"Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" as an Act of Violence

A phrase far too common in the Christian landscape of the US “love the sinner, hate the sin” has been used so frequently, some Christians I have spoken with actually believe that it can be found in the Bible. While those Christians are searching the Scriptures for a verse that does not exist,  my thoughts on the issue have grown so loud in the back of my mind I could no longer cease from writing about this awful phrase and what it really means. 1. Perpetuates a Hostile Environment

In most places I have read or heard this phrase used it has been directed toward a specific demographic, namely the LGBT community. For some reason no one feels the need to love the gossiper and hate the gossip, or love the glutton and not the gluttony, or to love the liar and not the lying. Yet loving the gay or lesbian and not the gayness; loving the gay person not their “lifestyle”’ loving the transgender but not their transition; loving the bisexual and not their sexual agency is completely normal? While most people would respond I hate all sin the same, the “sin” of being LGBT is not a “sin” that one makes by choice. Liars choose to lie, gossipers choose to gossip, gluttons choose to be gluttonous – LGBT people do not choose to be LGBT – in fact they turn away from lying by being honest and coming out.

This unbalanced treatment of the LGBT community is perpetuating a system of hatred and exclusion that the world offers. Christians are called to be Christ-like but often I find that Christians are more like the Pharisees that Jesus rebuked for their hypocrisy. Rather than being the hands and feet of Christ the Church has taken God’s “love letter to humanity” and made it a club with which to clobber the LGBT community. The Bible which is meant to point humanity to God is being used in the most aggressive of ways to separate LGBT people from God, drawing a divide between those whom God really loves and those whom God tolerates.

2. It Reinforces Oppressive Power Dynamics

In my experience, I have never left a conversation with a sibling in Christ who told me they love me but hated my sin with a sense that they felt we were equals. By telling me that I am loved despite my “sins”, first makes it seems as if my being a “sinner” is a crime against the person speaking to me a laughable assertion even if it is a subtle underlying message. What Christians are doing when they use this phrase is set themselves up as judges over LGBT people and although they claim to not being judging, by virtue of naming queerness as sinful they have already become judge, jury, and executioner.

rev-Cheng3. It Really Is Not Loving

By placing someone in the category of sinner you have stripped them of the category God placed them in – beloved child. You see when people make judgments on God’s behalf about what sin is or is not, they deny the power of the Holy Spirit in that person’s life – and they are inserted themselves into that person’s relationship with the Sovereign God. When an LGBT person claims to be in love and wishes to enter into a relationship with a person of the same-sex they are not asking the Church for permission, they are in love (God is love[1] meaning God has already drawn them together lest anyone cast their relationship asunder[2]) Calling that loving relationship sinful is by default blasphemous and heretical.

How then is this statement an act of violence towards LGBT people? Very simply it takes their humanity and says that it is no longer valid. The phrase “love the sinner hate the sin” shuts down the opportunity for conversation, it ignores the reality of God walking incarnationally with these persons, and it silences the oppressed while upholding the views of the oppressor. It is hard for those under the foot to speak loud enough to be heard. While LGBT Christians are begging for crumbs from the masters’ table, heterosexual cisgender Christians continue believing that the bread crumb of “love the sinner hate the sin” is more than enough nourishment for their spiritual needs. Yet, these Christians do not offer a solution to the “sin”.

If same-sex sexual relations are the “sin”, is it okay then for LGBT couples to merely hold hands and kiss and have a close emotional relationship? Or does the “sin” start when they think “so-and-so is really attractive?” How does God aptly judge whose gayness to judge? Does God hate the “sin” of out gayness as much as God allegedly hates the “sin” of ex-gays[3]? “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is so violent because it equivocates the “sin” of being with the sin of committing. A LGBT person is LGBT – they cannot stop being LGBT no matter how much they pray or dance or sing and get covered by the oil – they will always be the same person biologically predisposed to be attracted to a person of the same-sex. On the other hand a liar is not really destined to be a liar forever, they can always stop lying; a thief can stop thieving; an adulterer can stop committing adultery – therefore one can love the liar and hate the lies or love the thief and hate the thieving. The only way an LGBT person can stop being LGBT is to die. How then could one possibly love the Gay and hate the gayness? The gayness of the Gay person informs the entire person, the gayness is woven into the very fabric of the humanity. Since we know that God loves the person – God must not be surgically removing massive parts of that person in order to love them. God just loves. For Christians to surgically remove parts of human beings in order to “love” them when God does not is the most arrogant and one of the most violently harsh acts that can be committed emotionally towards the LGBT person.

The choice the “love the sinner, hate the sin” Christian must make then is rather simple, either cease to claim loving LGBT persons when one truly does not, or follow the lead of Almighty God and love the person. No longer taking Jesus Christ’s place on the Great Throne of Judgment but taking their place alongside their siblings in Christ’s body and working with them to usher in the Kingdom of God. I lied, I said it was simple but in all honesty it will be a very difficult task for most Christians because it will require them to humble themselves and learn from others. This process will require these Christians to reassess what Scripture means to them[4], how Scripture is to be used, and what that looks like in action. The process of loving LGBT people for Christians is difficult, but Jesus did not tell us to follow Him because it is easy – but because only in following Him are we made who we are meant to be. We follow Him because in His presence is fullness of joy, we follow Him because He called us. Mostly, we follow Christ because Christ loves us and that love is a transforming love. Love that calls us out of darkness and into light, love that takes our brokenness and makes us whole, love that perfects us and makes us better reflect the image of God. This love of Christ brings us into communion with God and each other by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, love one another as Christ has loved you[5]. Amen.

[1] 1 John 4:-7-8

[2] Mark 10:9

[3] Those who pretend to be heterosexual or who were legitimately able to suppress their biology and unnaturally becomes something other than what God made them to be

[4] Notice I did not say throw out what Scripture says, because what Scripture reads and what it says are two very different things. Scripture may read “thou shalt not” but we often interpret as God “saying” something different. Some Christians just find themselves unable to do that with the treatment of certain minority groups.

[5] John 13:34-35