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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Love the sinner, hate the sin

Those words are debated as being an example of how Christians should live, and as an example of the watering down of Christianity. Simply performing a Google search on those words will easily provide both sides of the argument. Each side provides biblical passages to support their view. Each will argue the use of language and of the Hebrew and Greek words, and their definitions and context will be pointed out. Discussions of the interpretation of passages, and which has greater precedent abound.

If you look at those who proclaim the "love the sinner, hate the sin" mantra, they are often the "nice" Christian who wants to be the friend of the non-Christian so they may be a good witness for Christianity. On the other side of the isle, you often have the fundamentalist Christian. They hold that sinner and sin are one, and are to be shunned. Their belief is the only sinner that can be witnesses to, is the one who realizes they are in sin, and is looking for help.

Many would argue that there are vast differences between these two Christians. They will use arguments of Christ's love, or God's divine judgment. People will argue details of religious dogma, and the interpretation of scripture. However, the difference comes down primarily to one simple difference, at least a simple difference to the non-Christian.

The fundamentalist Christian is being honest.

The nice Christian who wants to be a friend to the non-christian, really thinks that the non-christian is damned and going to hell, but doesn't want to say so. Rather, they want to live as a good example for their friend to follow. However, in any friendship, there comes a time that the people involved has to do one simple thing; accept the other person for who they are. The non-christian happily accepts their Christian friend for who they are, a good person. The problem is, the Christian, can not accept their non-christian friend for who they are, because that involves accepting their sin.

Simply, if a Christian believes in sin, and that Christ has saved them from that sin, then there are other things that they also believe in, even if they haven't said so. They believe that sin exists, and that there are consequences to that sin. They also believe that the consequences are great enough to require the death and resurrection of Christ to overcome. Finally, only those who are saved, will not suffer those consequences.

Those consequences range from eternal death kind of hell, all the way to the fire and brimstone hell. Those who are saved are going to heaven. However, there can be only one way to heaven, there can not be multiple ways. Therefore, the non-christian is going to hell, end of story.

Now in the progression of any friendship, there are certain stages that we go through. One way of looking at that development is the social penetration theory. Even though this might not be perfect, it still provides a decent model to use. With any friendship, progression through the stages is inevitable. Somewhere in the Exploratory stage, people start to disclose beliefs and attitudes. With that disclosure, comes the expectation of acceptance.

Now, the nice Christian who has decided to be a friend to the non-christian faces a dilemma. As the friendship progresses to the point of sharing attitudes and values, what do they do if the non-christian refuses to accept their beliefs. The Christian has limited possibilities:

  • limit the friendship to the orientation stage only, therefore merely pretending to be a friend

  • not accept the person's values and beliefs, but pretend to be their friend anyways

  • end the friendship

The Christian who claims to have non-christian friends, under the guise of "love the sinner, hate the sin" is either lying to themselves, or their friends.

Personally, I prefer the fundamentalists. At least I know where I stand with them.


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