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why i can't stand "love the sinner, hate the sin"

i'm sure you've heard it said : "love the sinner hate the sin".

this phrase actually makes my skin crawl and my heart sink.

why, you ask? after all, it seems like a very logical approach for a Christian who's trying to prove they aren't prejudiced or judgmental. (do you sense my sarcasm?) seriously, i don't like it. because although it may mean well, when it's actually said out loud and "practiced" as a way of life, it breeds an "us vs them" attitude. it gives us the excuse to tolerate, but at an arm's length. to co-exist on the same planet, but certainly not share our lives and our stories or open our homes. it rids us of any responsibility or burden we may have felt otherwise. and besides that, it's a very divisive and offensive thing to say. and let's be honest, when we say this, we don't actually love the person, we aren't actively and intentionally seeking out tangible ways to love the person, we just hope and pray that God loves them.

lately i'm feeling like a lot of our Christian philosophies and ideas are really just fear and ignorance and even hate, disguised as "standing up for what's right" or standing up for God (like He needs it) or defending Biblical morality.

note: i will use the following example of homosexuality throughout the rest of this post, because it's a very prevalent and relevant one in our culture today. i'm not singling anyone out, i just think it works to illustrate what i mean...

if i met a person who was gay, and i said "hey, let's get this squared away from the beginning- i think you're "living a sinful lifestyle"... and in case you didn't know, a "sinful lifestyle" is different from just plain everyday sins like mine. and i want you to know that i hate your sin... but let's be friends, because I would like to "love" you, the sinner.

i mean, seriously? how offensive is that? it would immediately put any sensible person on the defensive. you might not say that out loud, but the fact is that if you're thinking it, it shows. and since we don't actually want to say that to someone's face, we just keep our distance instead. the fear, the ignorance, the plain old laziness keep us at a comfortable (for us) distance while we go about thinking we've got this "love the sinner" business all figured out. when really all we're saying is- i'm "loving you" by not forcing you to stop engaging in homosexual behavior, but by all means do not come into my church or my home or my children's lives, and by all means do not force me to accept anything that might inconvenience me or my set of morals. by all means, do not ask me to rethink what marriage means or what a family could look like. by all means, do not threaten my status quo, my normal, my privilege.

Jesus tells us that the greatest command is to love God with all our heart and mind and strength.. and second: to love your neighbor as yourself. all of our neighbors, not just the ones we feel are worthy of it. that gives me a lot to think about.

i know all the "arguments" from the Christian circles. i've heard all the key points and buzzwords. and i'm finding myself really grieved that we've managed to reduce an entire group of people down to buzzwords and political agendas and "us vs. them". how is this loving anyone? these are human people we're talking about here.

if i can speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, i am only a resounding gong and clanging cymbal.
gosh how i don't want to be a clanging cymbal.

I guess I'm thinking: if the qualification for salvation, or for being called "a Christian", is living a sinless lifestyle? then i'm disqualified. and so are you. by nature and by definition, we humans, ALL OF US, are sinners. all the time, everyday. if our eternal security is based upon one specific behavior in our life, even if it's a habitual or sinful one? then we are all, each one of us humans, completely screwed.

the thing is, that's NOT the qualification. the only qualification is to believe that Jesus was sinless and that HE bore all of our sin for us, and that there's nothing we could ever do to deserve it. that's the good news. that is the gospel.

Jesus didn't commission us with being the moral police for anyone and everyone we feel like. but he did command us to love one another, and to take the good news and the hope of the gospel to the ends of the earth, to go and make disciples of all nations. God never told anyone to stop sinning or clean up their act and then they could join His family. He tells us "come as you are". and then He heals and gives new life and HE tells us to "go and sin no more". His Spirit sanctifies and cleanses and convicts and redirects us each individually along our journey.

this is far from the message we've been teaching. do you think we can reject a behavior modification "gospel" and start embracing the Truth about a God who lavishly and radically loves? there is a God who wants our hearts, who wants to completely transform us. but it might be hard to preach this if we haven't actually experienced it in our own lives. i think a lot of Christians are preaching behavior modification to themselves, so they don't know any other way to think about and approach everyone else. they don't know God's upside-down and inside-out way.

lately i've wondered how many potential relationships i've missed out on because I was too busy judging or too fearful of our differences or too lazy or intimidated or had the [false] impression that i was defending Christ while keeping people at a distance because i wasn't sure how to answer the hard questions.

and that grieves me.

if i can speak directly to my Christian friends for a minute, even those of use who might believe we have God's best interest at heart in defending the causes we are defending...
i find myself wondering why we get so caught up in certain sins. i mean, the Bible does call homosexuality an abomination. in the same places that it says women should always cover their heads and never speak in religious services, and are unclean while menstruating so touching a menstruating woman is grounds for death... and all the rest of those, we simply and intuitively see as cultural differences, not literal black and white commands that we need to follow in our modern day.

but let's be really practical for a minute. you know what else the Bible calls sin?

gossip.

so i guess if a gay person can't be a Christian, neither can i. because i most definitely gossip. and i'm just guessing here, that you do too.

i can't say i've ever seen a Christian protesting or picketing or condemning from of their megaphone outside E-News or US Weekly. and we've never attempted to pass laws against gossip magazines or blogs or TVshows either. we're not just tolerating the gossip at an arm's length, we're joining in and celebrating it by purchasing and watching and chatting about it over coffee.

we'll watch TV shows and movies with hetero-sexual promiscuity or back-stabbing or revenge or all out violence or evil. i mean, man vs. food is gluttony in its purest form. lying, cheating, stealing, killing, extra-marital affairs, alcohol and drug abuse, sex, sex, and more sex. those are widely accepted forms of entertainment. but throw a gay couple on a TV show and we make sure that show never comes on in our house.

know what else the bible calls sin? love of food. love of money, love of "stuff". idolatry, putting anything else before God. if we're going to disqualify a gay person from God's eternal kingdom because they live what we define as "a sinful lifestyle", then we better take a long hard look at who else were excluding and condemning to hell--- ourselves. and yes, materialism and celebrity gossip and food obsession are LIFESTYLES. sinful ones. that a lot of us are living, to one degree or another.

here's an sobering metric for self-examination: There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

i think every single one of us, if we were brutally honest, can say we're guilty of one of these.

when i sit here and type out that we should stop worrying so much about homosexuality, some of you will accuse me of excusing or being soft on sin. and i understand that would be your first gut reaction, but here's the reality-- i'm really just EXPOSING sin. all kinds and all brands of sins. 

in our own hearts first and foremost.

i have a few genuine thoughts about this, for the purpose of causing us to think long and hard, not to accuse anyone or judge anyone, just to get us to think. please hear me out with an open mind:

i guess i just see us focusing on all the wrong things, in our Christian lives and our political lives and everywhere else. we have bigger issues to burden us. like the souls that are starving for hope and peace and forgiveness and acceptance and freedom and eternity because we are standing in their way, with our stubbornness and pride and self righteousness and even just plain old ignorance. we're too busy tallying up their sins to share the gospel in its real and raw form. the same gospel that never tallied a sin, simply bore them all, no questions asked.

the sad truth is, it's easier to hide behind "morality" and "family", than to address a much bigger thing that's at stake: people are living in fear and disgust of Christians. therefore they are living in fear and disgust of CHRIST. and we are responsible for this. those of us who have rung the morality bell and spread the behavior-modification-conditional-love "gospel", AND those of us who have stood quietly by.

i wonder if we fear that "if we give an inch, they'll take a mile". if we concede on any point of sin, it might swallow us whole, and we're afraid of what real, raw, swallowed whole Love might require. instead we want to point out, correct, judge, and set requirements.

i just wonder if we set all that aside, what would fill up that space? would it be love? actual and unconditional love? would it be the radical and upside-down, all-encompassing, counter-cultural, Love of Christ? that while we were yet sinners, He died for us? i just wonder...
 

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