With a knowing wink and a smile that was too practiced, the preacher said, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” This irritated me. I couldn’t tell if he was being snarky, condescending, or wise.
How can we truly separate the deed from its doer? Should we even try to make the distinction? After all, Jesus said, “A tree is recognized by its fruit.” In essence, we become what we do.
Although I sensed the preacher’s statement could maybe guide my attitude towards sin and sinners, in a practical sense it didn’t help much. What did help was James when he wrote, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” I needed to change my focus, to remove my attention from judgment and instead offer mercy. That’s a great start.
What really helped was Peter: “Love covers over a multitude of sins.” Through love, we can overlook the sins of others, regardless of how irrepressible their actions may be. That’s what love is; that’s what love does.
Through this sin-covering love, I can overlook the errors of others and instead focus on the person.
Yes, I can dislike sin. I can also dislike it when people sin. But I need to offer mercy to them; I need to love sinners.
After all, I sin, too – and isn’t mercy and love what I desire, to let love cover my sin?