"LOVE THE SINNER AND HATE THE SIN"?
The words which form the title of this article are being increasingly used by the undiscerning to describe the love of God towards His Servants. It seems that to “love the sinner, and hate the sin” is regarded by increasing numbers as being the teaching of the Bible, which those who believe the Bible should accept. The present writer has been confronted with this position on a number of occasions.
But as is often the case, the facts of the matter are very different. It will come as a surprise to some that actually, the phrase occurs nowhere in the Bible. It’s origin in its first form would appear to be from the Catholic Saint Augustine, whose letter 211 (c. 424) contains the phrase Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which roughly translates as “With love for mankind and hatred of their sins.” It’s more popular form is expressed: “love the sinner but hate the sin”, or “hate the sin and not the sinner”, the latter expression coming from Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography of 1929. With such dubious sources as these, we would do well to stop and consider whether or not the popular phrase does in fact reflect the Truth of Scripture. In doing so, we need to consider:
- What the Bible teaches concerning love and hate
- What the Bible teaches concerning sinners
- What the Bible teaches concerning repentant sinners
- Bible Teaching concerning Love and Hate
It may come as a surprise to some that Hate is a characteristic of the faithful, as well as Love. Ecclesiastes chapter 3 states that there is “a time to love, and a time to hate” (Eccl. 3:8). Amos chapter 5 exhorts; “hate the evil and love the good” (Amos. 5:15). The Psalms teach the same principle—consider the following citations:
“Ye that love Yahweh hate evil” (Psa. 97:10).
“Though thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.” (Psa. 119:104).
“… therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way” (Psa. 110:128).
And again, it is taught in the Proverbs:
“The fear of Yahweh is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth do I hate” (Prov. 8:13).
This latter passage is most significant, as “the fear of Yahweh” is stated time and time again in Scripture to be “the beginning of wisdom” (cp Prov. 9:10), but this passage actually defines what the fear of Yahweh involves—the hating of evil.
- What the Bible teaches concerning Sinners:
So much is clear: “love the sinner and hate the sin”. The hatred of sin is something that defines the character of those who would constitute “the faithful”. But what of those who commit the sin? Should sinners be unconditionally loved? Consider the following:
“Yahweh trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth” (Psa. 11:5).
“Do not I hate them, O Yahweh that hate thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” (Psa. 139:21-22).
“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13).
The Scriptures are clear and unequivocal therefore: men who constitute “the wicked” are to be hated as much as their sin. Esau is a prime example of this, it is explicitly stated that he is among the company of the “hated” of God. As far as the Bible is concerned therefore, it is certainly not the case that as a general principle regarding all men that we should “love the sinner and hate the sin”.
- What the Bible teaches concerning Repentant Sinners:
As we saw in our first paragraph, the sinners that we are told by men to “love” comprise all of mankind. However, Scripture teaches that there is only a particular group of men that Yahweh loves: those who repent of their sins:
“ … except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lu. 13:3, 5)
“… Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
“ … hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (Jas. 2:5)
It is written concerning the sacrifice of Christ as follows:
“scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
The love of God is extended “towards us” – that is, the category of those who are “rich in faith”. Though we be sinners, we are repentant sinners, and heirs of the kingdom promised to those who love God. Let us therefore shun the wisdom of this world, and embrace the faith of those who love God. We, as the Psalmist, hate those unrepentant sinners—the “wicked” of the world, but are lovers of those who seek the Truth. Let us appreciate the honoured position of our high calling, and continue in well doing, that when the Master appears we might comprise part of that great company of the Redeemed, whom Messiah loved, and purchased with his own shed blood.