Have you ever heard the phrase, “Love the sinner, hate the sin”? This phrase is so often used that I think it has become trite, a copout of sorts instead of really challenging ourselves to be true Christian witnesses. In a world where some sins are more visible than others, we must be careful with our judgment and pray for humility to speak love to those around us.
While it is true that we are to love “the sinner” and hate all sin, the judgment that is often cast in calling someone a sinner negates the love that we are called to witness. We need to truly examine what it means in an active way to love the sinner.
St. Thomas Aquinas defines love as to will the good of the other. To truly love someone means we will the good for them, not for us. I do not want you to be holy because it will somehow better me or make me feel better for “helping” you, but rather because I believe so fully in the joy that comes from being in a relationship with Jesus Christ that my desire to love you stems from wanting that for you.
We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, every single one of us, whether we show up to church once a week, every day or not at all. We all have sin that breaks or clouds our relationship with Jesus. He sees it. We know it, and yet, like so many biblical parables, we easily cast judgment on others and fail to notice our own shortcomings.
Multiple places in Scripture we are reminded of the dangers of pointing out someone else’s sins before we deal with our own, and we do all have sins. Those sins are known intimately between ourselves and God and block us from knowing Him fully. We must continually work toward clearing that barrier.
My dearest of friends are the ones who love me enough to call me out on my sin. They know the intense freedom and joy that come from being in a relationship with Jesus, and they can’t help but want me to live in that truth. The way they love this sinner simply pours out of them.
I desire this gift so much, this boldness of speech and to love like this. I think often of how easy it is for me to speak of the love I have for my husband. How dearly he loves me. How servant-hearted, how generous, how he makes me laugh. The kind of love that makes me shake my head in wonder. This is the way I want my face to light up when I am actively loving “the sinner.”
To “love the sinner” means that the truth that we share must be given with love. The truth must be shared. We do have that responsibility. Just like the Apostles, we need to have courage to speak boldly, without fear of being mocked or judged but rather staying in close conversation with the Lord, asking Him for the words to use us as vessels to share His love. These vessels we seek to become need to have open hearts, humble roots and a true desire for the good of the other. From there, the conversation can flow freely.
Rather than labeling people and alienating them while we self-righteously place ourselves upon a pedestal, let our love be deep and abiding, be honest and giving. We are called to be truth speakers, bearers of joy. We must live our life in such a way that others can’t help but ask what it is we have that bears such light. It is from there that authentic love can flow.
This article first appeared at The Catholic Times.
Image licensed through Adobe stock.