We have just finished the sermon series based on Rev. Adam Hamilton’s book, “Half Truths: God Helps Those Who Help Themselves and Other Things the Bible Doesn’t Say.” They are simple phrases. They sound Christian – like something you might even find in the Bible:
▪ Everything happens for a reason
▪ God helps those who help themselves
▪ God won’t give you more than you can handle
▪ God said it, I believe it, that settles it
▪ Love the sinner, hate the sin
If you missed any, order the book here.
Rev. Paula Steinbacher
PS: What’s next? We are going to study all the references to Jesus as a child in the Gospels: all the stories of him and his family before we begin our “Journey to Jerusalem” for Lent. Join us each week to learn a little about Jesus’ life prior to his baptism!
Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin
“Love the sinner, hate the sin?” What on earth is wrong with that? Sounds like a good way to avoid being “Judgy.” (Is that a word? “Judgy?”)
We all do it, right? Judge others just a little bit for any number of reasons. This common adage, “Love the sinner, hate the sin” seems to remind us that we are called to love the person no matter what their actions are.
But stop — let’s begin with the very basic premise that this saying is just NOT scriptural. We are not called to love the sinner. Actually, Jesus called us to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (this should ring very familiar because we find this verbatim in many Hebrew laws, Mark 12, Luke 10, and Matthew 22).
When we say, “Love the sinner” we are categorizing people by judging their lives and actions. Jesus had a lot to say about judging. Take a look at this clear example from Matthew 7:1-5:
‘Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.’
There’s no way to misinterpret this passage of scripture! Indeed, if any of us were placed under the microscope that we place others, we would certainly be vulnerable to many kinds of judgements and conclusions about our righteousness or sinfulness. Scripture does have something to say about this as well. In Romans 3:23 we read, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
What is sin? Maybe understanding that would help us along towards the understanding that we all “Fall short of the glory of God.” The Greek word used in the gospels and epistles that is translated as sin is “Hamartia.” (Click hereto read an interesting article on the use of hamartia in Greek Tragedy if you’d like to learn more). Basically, the word indicates “Missing the mark.” The Hebrew word, “Chata” indicates the same kind of idea: straying from a path or missing a mark. I think we can all agree that if the mark is the “Glory of God” then we have, indeed, missed the mark on that.
Why are we so quick to point out that other people are sinners? Evidently, Jesus knew this was our human proclivity, because he warned his disciples against just that thing (read through Matthew 7 again if you’ve already forgotten his warning).
I realize that people use this to remind themselves that we are called to love people no matter what their choices without condoning their self-destructive behaviors or addictions or lifestyle choices. Adam Hamilton suggests a much better way to reframe that without implying someone else’s faults. He says we should live by this adage, “Love my neighbor; even though I’m a sinner.”
In that way, we are honoring the intent of Jesus without pointing fingers at anyone other than ourselves.
May you find it a little easier this week to love — not just those who make it easy for us to love, but also those who we find difficult to love.
With Prayers for your Hearts to be Full,
More CEH Encouragement
During our 2016 Extravagant Generosity Stewardship Campaign, I asked those in attendance to write down the reasons why they support CEH through their gifts of time, talent, and/or treasure. We had so many wonderful responses! I’ll be featuring them over the next month or so. I hope you enjoy reading the reasons why people attend and support CEH:
I have been a member for many years – choir member, Sunday School teacher, Deacon and Elder. I’m now unable to take part but for my pledge – I appreciate those with the talents to keep us with Christ.
CEH provides a weekly uplifting experience that provides the fuel and desire to get through another week trying to be a “person of God”.
Need for the uplifting music and enjoyment with friends. Need for relating Christ to my everyday activities.
I give of my time since it is what the Spirit nudges me to do! When I’m away, I have a hole until I return. We attend churches in other places, but CEH is home and where I’m led to help out.
Commitment: The belief that when I promise something, I want to do it and I promise to do and I WILL do it. (Even if I don’t really want to.)
I have always found that multiple acts of volunteering or assisting in communal efforts yields the occasional unpredicted reward of a gift or gesture that makes all worth it. This congregation allows these opportunities to contribute and the rewards are outstanding.