Love the sinner… Stop the sin?

I have been pondering for some time now the often leveled charge of “Hypocrisy”. Not a charge leveled at me but at Christians in general. The latest thought provoking indictment came from an article in Mother Jones (a publication/website that bills itself as doing “smart, fearless journalism”). Here’s a portion of what Julia Whitty wrote (and the link to the article):

Unwed teens and 20s who attend or have graduated from private religious schools are more likely to obtain abortions than their peers from public schools…

…In other words, even religious women, if unmarried and pregnant, resort to abortion—particularly women in their teens. This according to new research published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Hypocrisy sucks.

I took exception to the last line, not because of the last word – I really don’t care about that. I took exception because the article seems to indicate that because religious teens might still resort to abortion our standards are too high. It also implies that any claims made by the Christian church must be adhered to by every Christian at every moment of every decision in order to not be hypocritical. But just because we believe something is the right truth into which we should strive to live does not mean we believe we can do so without fail. We just believe it is the truth worth holding up as the truth. Grace is that which fills the gap as we, by the transforming power of Jesus, seek to live up to, and into, the truth.

Having said all that, I believe part of the blame falls to us “religious folks”. We use the phrase – love the sinner, hate the sin, but our actions tend to say, “Don’t show disdain for the sinner and stop the sin.” The evidence comes in our desire to legislate morality while avoiding the harder work of love.

From my perspective, the people who are looking at the Christian church are more apt to see a debate over the morality of abortion than to see an unwed mother telling how the church supported her. It is even less likely that people will see a woman who has recently had an abortion being supported by a community of faith. I have always thought our best chance to save a life was not by picket signs outside an abortion clinic to denounce a pregnant teen going in, but rather to have loving arms waiting outside for when this teen comes back out. Loving the sinner more than stopping the sin.

God really does have the power to transform lives, but sometimes His people are too busy getting in the way. Let’s try this, not just with abortion but with same-sex relationships and drug use and unmarried people living together. Let’s do the harder work of loving the sinner. We will be accused of being soft on sin and hanging out with the wrong people. We’ll be accused of being participants in the sin itself. We may only impact a few lives during our time of ministry on this earth. If all of that is true we’ll be in good company for that is just what happened with Jesus.

Hate ALL sin for the way it keeps any of us from knowing life at its very best, but LOVE with great abandon and with grace abundant, for it is not judgment that transforms but grace.

Holy high five to you, Mike.


One response to “Love the sinner… Stop the sin?

  1. Possibly the only hope some people might receive will come from reassurance of God’s love and acceptance of people that show love and respect for a fellow human being.

    We all sin daily. If God were to forgive us in the same way we forgive others – how forgiven would we be?

    I liked your writeup very much – possibly we should look inward as to why we are judging others.

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