I have never met ANYONE who successfully demonstrated how to “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” In fact, I have only ever seen this idea put into practice as a means of self-delusion in which a person convinces himself that he is not hating the person, but merely hating the sin that person is in some way committing or represents.
“But, come on,” someone will say to me, “Doesn’t the Bible say to ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’? Isn’t this something Jesus tells us to do? Even if Jesus does not use those exact words, isn’t it a good summary of what He teaches us?”
First of all, I do not recall anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus refers to anyone as a “sinner.” The Gospel writer may offer an editorial note, but I don’t remember the word being used by Jesus directly. I also do not recall Jesus telling us to refer to anyone as sinners. In fact, what Jesus tells us is that they are “NEIGHBORS” and we are to love them as we love ourselves. So Jesus does not tell us to love the sinner while hating the sin. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as much as we love ourselves — and let’s face it, we are very forgiving when it comes to our own sins.
Jesus certainly never tells us to hate the sin of others. In fact, Jesus tells us not to focus on the sins of others, but instead, focus on our own sin. It’s that whole “Don’t try to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s eye when you have a tree growing out of your own” thing. Jesus is saying: “Don’t try to get everyone else to stop sinning. You just focus on getting you to stop sinning.” If we all stop sinning ourselves, then everyone stops sinning. But if we try to get everyone else to stop sinning, while we go on sinning, then we all keep sinning and just irritate each other in the process.
“If this is the case,” you may ask, “where did this hate sin, love the sinner idea come from?”
It is usually attributed to Saint Augustine. Nevertheless, even though we can find Saint Augustine using the words of hating sin, it is a misapplication of his words when they are applied to the sins of others. The sins that Saint Augustine hated were his own.
So the maxim should actually be: “Love your neighbor, but hate your own sin.” But I do not even like that. The maxim for me would be better if it were:
“It’s okay to love yourself because God loves you. Love your neighbors as yourself because God loves them too. Fix others by fixing yourself and giving them an example to follow — and if you have to hate anything, hate the sin you are doing and stop doing it.”
I get it. That’s too long. But the simple truth is that the REAL GOSPEL does not fit neatly onto a bumper sticker.