version of themselves without sin instead of loving them where they’re at with their flaws.  And the grand irony in you loving a version of themselves that’s more “cleaned up” is that God says your righteous acts are like used menstrual rags before him (Isaiah 64:6.  Look it up.  Filthy rags is really translated “used menstrual rags” in Hebrew), AND there’s never not going to be a version of you without sin!

Now before I get a tall dose of Hater-ade in the comments sections from Christians who are like, “But God says he hates sin in the bible!”

Yeah, God also says he hates divorce, but it doesn’t say he hates the divorcee.  He hates the affects of sin and what it does to his creation.

Think about it.  If your friend is a raging alcoholic you probably hate the fact he’s destroying his life and harming his body, right?  You hate the effects of what’s happening, but if he’s truly your friend then you don’t hate him for being an alcoholic do you?  You hate the effects of what it’s doing.

Christians everywhere have bought into the biggest lie ever where we think that somehow we have to let people know what we hate or disapprove of in order to make sure we don’t give Jesus a black eye.  And instead of hurting for our friends and having compassion we end up hating them because we want to be seen as righteous.  The Pharisees in the Bible have this same problem that we have, but Jesus, God in the flesh, demands we act differently.

Let me show you what I mean.

 

Early in the morning he (Jesus) came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Okay, so they’re trying to trap Jesus here. Here’s the thing about trapping Jesus though. It’s really hard because He’s God. So it’s kinda like this.  When I was in youth ministry, high school kids would always try to play pranks on you at youth camp. But their plan was just intrinsically flawed from the beginning. They’re all dressed like ninjas, but it’s 2:00 in the afternoon. “Wow, didn’t see you guys in broad daylight cause you were dressed in black…cool outfit”  It’s just a flawed prank from the get-go.  So here’s the trap with Jesus and it’s a dumb trap: If Jesus doesn’t demand her death, He’s broken the Law of Moses, BUT if Jesus demands her to be stoned to death, he lacks mercy and compassion. There’s the trap. No matter what He does, they’ve got Him. No matter what He does here, they’ve got Him cornered, except for the whole “I’m God” thing.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
(John 8:2-11 ESV)

Now get this picture.  Here you have this woman.  Her clothes are probably torn, she’s probably been dragged through the street, cowering and shivering, and thinks she’s going to die for sure. The Law demands it.  And then one by one her accusers, oldest first…..Now why older?  Cause there’s an arrogance to youth isn’t there?  “I’m not that bad!  My junk isn’t THAT big a deal….”  But old men….they know where they’ve jacked up in their life.

So, they drop their stones and leave.  Every last one of them.  And then imagine this: Jesus, gently bending down towards this cowering woman and I imagine lifting her head softly so he can look her in the eyes and smile, says “Who condemns you?  No one?  Then neither do I….”

Now here’s the madness in that story.  Jesus doesn’t ask her if she’s sorry does he?  He doesn’t demand a firm amendment to her ways!  “Better get that adultery thing cleaned up.  Check back with me in a day so I can make sure you’re not sleeping around again….” He just say’s “go and sin no more.”  He certainly doesn’t seem too concerned that she’s going to run back into her lovers arms after some time has passed, does he?  She just cowers there and gets absolution before she even asks.

I don’t think anyone of us would have been like, “shoulda stoned her, Sledge” but here’s what we’d demand even if we’re being gracious: A gratuitous apology and continual check-ups making sure she’s changed otherwise WE KNOW she’d be back in adultery before sundown.

Jesus_juke

But ah! The love of god, his grace and mercy….it’s so undignified and apparently based on what we just read and the rest of the Gospels, he expects us to behave in the same manner.  God offers us this inexplicable, embarrassing type of love that once we accept it he expects us to show it to others.  I can live with God loving me scandalously, but I think knowing that we have to show that type of love to someone else is a hard pill to swallow isn’t it?

And so therefore, we’re not really honest with people are we?

Because we don’t want to love them like Jesus does we invent stupid catchphrases like, “Love the sinner but hate the sin!” so we can secretly hate what we don’t approve of in their lives.

Let’s stop loving and lying like Pharisees, where we can pretend externally, but hate internally.  I think it’s all time we learned a lesson in grace, and maybe take some stock in our hearts about where we’ve lied to ourselves about really loving people.

I know what Jesus wrote in the sand that day…..he wrote a story of grace for us to emulate.

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About The Author

Communicator, writer, speaker, and a college pastor for Gateway Church in Austin, TX. Veteran of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and recipient of the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Most passionate about Jesus, his wife, art, tattoos, and Texas BBQ (in that order). Email: ben@heartsupport.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/HopelessPoetic Brian Like

    Great article Sledge, I agree with a great amount you say. Graciousness and mercy is something the modern church drastically needs. I’m in the same spot as you, I hate that we, as modern Christians, tend to fall into the easiness that is hate.

    However, I was a tad confused as to what exactly you were suggesting we do then. I read that we are not to hate the sin because that is invariably hating the sinner, but we are to hate the effects of the sin on that person and try to build them up instead of judging them. I agree with this sentiment, but I feel this is incomplete. If a person has cancer, you don’t just hate the fact that their hair is falling out, or that their health is failing, you hate the cancer that is causing all of the pain and sickness in their life too. You have to get rid of the cancer to heal the sick person. I believe that is exactly what Jesus meant when He told the adulterous woman to “go and sin no more”. He most likely knew that it was inevitable that she would run back to her lover, but in no way did He want that or condone that. I know that’s not what you’re saying at all, but I fear that some may fall into that on accident.

    The saying “hate the sin, love the sinner” is a crock, and I’m glad that we’re finally able to come out and say that finally. We need to hate sin, but not focus on hating the sin. That’s not our job description. Christ calls us to “go and make disciples of all the nations”, not “go and reform people and make them sin no more”. That’s His job. (Though a part of discipleship is the acknowledgment of sin and the work towards knowing it to be dead, for Christ has given us victory over sin; but that’s a different conversation for a different time.)

    In Christ,
    Brian

    • http://twitter.com/SledgeHS Benjamin Sledge

      Thanks for the response Brian! And I’ll try and clear up any confusion you may have. I don’t think the adulterous woman ended up back in her lovers arms. I think once you’ve reached that rock bottom point but are instead shown a scandalous grace as opposed to judgement it causes a heart change. I’m sure we’ve all known someone who has abused grace in order to stay in destructive cycles and that’s where tough love comes in. However, to hate them because of choices that we view as sin is ridiculous. Like you said, “if they have cancer, you have to get the cancer out”, but what if the person who has cancer is in denial to it? What if they don’t want help? What good is it if they’re drowning and you sit on the sidelines going “Oh I hate that you’re drowning! Can’t you see you’re drowning!??” instead of swimming out there yourself or throwing a life raft out. Sometimes they slap that away and all you can do is stand on the shore and hold up a mirror to show them they’re drowning.

      Romans 2:3 states that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance”. And so my whole point in this post was that the way people see Jesus determines the outworking of Jesus in their lives. The way view Jesus pours out into how they see other people, how they view other people, how they look at Christians, and even how they look at church. The way they see Him, the way they view Him, that trickles out onto everyone. So, if they see Jesus as this kind of Pharisaic master of morality who demands perfection, then what they’ll do is they will morally confine to that and then they’ll expect everyone to act likewise. And if you see Jesus as this man who sees dirty people and clean people and wicked people and right people, then what ends up happening is you see people that way. Jesus never saw the sin. He saw the person and loved them in spite of it. And that, ultimately lead to them changing their ways.

      • scottchaney

        Jude 21 tells us to stay in the love of God. That’s the key for everything! Compassion is called for according to verse 22, and we’re to hate “even the garment defiled by the flesh,” verse 23. I understand your points and the heart behind them. But Hebrews 1:9 says this. “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” And Psalm 119:104, “Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.” Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
        pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.” I’ll stop with Amos 5:15. “Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate.
        It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” Again, love is the cog in the wheel.

  • Sam

    i do agree with a lot of what you said, but really i dont get whats so wrong about the “love the sinner, hate the sin” thing. i mean i dont like/use that saying, but it makes perfect sense to me. when i say to my friend “listen, i love you, but i hate that you are smoking weed” that doesnt mean i love her less for smoking. its just a brotherly admonition. and it is not a lie, and not the biggest lie you’ve ever heard.

    • http://twitter.com/SledgeHS Benjamin Sledge

      I’ll share what I replied to Brian:

      Romans 2:3 states that “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance”. And so my whole point in this post was that the way people see Jesus determines the outworking of Jesus in their lives. The way they view Jesus pours out into how they see other people, how they view other people, how they look at Christians, and even how they look at church. The way they see Him, the way they view Him, that trickles out onto everyone. So, if they see Jesus as this kind of Pharisaic master of morality who demands perfection, then what they’ll do is they will morally confine to that and then they’ll expect everyone to act likewise. And if you see Jesus as this man who sees dirty people and clean people and wicked people and right people, then what ends up happening is you see people that way. Jesus never saw the sin. He saw the person and loved them in spite of it. And that, ultimately lead to them changing their ways.

      • Alexander

        I have a question then, say I see this person and love them in spite of their flaws. As I have numerous ones and God still loves me. If they ask me is it or wrong for them to be doing things like getting drunk, stealing, or sleeping around. Is it wrong for me the state my view on the matter, but tell them I will love them regardless of their actions?

        • http://twitter.com/SledgeHS Benjamin Sledge

          Great Question! Let me give you a “for instance”. I have quite a few homosexual friends in my life. My wife and I spend a lot of time of at the house of one of my friends and his partner. We’ve talked in the past and he knows I don’t agree with his lifestyle based on my spiritual convictions. It’s been brought up once and never adressed again. Why? Because he knows where I stand. He doesn’t need a daily reminder. Imagine if every morning someone reminded you with the fact you’ve lusted in your thoughts or thought poorly of someone or judged them. Would you ever want to change? Or just feel beat up? More importantly, with my friend he gets to see the fact that while we may disagree, I love him LIKE CRAZY. That I’m invested in him and take great pleasure in being his friend, and his thought process is, “This cat my have some weird beliefs and convictions, but man he loves me”. The other part to that is that because our friendship is deep I get to exclaim the glory of the Gospel to him. No one changes because they’re reminded they’re falling short daily, they change because of God’s great kindness to the fact that while they were dead in their trespasses, Christ loved and died for them. Christ is going to be the only thing that changes a heart, not me telling them that I love them but don’t like what their involved in. The example I set to them of what Christ looks like to is either going to attract them, or repel them. People should always know where you stand and you should always be allowed to voice what you believe, but remember that you are an image bearer for Christ, so if people see you as the guy that reminds them of their sin they see Jesus that way, but if they see you as the guy who proclaims the glory of the Gospel and loves them then they see an accurate picture of Jesus.

      • Jordan Baker

        Haha i find this statement kind of funny, “Jesus never saw the sin.” Jesus always saw the sin. Always. Always. Always. He also saw the person. But if Jesus never saw the sin, then why did he banish Adam and Eve from the Garden… If he didn’t see the sin then there would have been no reason to banish them correct? I am also wondering why you would hate the effects of sin, but not the sin itself. The sin is causing the person to faulter and stumble, not the effects of the sin. If i lie and it doesn’t effect me negatively, does that mean it is ok since the sin had no effect on me? God would punish people for their sin, not the effects of the sin. Another example here. If i had a raging alcoholic friend like you said in your post, but it wasn’t hurting his everyday life, does that mean it would be ok for him to get drunk every night? The effect isn’t hurting him negatively, he is just doing what he thinks is fun. That would mean that God doesn’t hate it because the effects of sin are not there. That is essentially what you are saying is it not?

  • john

    The difference between us and God in regard to loving and hating is vast. Even as Christians, we remain imperfect in our humanity and cannot love perfectly, nor can we hate perfectly. But God can do both of these perfectly, because He is God. God can hate without any sinful intent. Therefore, He can hate the sin and the sinner in a perfectly holy way and still be willing to lovingly forgive at the moment of that sinner’s repentance and faith Mal 1:3; Rev 2:6, 2 Peter 3:9

    Mysterious but true is the fact that God can perfectly love and hate a person at the same time. This means He can love him as someone He created and can redeem, as well as hate him for his unbelief and sinful lifestyle. We, as imperfect human beings, cannot do this; thus, we must remind ourselves to “love the sinner, hate the sin.” as cliche as it sounds it works in some thought process.

    How exactly does that work? We hate sin by refusing to take part in it and by condemning it when we see it. Sin is to be hated, not excused or taken lightly. We love sinners by being faithful in witnessing to them of the forgiveness that is available through Jesus Christ. A true act of love is treating someone with respect and kindness even though he/she knows you do not approve of his lifestyle and/or choices. It is not loving to allow a person to remain stuck in sin. It is not hateful to tell a person he/she is in sin. In fact, the exact opposites are true. We love the sinner by speaking the truth in love. We hate the sin by refusing to condone, ignore, or excuse it.

    • Nick Dallaportas

      I think this was a great post. The LTSHTS phrase should be someone’s personalized license plate……. We all need to read the sermon on the mount and then pick up some stones if we dare. We all forget that Jesus addressed the heart of the issues in people while still addressing the action as a visible symptom of the real problem Obviously we are not Jesus and cannot judge someone’s heart but if we claim to be Christians and have the Holy Spirit dwell in us then we might give a little listen before we open our fat judge mental mouths with regards to people we have no business condemning .
      With that said, Jesus did ream the Pharisees and we are given clear action to take with other believers concerning morality. Read the epistles, they usually go something like, you guys love Jesus, Jesus loves you, you are great at ( fill in the blank) but you really suck in these areas and if you don’t change you should be thrown into the street. I know I’m kind of paraphrasing but you get the point.
      I could go into more detail about planks in eyes and such, but I’ll keep this somewhat brief. I’m not really the guy to preach this, I’ve done plenty of hating and still do. I know I’ll stop one day but it won’t happen till I’m sleeping with the fishes.
      So the condensed version is , love people where they are at , sin is just a symptom of the deeper issues, preach the gospel not the law, call for repentance!
      And someone needs to make LTSHTS stickers for all the haters.

  • Ryan

    I’m really confused by you man. Buzzwords and catchphrases are like live grenades that have a tendency to be dropped or thrown in the wrong direction, but the Bible’s pretty clear, God hates sin and we should too. I guess my question is this: Do you hate sin Sledge? It’s what has/is destroying our lives and what Jesus dealt with to start healing us. I know God’s love is furious with the things that are wreaking havoc with the ones He loves, and with those who embrace their own destruction. Not because He hates them, but in the same way you’d get angry if your kid ran out into live traffic despite you screaming at them to stop. And you would scream at them with all the love in your heart. All metaphors aside, (as you’ve rightly pointed out above), screaming at people about judgement and hell and stuff generally doesn’t get the message across, so I’m not advocating that. I just know that lying about a medical condition doesn’t get you any closer to the cure, regardless of whether you’re lying to yourself or someone else.

    After answering the question above about hating sin, the next thing to figure out is what we will do about that answer in light of what the Bible says. That’s something I have to meditate on. Sin sucks, and “when God says don’t, what he really means is ‘Don’t hurt yourself.” “Love the sinner, hate the sin” isn’t necessarily a contradiction (I think you meant to say contradiction instead of lie) but it is a dumb saying to whip around all the time.

    • http://twitter.com/SledgeHS Benjamin Sledge

      Hey Ryan! Thanks for your input. I’m actually writing a follow-up piece to address a lot of different comments and emails I got, so stay on the lookout for that!

      • http://www.facebook.com/toni.wegner.98 Toni Wegner

        I’ve been battling this in my heart for a while. you’ve discussed some sin here that is pretty self damaging and yeah I can understand the stance on that, what about sin like Hurting a child, raping a child, do we say “love ya, but not your choices.” I think if we Look at David we are allowed to hate, maybe even allowed to act, but out first a foremost reaction is to turn bare those emotions to God.

        psalm 139 19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
        Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
        20 They speak of you with evil intent;
        your adversaries misuse your name.
        21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
        and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
        22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
        I count them my enemies.

  • http://twitter.com/Chris_APCHome Christian Powell

    I agree with you on pretty much everything as far as I’m concerned, but there is one thing I disagree with you on. There is a version of us with NO sin whatsoever. Let me explain. By receiving the Holy Spirit upon baptism of the Holy Spirit, you have the same spirit as Christ, the same one that raised Him from the dead (Romans 8:11). All of Romans 8 speaks of how Jesus was sinless and not condemned one bit because He walked in the spirit. So how can we, having the same spirit that made Jesus blameless, not sin? Walking in the spirit. He also gives a little “quick guide” as to flee from temptation to be blameless in Matthew 4:1-11. Fasting and rebuking sin with the word of God as examples. But I totally agree with you on rephrasing “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

  • Jaymes Nemec

    thank you for this. My friends shove “love the sinner…” in my face, and I knew it couldn’t be correct according to what the Bible says, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on the fallacy of it. Thank you so much, Ben.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rootsbelow Tim Novinger

    If my future wife cheats on me, I am going to hate the infidelity. I would try my hardest to love and forgive her, but I will hate that sin. That doesn’t mean I love her less as a person, but to not say that I hate that sin is either saying that I like/love it, or that I’m impartial to it, and I’m not impartial to sin. I think the “statement for Christians in the 21st century” is to avoid the fact that we are sinners and to try to ignore them when Christ always told people, “go and sin no more,” yet we act like it’s wrong to tell people they are sinning. People won’t repent if they don’t know they’re sinning.

    • Alexandra

      Thing is, people almost always know they’re sinning (in accordance with the christian definition of sin). If you ask an unbeliever on the street what they think sin is, they will likely answer pre-marital sex, drugs, swearing, and homosexuality. Because we’re really good at letting people know what we disagree with – that’s easy. It’s immensely difficult to love people where they’re at without first requiring them to try to “clean up” their actions.

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  • http://twitter.com/micahjmurray Micah J. Murray

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve felt the same things, I think, but it’s so difficult to sort out the words. You’re courageous.

  • http://www.facebook.com/logan.smith.969 Logan Smith

    goin hard in the paint my dude

  • rob

    interesting. My take is that we should spend more energy hating our own sin rather than our brother or sisters sin. i personally feel that you should have no opionion about someones sin in there life unless you are willing to devote time and energy to help them with it. too many people can just walk by pointing the finger at the fallen person ( as if the fallen person didn’t know) without reaching a hand out to help them up.

  • carmendelia

    Ok I kinda understood this. For example I have gay relatives, no gay friends. I live thousands of miles away, and do I hate them? No way! But would I hang out with them? No. You can’t serve 2 masters. And If you are gay you cannot serve Christ so I personally wouldn’t want those types of spirits around me. If I am stuck in a room with someone who is gay, a prostitute, etc. I will definitely minister to them and share Christ. and be there for them, but ONLY if they are looking to change their lives. I am not going to be friends and have lunch dates with homosexuals and just be ok with that lifestyle. What does that say about me, entertaining those kinds of spirits? I honestly would love to know how you do it. Not being mean, I have always been interested in knowing, cause that would be hard for me :-) Either way you rock and so do your posts!

    • http://twitter.com/SledgeHS Benjamin Sledge

      We’re posting my follow up blog today which should help tell you how and why I’m able to do it. Hope you like it!

  • Pingback: The Biggest Lie I've Ever Heard | Benjamin Sledge

  • Jabz

    This is a great article. I’m not sure if I missed this out while reading but I would like to mention something interesting I heard during a sermon.

    Why did Jesus write on the ground?

    Jesus started writing on the ground to tell that He was the one who wrote the law. He did not just force it down everyone’s throat that He made the law, instead he bent down and started writing. This illustrates how we should be humble when confronting a sinner that questions our belief, we do not force them to believe but instead we set an example of what we believe in. Instead of judging and condemning others, first, look at your own sins; in a similar way, write down what you did to repent and set a good example.

  • Jo Hudgins

    This is a simply fantastic article. While the saying came out with pure intentions it quickly became a cliche and an excuse for others to judge others but ‘Out of love’. It’s something that I’ve seen some people just take flaccidly as ‘you sin, oh well, I love you” but others more extreme like you brought up as “I love you but I hate that you’re home sexual.”. Basically using it as a ‘no offense’ way to criticize somebody “No offense but your band sucks and you’re ugly” and then get confused as to why they get offended.
    I believe what Jesus was trying to point out to us was just simply “Love the sinner, don’t worry about their sin, you have your own to deal with”. He’s basically telling the Pharisees that even though she sinned, her sin is irrelevant in his eyes when surrounded by their sin. Jesus knew all of their hearts and how corrupt they were and due to this, he saw it in a way that very few would have looked at it. He saw imperfection pointing out imperfection, which is the equivalent to the analogy of somebody pointing out a splinter in ones eye, while they have a log in their own eye. This correlates perfectly with my all time favorite quote of “Love God, Love others, Nothing else matters” (Zane Black) The”Love others (Sinners), Nothing else matters (Their Sin)” part, God doesn’t want us to worry about the Sins of others as we don’t have any ground to speak on, just to love them, despite their imperfections as Jesus did to the woman and does to us.

    • http://www.heartsupport.com/ Benjamin Sledge

      Jo! Yes! You’re exactly correct and read my mind as to what I was saying! Great great insight to this and I couldn’t have said it better than what you just wrote :)

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