I’ve heard this seemingly catchy phrase fairly often among Christians. It is most often applied as a sort of compromise or justification for exclusion and discrimination with a sort of back-handed bit of token tolerance on the side.
It sort of comes out like this:
“I dislike homosexuality and homosexual acts because I believe the acts are sin. I do not tolerate the sinful acts. I would exclude anyone who practices these sinful, disgusting acts of homosexuality. However, I condemn the actions… not the actor. Though fundamentally I am at odds with those that practice homosexual acts which I view as sinful. If I am aware of someone engaging in homosexual acts, I know that they are sinning and I should have a right to separate myself from their sinful ways and judge these people as sinners and regard them less favorably because they are actively sinning. I may pray for them to stop sinning and hope for the best and hope they stop being homosexuals and start to conform to my way of living.”
Or something like this: “Homosexual acts are wrong and homosexuals are wrong. I shall pray for these homosexuals to stop being homosexuals so that they can be right with God. They are confused people and need to be fixed, therefore I will not condemn them but pity them as I would pity a sick person who needs to be cured of a chronic illness or mental condition of which there may in fact be no readily available cure.”
Or… “They are good people I could respect if it were not for the fact that these people have gay sex and are attracted to the same sex. So long as they keep it hidden or keep it to themselves and I don’t know about it, I can respect them, sort of. Just so long as they don’t act gay.”
There are so many things I find wrong with this thinking of “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” For one thing, it is not a Bible verse or quotation you will find in any holy scripture in any religion. The quote when applied to homosexuals or bisexuals or transgender people implies that what comes naturally to the LGBT community is sin. Expressions of love and attraction are acts of sin– unless they change fundamentally who they love and how they express their love to conform to heterosexuality, they will always be active in sin. Also, this belief that if homosexuals could stop engaging in homosexuality, they would be more acceptable and more tolerable and more worthy of love. Their actions will be condemned but they as people can be loved and respected just so long as their identities are divorced from their actions.
The quote suggests that there would not be any attempt to understand what it means to be homosexual. There is no attempt to say homosexuality is natural or could be healthy.
While the quote is an attempt to say we are all sinners and all sinners are loved by Jesus and are worthy of forgiveness– and that there is no hierarchy of sin and all sin is equal and all sins can be forgiven through Jesus–what the quote really suggests as it is applied to the LGBT community is that the LGBT community are actively engaging in sin and are active sinners for being people who are attracted to people in the ways that they are and what is natural to them is sin and wrong and bad and shameful. And the only reason anyone would love the LGBT community is by the fact that they are sinners who should be pitied.
It’s pity, rather than love. To love someone is to be willing to treat that person as an equal. Pity does not make equality. What people are doing is saying that the LGBT community sins differently than how heterosexuals sin and their sin is more serious because it seems like they sin all the time, doing sexual things that seem un-natural and strange to those who are not homosexual. And while heterosexual Christians don’t want to appear to hate LGBT people, they hate the fact that the LGBT community of people is so different and they display their different expressions of love and affection publically where they have to see it and feel awkward by it.
They are trying to make the attempt to say there are no such people as homosexuals but rather there are just sexually confused sinners who need to stop doing homosexual acts if they expect to be normal like everyone else. They are suggesting that God did not create homosexuals or transgender people. But the sins are there– the sins of loving someone of the same gender.
Loving sincerely and honestly is not a sin. Finding someone who fulfills you and makes you feel whole is not sinful. Caring deeply about someone and wanting to provide for their well-being is not a sin. Engaging in a dedicated monogamous relationship with another person you are willing to spend the rest of your life with is not a sin.
Being true to yourself and being sincere and honest with God is not sinful. God knows you better than you think He does. He created you. He gave you the capacity to love and care for other people. He gave you brains and a means to use them. He knows what’s in your heart. Locking yourself in a closet of shame is not what God intends for you. Being a pitiable sinner is not God’s plan for you either.
The Bible tells us what love is. It also tells us what is truly sinful. But the Bible also tells us how we are loved and how we should love each other. The love Jesus has for us is without strings or conditions or fine print. The love God has for His creations is limitless. God so loved the world and all that inhabited it that he gave up His only son to die on the cross for the forgiveness of all sins. We are all loved and we have been forgiven– but don’t think for a second that love is a sin! Love is a commandment from God delivered to us by Jesus!
Love thy God with all your heart, soul, and mind and body and love thy neighbor as you would want to be loved. Upon these two commandments all law and prophets hang.