As I see it, the problem with the Church today is that it
wants everyone to like it. Look in our
churches. Of the few who are willing to
take a stand against sin even fewer are willing to say “That’s not right and neither
are you” to the one(s) committing it.
“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is the mantra of many Christians
today. Convenient. When you only come out against the sin you
get to remain safely cocooned within your love bubble. You don’t have to say anything directly to
anybody. You get to just stand to the
side and yell “Sin is wrong!” without ever looking anyone in the eye while you
Every churchgoer should remember the soap-operaesque story
of David and Bathsheba, right? (2 Samuel 11-12). King
David gets a little peeping tom action in on a beautiful woman taking a
bath. He lusts. She’s married. He gets her pregnant anyway. He tries to fool her husband
unsuccessfully. So he has him
killed. Like I said, a biblical soap
opera. Into the story steps Nathan the
prophet. He tells the king a story about
a rich man with many sheep who takes the solitary sheep of a poor man. David roars that the rich man ought to be
killed for his transgression or at the very least make restitution to the poor man
fourfold. Does Nathan take the modern
day tact of “hate the sin, love the sinner” and walk away leaving King David to
figure out for himself what he was getting at?
No. The prophet stands toe to toe
and eyeball to eyeball with the King of Israel and says, “You are the man!” He then proceeds to tell the David just how much
trouble he has bought for himself with his sin.
“What is your point?” you ask. I too, hate the sin but love the sinner. However, loving the sinner does not permit me
to refrain from confronting him or her about the sin. Actually, loving the sinner compels me to speak directly to the
sinner. You see, David’s response to
that nosy preacher’s lecture about his sexual sin was, “I have sinned against
the Lord.” Bingo! A confession of personal sin. To which Nathan said, “The Lord also has put
away your sin.” Now, if we truly love the sinner isn’t that supposed to be the goal?
Christians need to stop deceiving themselves that they love
sinners if they refuse to confront them about their sins. If you really believe “the practice of
homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”
(that is to say “it is a sin”) then you really don’t love the sinner if you do
nothing directly that would lead him or her to say as David, “I have sinned
against the Lord.” I’m not picking on
homosexuals here because I feel the same way about adulterers, gossipers,
liars, etc. Stop saying you hate the sin
but love the sinner if you are perfectly willing to let the sinner go to
hell. Nathan didn’t tell David that
adultery was wrong and leave it at that.
He told him that he was wrong
and would answer to God for it.
“Go, and from now on, sin no more” Jesus told the woman who
was guilty of adultery (John 8:3-11). He
didn’t moralize about the sin. He
identified her with it and told her that she should stop engaging in it in the
future. He didn’t follow her around or
tell His disciples to keep tabs on her.
But neither did He refrain from loving her by telling her to stop
Jesus told the familiar parable about the Good Samaritan
(Luke 10:25-36). One of the points of
the parable is that the priest and Levite sinned by not helping the injured
man. Isn’t everyone ensnared by sin
mortally wounded? I wonder when the
“love the sinner” Christians who think they are being loving to those engaged
in sin are going to recognize their own
sin in going around the stricken sinners rather than personally addressing
them and their issues?
I, too, believe in hating the sin but loving the
sinner. It’s just that my idea of loving
the sinner doesn’t include empowering him or her with my silence. Loving sinners means attempting to bring
wholeness and healing just as Nathan did for David. It can be dicey and uncomfortable but if you
really “love the sinner” how do you just stand by and watch as evil consumes?
Ray Rooney, Jr.
The Book of Discipline of the United
Methodist Church. Paragraph 304.3.