If you are a Christian who has confronted LGBTQ+ issues, or if you aren’t Christian but are familiar with Christian language that is often used with the LGBTQ+ community, you have probably come across a particular phrase.
“Love the sinner, hate the sin.”
I used to be a major believer in this saying. I could never fathom abandoning someone, but at the same time I did not support actions (in homosexual actions) that practically every Christian influence in my life told me was wrong. So to me, “love the sinner, hate the sin” was a good middle ground.
I was not alone in thinking that “love the sinner, hate the sin” was a good approach. I know that because I hear this phrase used frequently in moderate to conservative Christian theology to describe how LGBTQ+ people should be treated. The phrase is used to describe how Christians should be loving to people regardless, but hate the sins that LGBTQ+ people are accused of having. In particular, Christians are often told to hate the so-called “homosexual lifestyle” or “gay lifestyle.”
Speaking as someone who used to be a believer in “love the sinner, hate the sin,” it is a phrase which seems to be disguised in love. After all, you are supposed to love the sinner. It is an especially appealing phrase because it allows you to love people in the LGBTQ+ community without making room for actions that you view as sinful, and it allows you to acknowledge what you view as sinful actions without falling into the stereotypes of conservative Christians holding picket signs which say that people who are LGBTQ+ will go to hell.
But now, I want not just fellow Christians, but all people, to see the phrase for what it is—it is a way of singling out people in the LGBTQ+ community in ways that other people don’t get singled out.
I make this claim because I have never (and when I say never, I really mean NEVER) heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” used in any Christian context outside of discussions about the LGBTQ+ community. I have never heard “love the sinner, hate the sin” when talking about the adultery, envy, anger, lying, or other wrongs that people around us commit (or that some of us commit ourselves). This is the case, even though the problems mentioned above are tied to the Ten Commandments and/or the Seven Deadly Sins (those seven sins are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth), and LGBTQ+ issues are generally not tied to either one.
Yet, I hear “love the sinner, hate the sin” all the time when some Christians talk about the LGBTQ+ community and the non-traditional relationships that one often sees within the LGBTQ+ community.
The fact that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is used against the LGBTQ+ community and not against anyone else is a sign that the phrase is mostly meant to single out the LGBTQ+ community. Otherwise, the phrase would not just be applied to LGBTQ+ issues, but also issues that violate the Ten Commandments and/or the Seven Deadly Sins, at the very least.
If you, the reader, are tempted to think that “love the sinner, hate the sin” is the way to view people in the LGBTQ+ community, and LGBTQ+ issues, I hope that you at least consider whether you are using that phrase for a variety of other issues. If you only use the phrase for LGBTQ+ issues, then you are singling out the LGBTQ+ community like I once did, whether you realize it or not.