from the breach

Isaiah 58:12

Love the sinner. Hate Steve. — May 16, 2015

Love the sinner. Hate Steve.

There are a few things in my world that I can always count on:

  1. Stray animals will miraculously find their way to my house.
  2. I will forget something important every time I travel.
  3. My favorite football team will find a way to disappoint me every season.
  4. My computer will automatically restart right in the middle of an important project.
  5. I will see one of the following comments in an article or post at least once a week:
    1. “Love the sinner. Hate the sin.”
    2. “God made Adam and Eve. Not Adam and Steve.”

I am a pretty laid back guy. There are not many things that upset me. For some reason, those two comments push me over the edge – not because they convict me or cause me to question my beliefs. Those comments bother me because I know the hurt and alienation that many people feel when reading them.

I get that most people have the best of intentions when penning these amusing little phrases. I also understand that everyone has a right to their beliefs. I just wonder if there is a more constructive and gracious way to make the same point – a way that does not devalue the humanity of those on the other side of the debate.

“Love the sinner. Hate the sin.”

It sounds very Jesus-like, perhaps something that might be highlighted with red lettering in particular versions of the Bible.

I have been on the receiving end of this comment more times than I care to remember. My first thought is always “Aren’t we all sinners?” When someone says, “Love the sinner” it seems to imply that they have somehow conquered sin and now stand blameless before me. I should feel honored that they are offering  “love” to a wretch like me. Jesus conquered sin, but I am pretty confident that it is a daily battle for the rest of us.

I recently finished reading the book, Torn, by Justin Lee. I cannot say enough great things about this book. I wish I could have found a book like this 20 years ago. All in God’s timing I guess.

I had numerous “Aha!” moments while reading Torn. It’s one of those books that you have to step away from every once in awhile so you can process what you just read. One such moment was after reading what Justin had to say about this very subject:

“It doesn’t feel very generous when someone is saying it (Love the sinner. Hate the Sin.) about you.   Yes, I know I’m a sinner, as we all are, but something about the phrase feels condescending and dehumanizing, as if I’m now ‘the sinner’ rather than the person’s friend or neighbor, and ‘loving’ me has become the new project they’ve taken on out of obligation to God rather than a genuine interest in my well-being.”

Christian author Tony Campolo sums it up best, “Love the sinner and hate your own sin. And when you correct the sin in your own life, then you can start hating the sin of your neighbor.”

“God made Adam and Eve. Not Adam and Steve.”

Poor Steve. Steve has unknowingly become the poster child for the Bible’s views on homosexuality. People HATE Steve. Apparently, God hates Steve as well. I always get the same picture in my head when I hear or read the Adam and Steve statement:

It’s a beautiful sunny day in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are sharing an apple while lounging under a fig tree. A few yards away we see Steve sitting alone. Then God walks into the picture. He passes right by Steve and joins Adam and Eve. Adam asks God, “Who is the weird stalker guy sitting over there by himself?” God replies, “I don’t know, I didn’t make him.”

It’s silly, I know. But once again we have lowered the value of one individual because of his differences. If your point is that you don’t agree with same-sex relationships, why not just say that? Why imply that someone’s very existence is a mistake? I may be wrong, but I doubt this statement has ever changed someone’s opinion on the morality of same-sex relationships.

I wish we could just remove these statements from our list of Cute Christian Sayings. I wish we could replace them with things like, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 12:31) and “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

I have close friends and family on both sides of the Christian/Gay dilemma. We don’t always see eye to eye. I have Christian friends that don’t understand how I can claim to be a follower of Christ and still be gay. I have gay friends that don’t understand how I can follow after a God who “appears” to despise me.

We disagree. We debate. Ultimately, we choose to love each other despite our differences. I respect their opinions, and they respect mine. Will I ever make a difference in their lives? I hope so. I know that they make a difference in mine by just showing me a little mercy and grace.

I have had my share of people who have walked away or “unfriended” me. I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt. It’s hard to feel rejected by those who claim to love you unconditionally. I have learned that sometimes they need a little mercy and grace as well. It took me 30 years to come to terms with who I am so maybe I need to cut them a little slack. Hopefully, they will get things figured out quicker than I did.

The sad fact is that people come and go. I had a pastor tell me once to envision my life as an empty cup. It’s my cup, and I get to decide what I fill it with. I can fill it with friends, family, my career, hobbies, etc. However, if I fill my cup with things that are not eternal then what am I left with when those things are gone? My cup is empty.  If I fill my cup with my faith in God, then I will always be full. All those other things in my life become “overflow”. Who doesn’t love a little overflow?

I started this blog with the hope that the breach between these two groups could somehow be repaired. If it can work in my small sphere of influence, why can’t it work on a much larger scale? Thankfully, I know that I am not alone in this endeavor.