“Love the sinner. Hate the sin.”
How many times do we hear this, particularly in response to the debate over homosexuality in the church? I cannot count the number of comments and conversations that begin something like this:
As Christians, we love everyone. We love the sinner, but hate the sin. Haven’t you read the following Bible verses?…
Here’s why I hate that expression:
There seems to be a whole lot more hating of the sin going on.
(And, yes, I’ve read those six Bible verses. I’ve also read some others.)
It’s easy to say we love everyone. It’s easy to use faith as a crutch. It’s easy to make a blanket statement about such a profoundly difficult thing as to love everyone.
It’s not easy to practice what we preach.
Brothers and sisters, forgive me, but talk is cheap.
(And, yes, I realize the irony of saying that as a writer – as someone who spends so much time just “talking” via a computer screen. I’m a sinner, too. See below.)
Still, just saying we love someone doesn’t always translate into actual love, either in emotion or in action. We need to DO more loving of the sinner. Yesterday.
But, here’s the thing. We are all sinners.
Our gay friends are sinners. Our straight friends are sinners.
We. are. all. sinners.
I just happen to be of the conviction that it is not our innate sexual orientation that makes us sinners.
I am also of the conviction that those who agree with me and those who faithfully believe that same-sex attractions are inherently sinful can (must) do a better job of loving the
Recently, I read the book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel in the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, by Justin Lee.
In a word (or two): Read it.
If we say we truly “love the sinner,” then reading this book is a tangible thing we (on both sides!) can DO to put that love into action.
But how can reading a book help us to love the sinner?
Because, as Justin puts it, many of the “loving” things we say are anything but when we only see the world through our own lens.
In the Christians-vs.-Gays culture, Christians weren’t such a great people to be around if you were gay. They might lecture you, talk down to you, or quote the Bible at you, but they weren’t very likely to make you feel loved. Quite the opposite.
(Sometimes this is true, too, if you are an ally.)
Wait. Wait. Before you say, “But, we are doing these things out of love!”…Read on.
Torn shares the real life story and struggle of an evangelical Christian coming to terms with his sexuality and with the church and God he loves. I found Justin’s story to be powerful. Informative. Enlightening. And, at times, heartbreaking.
And, in my opinion, it is a story that can be so incredibly helpful to Christians (and non-Christians) on both sides of the debate.
Reading Torn is a great first step in getting to know someone’s story. It is a tangible way to start loving in action and not just in word.
Maybe it is a story familiar to you as an evangelical Christian. Maybe it is a story familiar to you as someone who has same-sex attractions. Maybe it is a story that is the furthest thing from your own life experience that you can imagine.
Great. Read it twice.
Because in order to really have a debate within the church that honors all Christian views on homosexuality, we need to understand all these views. We need to especially hear the voices of those caught in the middle. We need to read their stories. We need to spend more time talking to them, and less time talking about them.
(Again, guilty as charged.)
For it is only when we wear the other shoe, if only for a moment through the lens of a book, that we can we hope to really reach out with real love and compassion.
Real compassion would mean teaching people how to be more sensitive to the needs of the gay people they encounter and helping them understand our struggles better.
So, regardless of where we fall on the “homosexuality as sin” debate, here is one thing we can all do better. Let’s love. Let’s learn. Let’s hear each other’s stories. Let’s really listen as if they were our own. (Because they are.)
Let’s really love the sinner. Period.
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 1 John 3:18
Note: I first came across Torn: Rescuing the Gospel in the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate via a series on “Sexuality and The Church” taking place over on Rachel Held Evans’ blog. I highly recommend reading her summaries and commentary as well as some many of the stories and perspectives shared in the comment sections. You can find her posts on Torn here: Chapters 1-4, Chapters 5-6, Chapters 7-11, Chapters 12-13, Chapters 14-15.
 Lee, Justin. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs- Christians Debate. (Jericho Books, 2012). 115
 Lee, Justin. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs- Christians Debate. (Jericho Books, 2012). 123