Last summer, I had a conversation that I can’t get out of my mind.
It didn’t seem like it at the time, but looking back that was when I began to shift from seeing homosexuality as an “issue” to seeing people’s stories and faces instead.
The next day, I wrote about “Why I Can’t Say ‘Love the Sinner / Hate the Sin’ Anymore”. Eventually those words found their way to the Huffington Post, where they’ve been shared thousands of times.
I got the chance to go on HuffPost Live last week to talk about what Christians mean when we say that phrase, and why I can’t say it anymore. This is what I said:
A lot of folks want to make it an issue and forget that there’s people who’s lives we’re talking about.
If more Christians were able to see how harmful that phrase is, we may be able to actually genuinely love our gay brothers and sisters in the church and our gay friends in the community in a way that transcends a harmful platitude.
I think a lot of people look at the story of the woman caught in adultery as Jesus simply telling her to live a moral life.
But the way I read that story is that she ALREADY HAD people telling her to live a moral life, and they were preparing to execute her because she hadn’t lived up to their standards of morality. When Jesus comes to her and says “Neither do I condemn you”, those are really life-changing and life-saving words. All too often the Church has been on the side of those with the rocks saying “You deserve this punishment. You deserve to be marginalized. You deserve to be thought of as other… because of these Bible verses we have on our side.
I think that the position God wants us to hold is to be like Jesus who says “Neither do I condemn you.” Most Christians I’ve experienced want to jump straight to “Go and sin no more!” — as if we’re responsible for the morality of those around us — without raising our voices to say, “Neither do I condemn you.” And then in that context — a relational, pastoral, community context — we can talk about what it means to live a life away from sin.
“Love the sinner; hate the sin” is not in the Bible, and I think it’s interesting that a lot of people want to make that the greatest commandment. But the commandment Jesus gives is “Love your neighbor”.
There’s a profound difference is how we act if we see people as neighbors or sinners. If they are a neighbor, we are together in community. We are responsible for one another’s well-being. We are working together for each others’ good. Versus, if we see our neighbor as a sinner, we’re more likely to become condescending and self-righteous. We won’t see them as a neighbor to share life with, but as a “mission field” to colonize and to evangelize in a rather condescending sort of way.
In a lot of the way that Christianity is lived out, there are different conversations that go on as far as what constitutes faithfulness to the Kingdom of God and faithfulness to Scripture and faithfulness to Jesus. Sometimes those become issues where we can’t worship alongside each other, but I don’t think that they should be.
That’s my concern about “Love the sinner hate the sin”, about the way that this theology and doctrine has played out. It has excluded many from the gay community, and I’ve heard from many conservative Christians who say, “If this is how you interpret Scripture, if this is how you understand faithfulness to Jesus, you’re not one of us. You’re not welcome in our colleges, you’re not welcome in our churches, you’re not welcome to serve. You can sit in the audience, but you aren’t really part of the Body of Christ.”
That’s something that should give us pause, to note when our theology is played out in such a way that it does become exclusive like that. Where we aren’t focusing on how we can help one another live faithfully to God, instead we’re drawing boundaries around ourselves saying, “We are righteous, we are in, we are following God, but you’re not.”
The entire segment was a half-hour long, and included robust discussion from several others as well. Watch here, or click over to HuffPost Live to see more comments.
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Micah J. Murray – Blogger at Redemption Pictures
Dr. Darrell Bock – Dallas Theological Seminary
Rev. Deborah Johnson – Inner Light Ministries
[image: Forbes ]
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