“Love the sinner, hate the sin” bothers me. This phrase is used a lot in Christian circles and I understand why. Scripture commands us to love our enemy as much as we love ourselves (Matt. 5:43-45) and to hate sin as much as God does (Ps. 97:10), so the principle is there. But I don’t see this balance being lived out often. There is either the extreme shunning of the sinner because of their sin or the loving of the sinner while embracing their sin. There should be a way to truly love a person and yet at the same time not endorse their choices. I believe this is the difference between agreement and acceptance.
In our culture, any form of disagreement can easily be viewed as intolerance. To accept a person means you have to accept their behavior, but the acceptance I’m talking about can show love and grace while not wavering from the truth. A good example of this is with our family members. I’ve had to have conversations with loved ones who just wanted me to accept them by being okay with their sin. In those instances, I’ve had to make the distinction that I do accept and love them, but that I don’t have to agree with them in order to continue a relationship with them.
We shouldn’t have to compromise on our personal convictions and we shouldn’t have to burn bridges either. Sometimes this means creating boundaries, which is not the same as burning bridges. Boundaries motivated by love help to maintain the relationship. It’s not easy … it takes both truth and grace to grow a relationship. There are people in my life, especially family members, that I will love no matter what! We may not always agree and I may not like the choices they make, but that will not lessen my love for them by any means.
There will be times when we have to make the hard decision on when to let go of a relationship or where to draw the line. For me, I think the goal is always to maintain a loving relationship and build bridges. After all, it’s hard to speak the truth to someone you don’t have a relationship with. It is not loving to let people live in sin and believe the lie that no harm will ever come of it. It takes trust in a relationship to speak truth in love. Any unwanted advice comes off as criticism and if the relationship is not strong or close, truth comes off as judgment. But we speak the truth because we love people, even if it means losing a relationship. That’s why, if agreement cannot be reached, it sometimes is best to just reach a point of peace, realizing you will always love and accept them, but cannot entirely agree with them. This is why we pray for true repentance. We are to love the sinner, speak the truth, and trust God will continue the work He started.