A razor's edge of love and hate

Faith & Inspiration

We live in an age of bold sin and bold sinners. It is a contentious time in which morality and biblical principles are besieged by relativity and rebellion. Yet none of this changes our call, as Christians, to both exemplify and proclaim the good while loving those who care nothing for it. We are called to be pillars of right while welcoming wrongdoers. This is a great and complex tension.

It is not easy at all to determine what it means to "love the sinner and hate the sin," as the Christian adage goes. It is a razor's edge one must walk. On the one side is the temptation to over emphasize the hatred of sin, but in so doing love is abandoned for the sake of fervor. We become cranks, legalists, judgmental, and bigoted. But on the other side is the temptation to over emphasize loving the sinner. Doing so risks becoming not merely tolerant of sin (which is necessary for love's sake) but becoming comfortable with it. This fostering of sin is a failure to love as well. So we seek to balance on that razors edge.

These two realities, love and hatred, cannot exist like a tug-of-war or else we constantly will be pulled into one extreme or the other. They must exist in unison, and to do so they must stem from a heart that simultaneously knows love and hate-the love of Christ and the hatred of its own sin. Hatred of any sin must stem from hatred of our own sin. To hate another's sin without first hating our own is hypocrisy and sin itself. Likewise, genuine love for another is born out of having been loved first by Christ. When we seek to love others without Christ's love fueling it we become idolaters and our love is hollow and skewed.

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No one in human history has so loved sinners and hated sin as Jesus Himself. Reading about His life and teaching is to see the perfect example of that love/hate unison. But even in studying Jesus the temptation is to fall off the razor's edge. Some will emphasize His driving out of the temple the money-changers or the verbal beatings He gave the Pharisees and label Him primarily a sin-hater. Others will point to his eating with prostitutes, traitors, and thieves and determine He was naught but a lover of sinners. Left in isolation, both emphases miss the mark. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, to be a physician for the sick. And to do so He abolished the power of sin through the violence of His own death.

It is only in Christ that the unison of love and hate is found. Our love of Him drives our hatred of sin, primarily our own. The love He shows us drives our love of others. All other motivations lead to evil hate and false love. To know Christ is to walk the razor's edge.

Barnabas Piper
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.


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