Hating the Sin, Loving the Sinner

I’ve had family members who were drug addicts. These were people I grew up with, as surely a part of my life as my own parents, and I loved them dearly. But when I saw them in the throes of their addiction, when I saw how WILLING these family members were to be destroyed by this indifferent chemical substance, I couldn’t help but be filled with rage. As dearly as I loved my family, I HATED this thing that they were doing to themselves. When confronted, I was told — by every last one of them, almost verbatim — that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that it was their life, and that I could butt out. However wrong they were, they didn’t see themselves as wrong. They hadn’t gotten to that point yet.

I’ve had friends and family members who were cheated on, or were THEMSELVES cheating. As much as I loved these cheaters, I hated the cheating. When confronted, they often JUSTIFIED their infidelity and said that they weren’t doing anything wrong. These people said the same thing as the addicts — I didn’t know what I was talking about, and it’s their life, and I need to butt out.

I myself have been addicted to pornography since I was 11 years old. Granted, God broke the chains of that addiction when I was 28, but as any addict will tell you, there’s no such thing as a “former” addict. I must remain vigilant, fighting the urge to say “I could stop any time I wanted to” and return to my addiction every single day. It destroyed one marriage, and could’ve caused rough waters for my current (and final) marriage, had I allowed it any quarter. You can safely assume that there are very few things in this world that I hate MORE than pornography… but you’d be a fool to assume that because I hate my weakness to it, I must also hate me.

I’m sure you can relate. No matter what walk of life you’re from or what belief system, I’m sure you’re able to see something in your own life or the life of a loved one that resonates. Maybe as children we identified the sin with the sinner, but as we mature and see the same failings in ourselves that we saw in others, and we gain a little sympathy. We learn how to separate the sin from the sinner, so that no matter how despicable the sin, we might still care for the sinner, even to the point of a Daddy being able to forgive the drunk driver that killed his daughter, or the victims of the AME church shooting being able to forgive Dylann Roof and plead for his repentance. We learn how to embrace the addict, even while he’s in the throes of his addiction, and we speak to the cheater in love — withholding our anger at their actions while we try to argue the error of those actions.

It’s not easy, but we do it every day. People don’t presume we hate the addict because of the addiction. We don’t hate the adulterer because of the adultery. We don’t even have to hate the killer because of the killing. Even those who ADVOCATE these actions — those who think it acceptable to fall to addiction, or to commit adultery, or to kill (for the right reasons, of course) — don’t equate hatred for the sin with hatred for the sinner in these cases.

Why, then, do so many people assume that if we hate homosexuality, we must hate the homosexual?

Biblical justifications against homosexuality (again, the sin, not the sinner) abound, so I won’t go into that. Those scripture references tend to fall on deaf ears anyway. Either way, those verses only INFORM us of the sin — they don’t go into WHY it’s a sin. The damages of homosexuality aren’t as apparent as addiction, or adultery, or murder, so it kinda makes sense that the unbelieving world (and an unfortunate number of believers) would in this case equate hating the sin with hating the sinner. Kinda.

But I’m a practical guy, and the more I grow in Christ, the more I realize that God is, in a way, the absolute embodiment of practicality. When I read the scriptures, I find a God that is not only knowable, but predictable in a way — consistent. Everything He does, everything He commands, He commands for a REASON. He never gives a command or outlines a sin on a whim. He never does anything “just because”.

One can see this in His law regarding “diverse weights and measures”. In Moses’ day, and throughout history in fact, vendors cheated their customers in order to get the best bargain. If they liked somebody, they might use a fair weight on their scale to measure out their product. If they didn’t like them, or if they thought they could get a little extra out of the deal, they would put a lighter weight of the same size on the scale. This would require more “weights” being put on the scale to balance out the product, which translated into a higher price to the customer. God’s commandment to maintain a just weight and a just measure was one of integrity, of equality both for the rich and the poor, the well-loved and the most-hated, so that no matter WHAT customer came to the vendor, the vendor did business with them the same way… which, in a very sneaky way, taught the people AS A WHOLE about the value of integrity.

The Mosaic Law is absolutely RIDDLED with this kind of commandment — having a practical “surface” purpose, but illustrating a far deeper truth. From weights to dietary law to sacrifice, the Law of Moses revealed God’s Heart through the lifestyle and life choices He required of the Israelites.

His view of homosexuality is no exception. It’s obvious that God designed us with a “natural purpose” for our genders. The problem is, most people stop there. They never stop to consider that God could have made humans to reproduce asexually like algae, or with spores like fungi. Heck, He could’ve designed us like the Mogwai in the 80’s move, Gremlins, which reproduced when they came in contact with water! So why make reproduction a process that requires both a man and a woman?

The natural purpose for our lips is to hold food and water in, but we can use them to whistle. The natural purpose of our legs is to walk, but we can use them to dance. Deviation from natural purpose is not necessarily a sin in itself, so I believe the “why” behind this sin goes a little deeper, revealing a little more of God’s Heart than “because I said so”.

If we look at the other sexual sins, we start to see a pattern emerge. Incest, bestiality, polyamory… all of these glorify what CAN be done with sex, but are to differing degrees self-serving. They are also lacking in intimacy, vulnerability. They don’t involve people that you must first get to know, must learn to trust, and must ultimately drop your guard for. Only in monogamous marriage do we find people who were strangers, but have now become so intimately a part of each other that they each KNOW and ARE KNOWN in a way that they do not share with anyone else in the world.

This is a picture of the kind of relationship that God wants to have with His creation — a creation that He could’ve denied free will, and thus guarantee obedience, but chose to give free will to, so that the creation might by free will CHOOSE to obey. God didn’t create us just to serve Him. He created us to LOVE Him, and for Him to love us. This is evident in the Cross of Christ, where the sovereign God of the universe voluntarily SUBJECTED Himself to His creation, to the scorn and humiliation of execution, to demonstrate His love for us.

As such, He is a very jealous God, jealous of any spiritual relationship that we form that does not have Him in the place of first priority. He gave everything for us, so naturally He is jealous anytime we aren’t willing to give everything for Him.

This is where homosexuality comes in, and why it’s such a big deal for the Christian. God built so much into the monogamous relationship between man and woman, revealed so much of His Heart in that relationship, that for us to pass over that relationship for another — man and man, woman and woman, brother and sister, man and woman and woman, man and beast — is to effectively commit adultery against that relationship He desires with us. This is the essence of idolatry — the choosing of something, anything, over God.

When we as Christians see homosexuality, we see it as a sin like any other, but when we see it in someone professing to love God, we see it the same way as we would see someone cheating on a loved one, as if that loved one won’t be hurt by the infidelity. Only we see this more viscerally, as this is someone cheating on Christ — the very One that died and rose again to establish a relationship that we ourselves hold dear. A relationship that He wants to establish with them.

Make no mistake. We DO NOT hate the homosexual. I have some in my family and they are JUST as dear to me as any other. I would give my life for them as readily as I would my own kids. But love for the sinner does not translate into permission for the sin. Just because I love my drug addicted family members does not mean I approve of their addiction. Just because I love my cheating friends does not mean that I tolerate their adultery without a word. Just because we can forgive a murderer does not mean that we see murder is acceptable. When a homosexual participates in homosexuality, they are committing a sin, pure and simple. When a practicing homosexual claims a love of Christ, the sin he commits is adultery against Christ.

No, we do not hate the sinner — ever — but we DO hate the sin, because we hate the hurt and insult that it causes the God that gave everything for them.

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