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The Myth of “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”

The Myth of “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” March 11, 2012

What’s  your take on the clique “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin”? Here’s mine.

One of the readings from the Lectionary for this third Lent Sunday is Romans 5:1-11. As I reflected on this passage this morning I was reminded of its power and the way it subverts the oft quoted bumper-sticker cliche “God Loves the Sinner but Hates the Sin”.

This slogan is one of the most unbiblical ideas I’ve ever heard that get’s touted as if it were actually a verse in the Bible. However, the verses in the Bible, here Romans 5:1-11, actually teach the opposite. God loves the sinner full stop. No “But”!

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless Christ died for the ungodly. (5:6)

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners Christ died for us. (5:8)

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (5:10)

“Still powerless”, “the ungodly”, “still sinners”, and “God’s enemies”. God loved us as the person described by these characteristics. A person is not divisible in the way the cliche, and our underlying anthropology assumes. In the Bible there is no such division of a person that separates what we do from who we are. Identity is inseparable from our activity. Romans 5:1-11 teaches the radical idea: God loves the sinner. That’s how radical God love is. And praise be to God for his radical love.

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