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Announcing the Forgiveness of Sins

Within Christian circles it is not uncommon to hear something that goes a little something like this:
Jesus taught us to love the sinner but hate the sin.
Now that expression has always put me off to a certain extent. To be blunt, I never saw that expression cause Christians to treat others more lovingly. There is too much arrogance involved in this statement, too much condescension. When people are viewed as sinners then hating the sin will inevitably lead to hating (or at least mistreating) the sinner.
Some more recent reflection has caused me to object to this statement on an even more fundamental level.
Jesus did not teach us to love the sinner but hate the sin.
What Jesus did do was announce the forgiveness of sins. And he did this be refusing to define people as sinners. Those that the religious leaders viewed as sinners were the ones Jesus openly embraced. These were the ones Jesus journeyed with and ate with (in contemporary western culture we miss how significant and intimate sharing table fellowship was in ancient near eastern culture). Jesus defines these people as Beloved and Forgiven.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbour.
So let's forget that tired expression, “love the sinner but hate the sin.” Instead, let's begin announcing (with word and deed) the forgiveness of sins.

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  1. Dan,
    This is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot as well. I definitely agree because I think that it’s nearly impossible to separate the sinner from their sin. Besides that, there are also a lot of things that aren’t black and white, for which we can have no understanding of motivation. We take for granted the fact that people bring to decisions everything that they have experienced and remove from them the situational factors, attributing their sin to who they are; while our own sin is viewed as heavily influenced by the context. It’s called the fundamental attribution error. Your psychology lesson is done for the day – much love – Ryan.

  2. Ryan,
    Hey, wow, I didn’t really expect to run into you here. Hope all is well – are you still working for Wanda?
    Thanks for the comment, I’m glad this is an issue that you are thinking about.

  3. Dan, thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. It has really caused me to think about how I view people and certain issues in the world today. The moment we categorize someone as a sinner or define them by a certain sin, we rob them of their identity as children of God, wholly loved and fully redeemed. We are ALL sinners, so who are we as the church to make any distinctions between specific actions in society and deeper conditions of the heart from which we all suffer? We are all sinners, we are all loved, and we have all been forgiven through Christ. We need to be bearers of that message into the broken world in which we live. Thanks for this, Dan.

  4. Ian!!
    Glad you liked the post. I appreciate your comments. Could you do me a favour though and remove me from your links on your blog? I like to try and stay in a little bit of control over who stumbles onto my journal and who doesn’t. Thanks!
    Much love.