Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
We have heard many people, including pastors and Bible teachers, say "Love the sinner, but hate the sin." You might have said it yourself thinking it is a scripture in the Bible. While the exact words are not in the Bible, the concept is definitely there.
According to Psalm 5:4 and other scriptures, God hates sin. Since God hates sin, He wants us to hate sin also (Proverbs 8:13). So, how can we love the person who commits a sin? Aren't people a product of what they do?
"Love the sinner, but hate the sin" is a cliché used by many Christians. The expression started a long time ago, and people continue to use it. Most of the time, it is used by conservative Christians in debates about different kinds of sins. They know how much the Bible says about loving others, but never about loving the sins they commit. Therefore, they have come up with their own interpretation of something that is not even in the Bible.
Sinners might be family members, friends, co-workers, church members, and others that we know. We can't stop loving them when they sin. If we stop loving those who sin, then there wouldn't be enough people left in the world to love.
Origin of the Expression
Since "Love the sinner, but hate the sin" is not in the Bible, why do preachers preach it and others quote it as if it is in the Bible? This is only one of many expressions Christians quote that are not in the Bible. They say it because they have heard others saying it without checking for themselves to see if it is really there. It is not good to quote clichés just because we hear others quoting them. We should be like the Bereans and search the scriptures for ourselves (Acts 17:11).
There are a couple of theories about the origin of "Love the sinner, but hate the sin." One theory is valid that claims it was written in a letter that St. Augustine sent to a group of nuns many centuries ago. The expression was: Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” Throughout the ages, the expression has become “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” or “Hate the sin and not the sinner.” St. Augustine encouraged the nuns to show love to all of mankind and hatred for their sins, according to pastor and Bible scholar Adam Hamilton. St. Augustine's words seem to imply that both love and hate are two emotions that should be expressed with the same passion.
Another theory about the origin of the expression is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi in his 1929 autobiography. He wrote, “Hate the sin and not the sinner.” Notice that most of the words are there, but the words "love the sinner" are not included. Even so, Gandhi's take on the expression seems to imply that we should merely "hate the sin and not the sinner."
We must purpose in our hearts to separate the person from the sin he commits. It is challenging, but it can be done. But, how?
We should let love dominate our feelings toward people even though they sin. Remember. we are also sinners. Romans 3:23 says:
“For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God."
That means that no one is free from sinning. Because of Adam, everyone is born with a sinful nature and with the propensity to sin. In Romans 7:19-21, Paul said:
"For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me."
We can't hate the sinner, because at times, we are the sinner. However, we can always hate the wrongful and evil act that a person commits. We can always do what 1 John 1:9 tells us to do and share this scripture with sinners.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”