Perhaps you’ve heard someone say this before: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” This phrase was said frequently in the church I grew up in, and I’ve used this phrase more than a few times throughout the years. But is this really what following Jesus looks like? Loving sinners, while hating their sin?
If you were to talk to the average non-Christian on the street, what do you think they’d say about Christians? Would they say, “Those Christians are the most loving, caring, generous, non-judgmental people! They’re just a joy to be around!”
That’s probably not the word on the street. The reality is that we as Christians have unfortunately earned our reputation as judgmental, difficult, unloving and condemning.
A major problem facing us as Christians today is that we’ve learned that we need to discern and judge—to hate the sin—but we haven’t learned to love other sinners well. We have too often shown our neighbors that Christians are judgmental, instead of showing them that Christians love like Jesus loves.
Because I am a sinner, I find it so easy to spot the speck in someone else’s eye while missing the plank in my own. I have a tendency to become overly curious and aware of the sins of others. I have a tendency to judge first and love second. I have a tendency to judge other sinners harshly, especially when they struggle with sins that are different from my own.
In James 4:12, James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Perhaps the sin that we struggle with the most as Christians—the plank in our eye—is our judgmental, condemnatory hearts.
As followers of Jesus, we need to stop focusing on the faults and sins of others. Jesus doesn't call us to be judgmental, but instead to act with love, humility, and mercy toward others. Jesus never tells us to love the sinner and hate the sin. Jesus tells us to love the sinner and repent of our own sin.
Let’s take the time this week to give ourselves a good look in the mirror so that we can start to address the planks in our own eyes—especially the planks of unloving judgmentalism. Let’s think about how we act throughout the week: are we more likely to respond with judgment or with love?
We are all sinners. We all need God’s mercy. Following Jesus means showing his loving mercy to others.