Love the sinner, hate the sin.
Rarely in history has there been a greater mischaracterization of the heart of Jesus or a more egregious bastardization of the Bible than these six words.
The damage that LTSHTS has done in the lives of billions of people and to the public perception of Christians can never be fully calculated, but one thing is certainly true: it’s an embarrassment and a sin and a total abomination—and here are three reasons why:
1) Jesus never said it.
Lots of Christians would have us believe that Jesus would be totally onboard with LTSHTS, but the simple truth is that he never prescribed anything like it in Scripture. Jesus was crystal clear in his teachings about our calling to love: God, and our neighbor as ourselves, one another as he loved us, our enemies, sacrificially, extravagantly, relentlessly—but never with caveats or qualifications. He never let anything about a person’s life keep them from intimate fellowship with him (and he was the only one qualified to do so).
LTSHTS supporters will ask rhetorically, “Well doesn’t Jesus preach against sin and therefore hates it? Isn’t hating sin just being obedient to him?” Jesus always spoke to people about their own lives; about the sins they were personally called to address in response to him. Whatever repentance Jesus was inviting people to, it was on their behalf, it was never on behalf of anyone else. His words were never given as license to police someone else’s moral condition, but to use a mirror to assess one’s own. Any behavior modification, any inner conviction, any heart change would be between Jesus and those hearing his words. Only he decides the work he does. We don’t get to play middleman between Christ and another human being. We are assigned the tasks of feeding, healing, and caring for those we cross paths with, in his name.
Unfortunately for those so clinging to LTSHTS, Jesus commands us to love people—period.
2) It’s cowardly and morally inconsistent.
Let’s be honest here. Whenever any Christian uses the phrase LTSHTS, it’s never in the context of anything other than gender identity and sexuality, which itself is an indictment of the words themselves. It isn’t as though these faithful folks spend their entire lives dispensing the kind of behavior-based malevolence that LTSHTS always comes packaged with. It’s not as though they continually scour the Scriptures, applying their theological understandings of sin to those in their midst who might lie or steal or commit adultery or love money or drink to excess. If they truly loved those “sinners” and hated those “sins” enough to treat people as horribly as they treat the LGBTIQ community for the sins they charge them with, they’d have nobody left who could ever stand to be in their presence. LTSHTS is simply an exercise in selective, subjective sin-shaming and targeted discrimination disguised as righteousness.
If you’re a Christian and you’re going to choose to be hateful or biased toward people based on their gender identity and sexuality, you may as well just come out and say it. Own your discomfort or displeasure. Hiding behind LTSHTS is just using Jesus as justification for the kind of behavior he would be quite appalled by. It isn’t Christlikeness, it’s cowardice.
3) It’s a relationship-killer.
At the core of LTSHTS is the argument that gender identity and sexual orientation are somehow choices (an idea that runs counter to everyone’s experience of both, of course, but that’s neither here nor there). The speaker of LTSHTS believes that the person in question is making a decision to do something that the speaker believes is inherently sinful, yet (the speaker claims) they are able to somehow separate a sexual act (which they despise), with the person engaging in said act (whom they supposedly love). I’d really like a practical unpacking of how that all works with actual people, but I doubt it will be forthcoming.
Never mind that gender identity and sexual orientation are for all of us, both far greater than simply any physical acts we perform, and therefore to characterize LGBTIQ people as inherently sinful for only those acts themselves, is completely flawed from both a Biblical and common sense perspective.
But someone’s sin isn’t really the issue here and we don’t even have to agree on that. Regardless of our theological perspective, we can’t ignore that at the heart of Jesus’ life and ministry is the way he drew people close to him, listened to them, touched them, broke bread with them, wept with them, and treated them with dignity, as equals.
When a follower of Christ claims that they LTSHTS, they are saying two things loudly and unquestionably to a LGBTIQ person:
One, that he or she knows that person’s body and heart from a distance, better than the person in question knows from the inside.
And two, that what those people are telling them is involuntary about themselves, they are characterizing as despicable. They are declaring them as inherently defective, vile, evil. I’m not sure those who wield LTSHTS so causally have any real idea how damaging and hurtful that is; what it really speaks to the hearer’s heart. If they did, I’m certain they would see the complete absence of Jesus in it.
To say to a LGBTIQ person, “I love you but I hate your sexuality”, is the same as saying to someone, “I love you, but the color of your eyes disgusts me”, or “I love you, but I hate the way you laugh”, or “I love you, but God believes that the freckles on your shoulders and cheeks are an abomination.”
LTSHTS is not (as its practitioners allege) a balanced phrase, but a hateful phrase; one that never makes a relationship between two parties better or closer or richer, it only severs or prevents the very kind of intimate fellowship Jesus forged, even with those he disagreed with. To utter it is to stand in complete opposition to the life he lived and to the ministry he practiced.
Christian, there are many more reasons why “Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin” needs to be killed and buried forever, but those are a great start.
The bottom line, is that it is a phrase that injures, demeans, judges, and ostracizes people who are made in the image of God, and those are things that should never be on the agenda of someone claiming to be following in the footsteps of Jesus.
We’re talking here about important conversations, regarding extremely complex issues, with incredibly diverse human beings. These all deserve much more than a cheap, insulting catch-phrase. They deserve far greater effort than a lazy religious platitude which doesn’t work when fleshed out in real relationships and serves no redemptive purpose.
LTSHTS is about as sinful as we can get, friends.
To never utter that phrase again, may be the very repenting Christians ought to do—but that’s between you and Jesus.
As for me?
I love you, Christian, but I really hate the way you—”love the sinner, hate the sin.”