Apologetics & Outreach

“The Bible Doesn’t Say, ‘Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin’” (The Defense Series)3 min read

June 19, 2013 3 min read

“The Bible Doesn’t Say, ‘Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin’” (The Defense Series)3 min read

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Welcome to The Defense Series. The aim of this series is to help Christians more effectively “make a defense” (1 Pet. 3:15) to those who challenge the teachings and values of New Testament Christianity. My prayer is that the following words will help and embolden you as you stand for Truth.

There is a cliché that Christians often use – “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Occasionally a non-Christian will respond, “Nowhere in the Bible does it say that!” And suddenly, the non-Christian becomes a theologian.

It is true – the Bible doesn’t say “Love the sinner, hate the sin” verbatim (It is actually a direct quote from Gandhi). But does that mean it isn’t taught in principle?

The Bible does, in fact, teach us to love sinners, while hating their sin.

God hates sin. “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (Psa. 5:4; cf. Prov. 6:16-19). He hates sin because He is holy (cf. Isa. 6:3). Sin is completely contradictory to His Holy & Divine Nature. And as imitators of God (Eph. 5:1), Christians are to hate sin (cf. Psa. 97:10).

Why does God hate the sin of mankind? Because sin separates us from Him (cf. Isa. 59:2). Sin is a death sentence (cf. Rom. 3:23; 6:23). But because God loves mankind, He sent His Son into the world to pay the price for sin (1 John 4:8-9). That’s how passionately God loves us, and that’s how vehemently He hates our sin.

Likewise, Christians are to hate what God hates (i.e. sin), and love what God loves (i.e. our fellow man). The phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” merely serves as a reminder that we are to love others while at the same time hating the sin they practice.

I can love the thief while hating his theft. I can love the liar while hating his lies. I can love the alcoholic while hating his alcoholism. I can love the adulterer while hating his adultery. I can love the homosexual while hating his homosexuality. I can love the glutton while hating his gluttony.

Christians can never endorse sin, nor can we ever knowingly interact with someone in such a way to give credence to their sin.

No one illustrates this principle better than Jesus. In His ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ Jesus highlighted God’s hatred of sin by deepening its consequences (Matt. 5-7). At the same time, Jesus was accused of fraternizing with sinners (Matt. 9:11). He demonstrated love and compassion (cf. Matt. 9:36) by building relationships with people while telling them to stop sinning (cf. John 5:14; 8:11).

Christians, understand that while this phrase is a Biblical concept, and effectively communicates the essence of God’s view of sin, it is not always the best thing to say in one very important context – when you are talking to someone who ties their sin to their identity. Some alcoholics say, “I was born an alcoholic and will always be one.” Some thieves say, “Theft is how I express who I really am.” Some homosexuals say, “I was born this way. My attraction feels so natural.” To these people, when you say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin,” you are in essence saying, “I love you, but I hate you.”

I’m not saying the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” isn’t a Biblical principle. It is! But when talking to someone who believes their sin is their identity, we should probably say something else (or approach them from a different angle). In all other instances, it is usually appropriate (if said in the right spirit).

Christians have the obligation to tell people they are living in sin. This is not hate. In fact, it is the opposite of hate (Who actually enjoys confronting sin?). While there is sometimes a fine line between the two, we must speak the truth in love while at the same time refusing to support or condone sin.

Question: what do you think about this phrase?

Ben Giselbach is the pulpit minister at the East Side church of Christ in Cleveland, TN. He and his wife Hannah have three children, Ezra, Colleyanna, and Eliza Jane. Ben is a graduate of Freed-Hardeman University and has returned to pursue his MDiv. He has written three books in his You Are A Theologian Series (Thinking Right about the Bible, Thinking Right about God, and Thinking Right about Salvation) and co-authored It's There In Black and White: 37 Questions about Racial Tension in the Church.
  1. John F Board

    Ben, I appreciate your study and writing. Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Ben

      Thanks brother!

  2. Chris Lyden

    As part of our defense we need to be able to rightly handle Psalm 5:5 which reads, "The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity." How can we harmonize this with the fact that the Bible teaches that God also loves the world (John 3:16)? I guess I will give "my" defense.It is Bible doctrine to hate some that you also love. "What?" Let me explain. Jesus said in Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Jesus, therefore, teaches that we are to hate those that in other places of scripture we are told to love. He even goes as far as saying that we must hate ourselves if we are going to be His disciple. What are we to do with this? Thankfully, our omnipotent God gave us parallel verses. Matthew 10:37 says, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." Thus, it appears that one Bible definition of the word hate is "to love less than another." We must love all others "less than" we love Jesus if we are going to be His disciple. Does that definition not fit Psalm 5:5? Does that not make Psalm 5:5 harmonize with the greater context of Psalms and the Bible? Would it not be accurate to say that God loves His children "more than" workers of iniquity? This does not mean that God does not love the workers of iniquity in some way. Much the same as me loving my wife and children, but loving God more. This does not mean that I do not love my family or myself.Sorry for the long comment. Thoughts?

    • Fred

      Chris & Ben, you present very thoughtful defenses. I must admit, I was afraid I was going to read something else entirely when I clicked on the link.I think Ben made a great point when he talked about people who tie their identity to sin instead of to Christ. The Bible tells believers to clothe ourselves with Christ (Romans 13:14). We need His righteousness and holiness to cleanse us of our own unrighteousness and unholiness. Do we believe in Christ's power to transform us, or are we content to make the same mistakes over and over? This is the sanctification process that we must all go through.As Chris pointed out, we may love many people and many things in life, but we must always love God the most. We must put Him first. The root of all sin is putting anything above God (idolatry) or letting anything come between us and God. And yet, God is Love (1 Jn. 4:16), and when we serve others in love, we are serving God.(Mt. 25:40)However, where I disagree is where Ben said, "Christians have the obligation to tell people they are living in sin." I know that's how some of the prophets did it, but Jesus more often led by example. Shouldn't Christians let their actions speak louder than their words? (Mt. 11:19) Shouldn't we concentrate on judging ourselves more than others (Mt. 7:1-6)? For most of us, that's a huge enough task in and of itself!Let's not cause our neighbors to keep stumbling by pointing at their sin; let's instead point them in the way of righteousness, showing them Christ by living out His commands. How can we witness and tell them how Christ covered all our sin, if we keep on uncovering all of their sin? Aren't we all sinners? Haven't we all been redeemed by what He's already done?(Ro. 3:21-31) I believe that if we fan the flames of the spiritual nature, in God's time, with God's help, the sinful nature will fall away.

      • Ernie

        Jesus certanitley led by example but many times pointed out how sinful people were. Woman at the well he pointed out her adultery. Zacheaeus he pointed out his theft, the woman who was going to get stoned He told her to go and sin no more, the rich young ruler he went through the 10 commandments to point out his sin, the many accounts he pointed out the sins of the the pharisees.

        • Truth

          When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well he did point out her sin and the same with Zaccheaus but this was not the first thing he did. He engaged them in conversation invited himself for a meal etc what many Christians seem to be guilty of is trying to scale the fish before they catch it and that isn't possible. Jesus didn't tell the woman at the well that she needed to stop her sinful behaviour immediately and overtly he engaged in conversation with her, asked for water, told her about the water of life first and the way he addressed her sin was to question her before he confronted her sin. I do think as believers we need to confront sin first in our own lives but then in the unsaved too. The very act of sharing the good news means we are confronting sin. There are different ways to tell people that they are living in sin and coming across as judgemental isn't the best way but we do have a duty to share the gospel with others and in sharing the gospel we HAVE to TELL them they are in sin that we are all born in sin and need Jesus, to try and avoid talking about sin is what the false teachers do when they come with an ear tickling gospel of salvation without repentance but I do think that many have gone down the wrong road in how they present the gospel and how they share Jesus. Our greatest witness is our lifestyle but we must be able to tell the good news and to do that we must be able to explain the bad news too (sin)

      • Jason Smith

        I am all for leading by example and being a good example of love and devotion to Christ, but in the end, our examples are not the gospel. The famous quote, "preach the gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words," is not a biblical quote. Lost people must see their sinful condition before being able to repent. A sick person will not see the need for a cure until they see they are really sick.

        • Adrienne


      • don

        Fred,,, you should read the sermon on the mount. most of it is Jesus telling people what their sin is. and have you forgotten where jesus went into the temple ond over turned the tables ,,,, just saying

        • kat

          Don, what also needs to be taken in account is along the lines of what Truth posted. Jesus was pursued He didn't just find a random hill covered with people. The people were there to hear Him speak and they wanted to hear Him because of His previous actions. The ways of approach for a Christian are different based on who we are addressing. We (Christ followers) are to sharpen each other and bring correction because we have decided to follow the same way. But our neighbors we are commanded to love. Needless to say if we saw our neighbors getting on a bus that led the wrong way we should speak up and let them know the truth we know. But They are our neighbors first as in we have a relationship no matter how distantly. Jesus threw over tables in a temple a place of worship set apart for God the Father, they knew that they were in Gods court yard. But the woman at the well needed love to shine truth upon her real identity before she could see her sin.

  3. Belinda

    Fred, I tend to lean on your side here also with NOT pointing out others sins constantly. We as Christains need to lead by exampl. My opinion on 'I was born this way' is a cop out. It is a choice they made to live their life as an alcoholic, glutton, homosexuality, etc. there is help in the world for all these addictions. Just my thoughts. God loves everyone.

  4. Kathy Huck

    This is a GREAT teaching I love the way it flows together. I am hooked!

  5. Juanita

    Our only hope is in Jesus Christ!

  6. JODL

    the bible DOES say love the sinner hate the sin... JUDE1:22-23-And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, HATING THE SINS that contaminate their lives. ..... JESUS SAID in Revelation 2:6--this is in your favor: You HATE the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, JUST as I DO. .......... Many many other places in the bible it tells us to love but HATE EVIL.. evil=sin

    • JODL

      & I forgot to mention, THANK YOU for this great article

  7. Andy

    We should turn this phrase upside down.....saying instead " Love you neighbor and hate your own sin". We Christians love to point out other's sins but are reserved about looking inward. It seems easier than dealing with it. This does not suggest that we tolerate sin but rather we focus on their faith in Jesus FIRST and his redemption power (grace) of sin.

  8. Cyprian Selby

    How do you separate sin from the sinner,as` it` does not operate apart from the person, all sins are attached to persons.It`s the sinner that will be judged, Anyone who claims to love the person who has just raped and butchered a family member,is a liar, what needs to be done, is to thank the Holy Spirit for His grace and strength given,to be able to overcome,and forgive that person, but to say I love you to such a person, while hating what he has done, is highly improbable, Unconditional love belongs to God and God alone,We are called to forgive,which at times is extremely difficult for even Christians,but understanding the Grace of God, makes it easier

  9. steve

    Question: What about the "Speak the truth in love" principle that you mentioned? "Speak the truth in love" is in reference to preaching and teaching to believers as a counter to false doctrine available everywhere else. I believe in principle that love IS the prerequisite for speaking truth that has the potential to be offensive or challenge one's paradigm; Jesus used it. But many use this as an excuse to steamroll someone because they "love" them, but are they are really ripping the phrase out of context. Anyway, I am in full agreement with you. I just like to point out the same types of things, that are accepted as "gospel" in modern-day Christendom, that aren't necessarily Scriptural. Thanks! :)

  10. Robbie McCutchen

    How about, "I love both your soul and mine, I hate both your sin and mine."?

  11. Sarah Robertson

    The Bible does indeed say Love the sinner hate the sin. - Or at least my translation TLB states in the last part of Jude 23 "Hate every trace of their sin while being merciful to them as sinners.' put this together with Loving your enemy and your neighbour as yourself, and the Bible states the sentiment before Ghandi.

    • Ben

      Thanks Sarah! As you know, this article is a response to the charge of some who claim "The Bible doesn't say, 'love the sinner, hate the sin.'" Thanks for your comment.

  12. […] link explains the truth behind “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” While this article is simply their interpretation and opinion, it’s one I agree […]

  13. likkerdysplit

    Brother that's a great answer and well said, God bless you, I sure like how you tied all them various scriptures together. Speak the love in truth, by the grace of God I will, God bless you.

  14. […] [ii] https://www.plainsimplefaith.com/2013/06/the-bible-doesnt-say-love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin-the-defens… […]

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