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Hate the sin, love the sinner?

Friday, September 13, 2019
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The grain of salt

I don’t do this often, but for this column I’ll primarily be writing as a Bible-believing Christian to other Bible-believing Christians.

That doesn’t mean that

readers of other beliefs can’t get anything out of it, but from here on out I’ll be writing under the assumption that, as the apostle Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out (or inspired) by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”

In other words, the Word of God is an infallible and unrivaled authority that trumps our own failure-prone thoughts, emotions, perspectives and biases.

All too often, I see today’s Church acting out of those latter, fallible things under the false assumption that they’re backed up by the power of God’s Word.

Specifically, our hubris warps the beautiful assurance of eternal salvation — which we in no way earned — into an ugly pride and sense of innate superiority over those who believe and act differently than us.

Let’s give examples. I think the biggest way I’ve seen this “believers’ arrogance” manifest is through an uneven, tiered perception of various kinds of sins and lifestyles, which is completely non-Biblical.

In the midst of instructing the early church against the evils of partiality and favoritism, James wrote a well-known verse.

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”

Combine that truth with Paul’s repeated assertions in the book of Romans that we are all sinners and no one is righteous, and here’s what you have: everyone is equal in the eyes of God.

Apart from the sacrifice of Christ, all would be equally guilty, wretched and beyond hope, regardless of what kinds of sins we each did or did not commit. And we would all receive the same penalty.

Here’s one thing that means in Ruston in 2019. If you hold to the traditional teaching that, for example, homosexuality is sinful in the eyes of God (which not all Christians believe nowadays), even the most active homosexual is still no more guilty and no more bound for punishment than the most straight-laced pastor who happened to lie or gossip once in his life — apart from the saving gift of Jesus that is available to both people equally.

And yet much of the body of Christ seems hell-bent on crushing the life out of anything and anyone remotely LGBT, even though those people are just as deserving and in need of God’s love as anyone else.

Every day the church puts more and more distance between itself and groups of people it doesn’t understand, leaving a worse and worse taste in the mouth of people we should be welcoming with open arms.

And this is true for a lot more things than just sexual orientation. The hordes of people in our communities finding themselves entrapped in substance abuse, for example. Do you catch yourself saying or thinking, “Oh, well they’re just bad people”? That’s a Biblically bankrupt notion.

We say, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” but the way we loudly and aggressively “hate the sin” still drives the sinner farther away from the light. Apart from Christ, no one can change his ways. Why do we put the cart before the horse?

We even marginalize people for things that aren’t even wrong. It was happening in James’ day too, as he calls out the church for giving special treatment to well-to-do attendees and ignoring the poor who stagger through the door.

Have you ever seen a congregation cast condescending glances at the smelly homeless man whojust wants to experience communion with the Most High? I have.

Have you caught yourself wondering what poor choices brought someone like that to such a state, without even knowing them? I have.

Believers, we can do better. We must. We are not special — only blessed. And that blessing is available to all, equally. Let’s stop pretending otherwise.

Caleb Daniel is the Ruston Daily Leader’s Digital News Editor. Caleb is a Louisiana Tech University graduate who covers the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and schools for the Ruston Leader.