Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

[Disclaimer: I am still in a coma from watching the three-hour Bachelor* season finale** last night. I’m not proud of this, but there it is. And now I’m going to sink even lower and blog about it. Read on if you still love me.]

He introduces her by saying, “And now, the woman America loves to hate,” and we do hate her a little bit. We can’t seem to help it. It’s something about the cutesy voice, her sing-songy catch-phrase “Winning!”, the way she’s always touching her hair.

She is the one with little regard for the “rules” of the show or, apparently, for clothing, and we all collectively shoot daggers into our television screens when she sneaks off in the night to instigate a skinny-dipping tryst with Ben.

She weeps, and we shout “Fake!” She speaks, and we roll our eyes.

I have been watching this stupid show for a few years now (since Jason Mesnick’s Melissa/Molly Switcheroo of 2009). I always say I’m not going to, but come that first week of January, I’m parked on the couch, my capacity for grace wadded up in the kitchen next to the dirty dishes. I’m casting stones at women I don’t know, real people, shrunk down, made 2-dimensional with all that TV editing.

And I’m never more aware of it than after a two-hour-Bachelor-binge: my propensity toward snap judgments; my fallen heart so prone to condemn others for theirs.

In the evangelical world, we always said it like this: “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” as if it were as simple and clean-cut as all that. As if hate could be restrained, targeted laser-like onto only that which is deserving.

But who can say where a difficult personality ends and pride begins? Who can pinpoint that moment when truth fades into lie, attraction becomes lust, desire turns to greed?

We are, all of us, a tangled mess of beauty and brokenness. Try to separate the two (isolate the sin, cut it away with a scalpel, hate, hate, hate it), and you find it’s ingrown, all intertwined with our identity. Judgment cuts deep. The whole thing becomes a bloody mess.

This is what is so striking to me about the story of God: He loves us not for what we could be, but for what we are. He looks at the whole broken, manipulative, sin-strangled mess and says I love you and I want you and You are mine.

Salvation is not a painful surgery meant to cut clean our sin. It is a God who would die so the scalpel could be thrown to the sea.

She is under the fluorescent light, she is working the camera, her eyes welling with tears. The women in the audience are shaking their heads, and I am shaking mine in spite of all this talk of grace and love.

But to God, she is beautiful. To God, she is precious. He waits, arms open, for her to see it.

 

* The Bachelor is a reality/game show in which twenty-five women vie for the love of one bachelor. Week-by-week, winners are given a red rose while losers are sent home crying, until in the end, one (lucky?) woman receives a proposal.

** A short recap (in case you are smarter than I am and watched The Voice on Monday nights instead): Bachelor Ben proposed to Courtney Robertson, the rule-flouting, ultra-confident model, in spite of multiple pleas for caution by the other girls. Neither America nor the 24 rejected Bachelorettes were very happy about it.

17 thoughts on “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

  1. Oh my. Once again, your writing pierces my heart. So beautiful. So, so beautiful. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs.

    How easy it is to dismiss our judgments when they are made against people on a screen. What a great reminder that everyone, EVERYONE, is precious to God.

    “But who can say where a difficult personality ends and pride begins? Who can pinpoint that moment when truth fades into lie, attraction becomes lust, desire turns to greed?” Great, great questions.

    Is this really how you write while in a coma? It is fantastic.

    1. Isn’t it so interesting how the fame thing makes us feel like we’re entitled to just annihilate other with our words and judgments? It’s like we think they have it coming or something. Amazing to me that people still want that spotlight. I sure wouldn’t.

  2. I love how you can take something as guilty-pleasure-ish as the The Bacheolor and turn it into this beautiful reminder of identity and love and grace and belovedness.

    Also: 3 HOURS? Odeargod.

    1. Anything to justify my guilty pleasure. 🙂 (And yes 3 hours is wayyyyy too much Bachelor.)

  3. Love your statement “my fallen heart so prone to condemn others for theirs” there is so much truth to that in my own life, as a mother of fallen little children and a wife to a fallen man, etc.However, I caution the idea that God loves all of us the sin and all, for the Bible clearly states that God hates sin. The miracle of Grace is that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He loved us despite the sin. He does know the lines where truth fades to lies and so on. While we must be careful not to condem others I think it just as vital not to ignore sin. Prayer is a powerful tool to use to keep our hearts in check for that pharisee condemnation and to keep us sensitive to sin so that we can continue to grow spiritually. Christ is our perfect example, he loved the people but not their sin. To the woman at the well, he offered her life and told her to leave her sin. Maybe I misunderstood a little? But you are so right when you say that God is ready and waiting with open arms for her, for us all, fallen sinful and broken as we are!

    1. I think we’re essentially saying the same thing here, Christa. Clearly, God does not love sin itself. Like you said, he loves us in spite of it, even as we’re still in it. What I’m saying is that the story of Christ had to happen because to try to separate us from our sin with that scalpel of judgment would only kill us.

      The theology I’m focusing on here is salvation. That wide, great grace that takes our brokenness and makes us whole, blameless. I’ve stopped there for now.

      Too often, I think we move instantly to the theology of sanctification, where we strive to become holier and holier. That’s important too, as you mentioned, because sin is that barbed wire that we get all twisted up in, that hurts us, that hurts each other.

      But I wanted to just sit with this idea of grace for a moment. Of Christ loving the sinner even in her sin, even as she sits alone at the well. Of him, offering her the living water.

    2. Christa – the reason this “mantra” of modern day anti-homosexual Christianity bothers ME a lot is this – we live in a world where “what we do” is monstrously intertwined into “who we are”. When we say we “love the sinner, hate the sin”, what is HEARD is “we would love you if you were like us, but we hate you as you are now.” We use a little piece of Christianese that only WE understand, because VERY few non-Christians really get the concept of “sin” being an entity all of its own. That little theological distinction makes sense to those of us who have heard pastor after pastor pontificate on how “sin” began in the Garden and how Jesus conquered “sin” and how “sin” is no more a victor over those whom Jesus has transformed, etc., but to the average person in our world, “sin” is defined as “the wrong stuff I do”. I’m not a fan of language that means one thing to the speaker but something entirely different to the listener. It’s no different than a priest speaking in Latin that the parishioner doesn’t understand.

      In other words, there’s nothing wrong with us hating sin. There’s nothing wrong with us despising the fact that we often get it wrong more than we get it right. But there IS something wrong with telling people that we love them in some idealistic fashion even though we hate what they do. They don’t feel that love.

      My opinion is that we need to shut our pieholes about how much we supposedly love these people and get our butts busy actually loving them.

  4. Great thoughts, Addie! The only reason I watched this past season is because my best friend’s husband bullied me in to it. Seriously. He said it was our bonding time, as I’ve watched the previous seasons with him and my best friend since moving here. We laugh at each other’s snarky comments. So I caved but as this season went on, I didn’t like the way we were just waiting for something to make fun of. I couldn’t help but wonder what people would say if I ever went on the show and that made me consider some of my snark. As this season went on, I saw a different side of Courtney once she went on her hometown date and I realized she really does care about Ben. (Personally, I don’t see the allure but that’s why she’s on the show and I’m not.) For me to make snap judgments…it ends up demeaning both me and her. Isn’t that why we withhold grace? To make ourselves feel better? I can’t say I’ll watch another season of this show but if I do, I hope to be a little more grace-filled.

    1. Jamie! Thank you so much! I often think about that week at Olaf and wish I could go back for five days of inspiration. I’d be happy to send that essay to you. I’ll dig it out and send it. 🙂

  5. You’re right and although it’s fun to think Nasty thoughts about her, I think underneath God was always trying to remind me of this.

    I also always claim that whatever season I’m watching is my last season. But it never is…..

    1. I know what you mean. Every year I swear I’m not going to do it. But really, what else are you going to do on a Monday night? In January? (Best laid plans…)

  6. Nice post :). I was right there with you shaking my head, but what a reminder…she (and bone head Ben 😉 are both loved by God just as much as all of us who believe in Him.

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