Love the sinner, hate the sin.
Cliche as it is, it is accurate:
I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
– Psalm 119:104
To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
– Proverbs 8:13
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
– Romans 12:9-10
I won’t go into that phrase right now, though. What I want to talk about now is hating sin, and, specifically, hating your sin. And by your sin, and I mean your own sin.
We have this awful problem in our society where we cannot separate sin from self. Maybe we all should’ve seen this coming; after all, sin has dug itself so deep into our civilization that it seems to define us. When I tell someone to hate their own sin, they may believe I am telling them to hate themselves.
Let me use my own life as an example. I struggle with pride and jealousy. These ones are hard, because they’re lifestyle sins. As opposed to, say, lying which pops up only on occasion (unless you are a chronic liar, in which case it becomes a lifestyle sin), pride and jealously play a part in my everyday life. And it sucks.
I will go through times where I become overwhelmingly aware of it, and that’s when I give it up to God. That does’t mean I won’t face temptation, and oftentimes, in my human weakness, I fail. This is something I’m still working on, and, I have a feeling, will be working on for a long time. But I have learned to loathe these things that keep my away from God. I face them every day; I give in to them every day. And I loathe them.
Does that mean I hate myself?
Of course not!
I only hate the thing that separates me from my loving Father. And thankfully, that Father sent His Son to die for me so I only need to apologize for those sins–but still do everything I can, with His help, to keep them out of my life.
Your sin is not who you are. It’s not a part of your personality. It’s not you. You may think it is, but it is simply not.
God created you (and all the rest of humanity) to be something beautiful. He made you unique and He knew you before you were even born. He created you just the way you are, and He adores you. (Psalm 139)
But somewhere along the way, something went wrong. Sin crept into the human race; Satan poisoned our hearts so the second we entered the world we were doomed to be away from God for eternity. God did not create your sin; it is a warped, twisted mutation that sprang from His perfect creation.
God loves you, and He wants you to love yourself. But He doesn’t want you to love your sin. He hates your sin, because it keeps you from Him. But He doesn’t hate you; how could He?
It’s as if a Master Painter created the loveliest painting ever seen. He spent years meticulously crafting each tree along the dirt road, each flower by the stream, each strand of hair on the girl’s head. He painted a masterpiece like the world has never known. He smiles as He finishes the last stroke, wipes off his brushes, and goes out of the room for a well-deserved rest. As He does, however, an enemy sneaks in and dips his own brush into a can of black paint, smearing it all over the canvas. The Painter comes back to see His perfect work utterly ruined. Does He still adore the painting? Yes, of course! Does He adore the black paint that now mars the lovely scene He created? Can He love it? No!
Now, one could say that the black actually gives an impression of the night sky, or crows sitting in the trees. They could say that, in some strange way, the painting still looks fine. Would the Painter agree, do you think? Of course not! He knows what it’s supposed to look like, and no amount of stretching the truth could ever change that.
Not a perfect analogy, not by a long shot, but I hope you understand what I’m getting at. We are a prefect painting, created by God for great purposes. But sin has destroyed us, and He cannot use us for what we were meant to do anymore. He loves us, but He does not love the sin.
Too often we let ourselves be defined by these black marks. We look at the blemishes and say, “Yes, this is who I am! I’m proud of it!” (Hint, hint: pride is another sin.) In fact, when Christ gives us the option for Him to come into our lives and clean us up, we refuse, because we think that somehow He will wipe away the entire painting so we are nothing but a blank canvas. In fact, Christ wants to keep the best parts of you, while still getting rid of the ugly black marks.
I have seen many people–some of whom claim to be Christians–who live freely in their sin. They boast about their sin. They love their sin. I’ve wondered what it would be like many times. How freeing would it be to pick my own sexuality! In a world of ever-increasing options, I could pick something unique that seems to fit me. How glorious! How liberating!
Only, it wouldn’t be liberating for long. I won’t even let myself consider the other options, because God has laid out His law in black and white of what’s expected of me. While it may seem to free me for a few moments, in the end, it means destruction. I cannot serve both God and sin; I am a slave to one or the other, for we are all slaves to something. And it turns out that sin is the one with the tighter shackles. (Romans 6:22, 8:1-4)
So sin will crop up. We know that! We all struggle with it! The difference between Christians and others is that we acknowledge our sin, we ask forgiveness for our sins, and we loathe our sins when they come back up. This is what Jesus died for! He died so our struggle with sin would finally be lifted onto His shoulders!
Hate your sin. Loathe it. Despise it. Whatever it may be, you can never, ever, accept it and believe it’s a part of who you are. God knows what you are supposed to look like, and He certainly knows you aren’t supposed to have that sin ruining your life and keeping you away from Him. Ask Jesus to come in and cover up the black marks. It’s a slow, painful process. You’ll want to go back a hundred times a day. You’ll be tempted time and again and need to ask for forgiveness time and again. The one thing you can never do is say, “Hey, I’m full of pride/deceit/malice/gossip/jealously/homosexuality/adultery/cruelty/idolatry. It must be who I am, and according to the world, I shouldn’t change myself. So I won’t. I’ll embrace this and be proud of this. It’s who I am!”
No! It’s not who you are! You are a Christian! You have been set free from the law of sin and death. If you truly believe in Christ, you will not be under the control of sin, but under control of the Spirit. Sin will still tempt you, but now you have power over it. Leave your old, sinful self behind.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirt of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in a sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desire. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put the death of misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received a spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
– Romans 8:1-17
If you are still controlled by the sinful nature, you simply cannot please God. It’s impossible. Nothing you do will make Him think, “Oh, maybe I made a mistake. That person might be living a sinful life, but they still love me, and overall they’re a pretty good person, so it’s fine. I’ll let it slide this once.” Nope. Doesn’t work like that.
You will sin. I will sin. We will all sin. But when we are controlled by the Spirit, we’re no longer slaves to sin. It no longer has the power to take over our lives. God forgives us, and we learn to detest the sins of our life, the same way our Father does. But we never let those sins take us over again; we can never let them define us. When we accept Christ, He is the only, only one who gets to define who we are.
You are not your pride.
You are not your jealously.
You are not your homosexuality.
You are not your adultery.
You are not your anger.
You are not your dishonesty.
You are not your laziness.
You are not your cruelty.
You are not your deceit.
You are not your disobedience.
You are not your greed.
You are not your sexual sins.
You are not your [insert your sins here].
You are a child of God, brought into mercy and under the law of grace, bought by the blood of Christ, who died for you. You have been set free from your sins. You no longer cling to them, as you know they will only separate you from a loving relationship with your heavenly Father. You beg for forgiveness when you slip and mess up, and God forgives you. You loathe the sin you once held to; the sin that even now tries to crawl back into your life. You know that your sin is not a part of who you. God is still wiping away the black marks, and one day, in heaven, you will be a beautiful picture once again, free to be who you really are without any sin weighing you down. You hate your sin, but, because of Christ, you have learned to love yourself.