Hate the Sin, Not the Sinner

I recently met an old friend that I hadn't seen in years. It was a happy reunion as we exchanged news and swapped old memories. But soon our discussion took a less pleasant turn. "You're really into that Christian political stuff, aren't you," my friend said, almost with a sneer. "You're into gay bashing and restricting women's rights and cramming your morality down other people's throats." The anger in his voice was unmistakable. For the next 20 minutes I tried to calm him down, but I'm not sure I ever really succeeded in getting him to understand my position. And my friend's attitude is not unusual. We evangelicals have been thoroughly stereotyped: We're pictured as cold, uncaring, judgmental, and bigoted. Where do these extremist stereotypes come from? For most of this century, it has been considered enlightened to believe there's no such thing as sin—that human nature is basically good. So when people do things that are wrong, it's assumed they must be victims of something outside themselves—poverty or bad education or maybe even poor toilet training. With this history, it's no wonder people totally misunderstand what evangelicals mean by the concept of sin. They are stunned when we say that abortion is wrong, that adultery is immoral, that cheating is unethical, that homosexuality violates God's law. Our secular neighbors immediately assume that we simply hate anyone who does these things; that given the opportunity, we'd march them off to concentration camps. They just don't get it. Christians don't hate people. And the reason is that we draw a distinction between the sin and the sinner. We love the sinner, just as God does. We only hate the sin. You know the old saying: Hate the sin but love the sinner. In fact, it's because we love people that we want them to realize what they're doing is harmful, destructive, and yes, sinful. This is what we need to get across to our secular neighbors. When we say certain conduct is immoral, we aren't setting ourselves up as morally superior. We aren't claiming a right to dictate what's good and bad. God is the one who sets standards of right and wrong. We're simply communicating what God has said. For example, I don't know anyone who's been more outspoken in condemning homosexual conduct than I've been myself. But every time I go into a prison, I make a point of asking to see the inmates in the AIDS ward. I don't hesitate to embrace them; I genuinely try to show them God's love. I'm still trying to explain all this to my skeptical friend. And you might try to help your friends see it as well. Help them understand that when we talk about sin, we're not being bigoted. We're doing it out of genuine concern. We love people so much that we don't want to see them doing things that ultimately destroy them. Now, that's real love.


Chuck Colson


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