How do you love the sinner but not the sin? How can Christians claim to hate an aspect of a person but yet still love the individual. It appears to be a contradiction in what we are supposed to hold to, but it really isn’t that bad. Part of the problem is that Christians have a hard time understanding how to put this into practice, but the other side of that is people not understanding how you can remove people from your life while still loving them.
1 Co 5:1-6 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. (2) And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. (3) For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. (4) When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, (5) you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (6) Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?
This passage is used by Christians who need to separate themselves from the sinner. It very well could be misused by people as well. Here we have a man who is openly having a sexual relationship with what would be considered his step-mother. Even in today’s times that is seen as wrong, so you can imagine what it was like there. The church in Corinth, however, was tolerating this behavior instead of calling the man out and telling him what he was doing was wrong. The sin was being tolerated which gives the message that it is acceptable. This leads to people compromising their stance on what is right and wrong and leads to justification of their own sinful behavior. We have this today, so it is not hard to see.
Is Paul saying that when someone sins, they should be cast out of the church or your life? No. He is saying that when someone is openly partaking in a sinful act and unwilling to stop when you address the issue, then you need to minimize their exposure in your life. You have to hold the standard in order to both send a message to the person that the behavior is not acceptable and will not be condoned and protect yourself from compromising your own standards.
Sounds harsh right? We are clearly not showing the person love since we cast them out of our lives. I made a comment about how I can love someone but not condone their actions. The response was “You cannot actually truly love someone you are not willing to give the same rights that you have, deserve, and enjoy – at least that love would be a bit tainted. I am not sure how you define ‘love’ but I am pretty sure this is not how you would love your children, wife, or parents.” I disagreed of course.
If your child starts using heroin, do you continue to support them financially hoping they will just get tired of it and stop? Do you give them money to feed the addiction because you want to be a loving person? Maybe that is too extreme. If your child disobeys a household rule, do you not address it and take corrective measures? If your spouse has behaviors you don’t agree with, do you not address it. If they were to cheat, is that action ok? If you have friends that use racial slurs or make derogatory comments, do you continue to associate with them if you do not share the same sentiment? We make these same decisions everyday, but they are not considered wrong. So where does the act begin to be seen in a negative light? It has to be either in the delivery or the issue.
I don’t think it is easy for someone to approach another and tell them that what they are doing is wrong. Either we don’t want to come off as judgmental or we don’t want to offend the person. Tolerance is pushed in society, so we don’t want to be seen as intolerant, but Christians are called to be intolerant to sin. So how do you be intolerant to sin but not come off as condescending? You don’t want to be arrogant or demeaning when you approach the person, because God knows our lives are not perfect either. You cant be preachy either as they might not share your religious views. Approach out of love and gently tell the person that the action bothers you and makes you feel uncomfortable. The person has the right to accept your stance and modify their behavior when around you or not. If they ask why, tell them biblically, you consider it wrong and it makes you feel uncomfortable. Once again, they can modify their behavior or not. They have the power. If they choose not to address it, stop making a point to spend time with them. Either they will miss you and realize that the behavior is not actable in your presence or they will move on with their lives. You should still be their if they reach out to you for help, but don’t be afraid to address the behavior if it is displayed again. We don’t speak ill of the person and we continue to pray for them, but it is not our job to save or modify a person’s behavior and/or actions.
Often for me, it is the issue. The comment in question was over the role of the church and that those who identify as gay or lesbian have a harder time approaching God because the conservative portion of the church wont legitimize their views. I hold to the view that it is biblically wrong then and now. Since I do not accept their view as correct, I apparently can not truly love them. Of course, they don’t accept my view as correct either, so they can love me either. There are always going to be hot topic issues that people will not agree on without some degree of compromise. I am fully willing to compromise in areas that I do not see as an absolute. Others feel the same way about their absolutes. There are always going to be an issue where you can not compromise without changing who you are. At those times, if it comes to it, you have to walk away. It might seem harsh, but like I said earlier, we are not here to save a person. We are hear to live for God.