Dehumanizing

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9

The other day I saw a meme that had the phrase, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” But it had a line through the all the words except the first one – love. So it looked like this: “Love the sinner; hate the sin.” At first I liked the intention behind the meme. The idea here is not to judge others for their sin and simply love them as God loves them. And I really like that.

But the more I looked at it the more I could see that, though this meme was well intentioned, it was missing an important truth from scripture. The Bible teaches us that in order to love people well, in order for love to be sincere, in order for us to love what God loves and the way God loves, we must also hate what He hates.

Some people think God doesn’t hate anything, but they probably haven’t read much of the Bible. God hates evil. And sin is a form of evil enacted by people. The reason God hates evil and sin is because sin dehumanizes the person sinning and the person being sinned against. Sin reduces the beauty and purpose of God’s good creation and it separates us from intimacy with God. Sin gives the enemy permission and access to wreak havoc in our lives and in the lives of others.

There is a reason the apostle Paul wrote Romans 12:9 to the early Christians in Rome. He knew loving well–in other words loving people the way God loved people–was connected to hating what God hates. God loves people perfectly and, because of that love, He hates the sin that damages their lives. He hates evil in all its forms.

In order to love the human trafficker well, I must hate human trafficking. Otherwise, I simply enable evil in the world. In order to love the drug addict well, I must hate addiction. With people promoting racism, in order to love them well, I must hate racism. With people promoting various perversions of human sexuality, in order to love them well, I must hate sexual perversion. With people promoting the killing of the unborn, in order to love them well, I must hate murder in all its forms.

In Romans 12:9 I believe Paul was expanding on a passage from the prophet Amos:

Seek good, not evil,
    that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
    just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
    maintain justice in the courts.

Amos 5:14-15

The problem that most of us have with trying to live out the phrase “Love the sinner; hate the sin” is that we struggle to hold the tension of the dichotomy. If we don’t mind a person’s sin that much, we have an easier time loving them. Or, if we hate the sin someone is participating in, we struggle to see the person as more than their sin and then struggle to love them completely. We struggle to separate the identity of a person from their sin long enough to love them and hate the evil they participate in. We so often lump a person in with their sin as if they are the same thing. They’re not.

Loving the sinner while hating the sin is so difficult that it is impossible to do unless we are supernaturally empowered by the love of God. Human love is not strong enough to hold this tension. Human love will make excuses for the sin or enable the sin as an attempt to love the person. Or, human love will hate was is evil and condemn the person sinning. Human love, thinking it is advocating against injustice, will simply heap guilt and shame on the sinner. Only the love of God can rightly love the sinner and hate the sin. And we cannot even attempt to love what is good and hate was is evil without the love of God flowing through us.

Jesus is our perfect example. He said to the woman caught in adultery, “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin“(John 8:11). No condemnation combined with the call to leave a life of sin. Perfect love and acceptance combined with a challenge to holiness. Love for the sinner while hating the sin that was destroying her life.

“Love the sinner; hate the sin.” If you cross out any words you unintentionally cross them all out.

Neither

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” 

Joshua 5:13-14

This is astounding. The commander of the angel armies of the Lord stood before Joshua. He was about to give Joshua the strategy for conquering Jericho. The Lord was giving the Promised Land to the Israelites. They would defeat army after army because the Lord was with them. Yet, when this angel was asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies,” the angel’s response was, “Neither.”

One would think that in light of Israel being the chosen people of God, the angel’s response would have been different. This angel is, after all, there to give Joshua the strategy on how to defeat their enemies in battle. How could the angel say “Neither” and still be telling the truth?

I believe this gives us insight into the heart of God. God is against evil, but He is not against people. If we position ourselves against God and His Kingdom, we’ll suffer the consequences. Yet, if we align ourselves with Him, regardless of who we are, regardless of which “camp” we are in, we will experience blessing.

Rahab is a great example of this truth. Though she was technically an enemy of Israel, because she aligned herself with God and His plans, she and her whole family were blessed (Joshua 6:22-23).

The apostle Paul highlights this truth in his letter to the Ephesians. He said:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 

Ephesians 6:12

God’s battle, and therefore the people of God’s battle, is not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil. Those who align themselves with evil will become casualties of war. God’s heart is to redeem people, regardless of the evil they’ve partnered with. Our heavenly Father “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth“(1 Timothy 2:4).

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

So, when we ask God, “Are you for us or for them?” His response is, “Neither. I gave my only Son for everyone involved. I am not against people. I am against evil. The whole point of sending my Son was to rescue people from the evil that dwells in their own heart. To the extent that a person partners with evil instead of with Me, that is the extent to which they will feel me come against them.”

Where are you partnering with sin in your own life? What would it look like to partner with God instead? He is not against you! He is for you!