Notorious Sinners

I’ve found I’m a rare Christian, in that I don’t happen to believe homosexual sex between two committed adult partners is a sin.  Maybe I’ll blog about why some time, so some fellow Christians can rant and rave and call me names (because that’s, sadly, what happens).  However, that’s not what I’m blogging about today.

Today, I’m inspired by Pastor Todd Morrison to blog about this “love the sinner hate the sin” crap I hear from Christians constantly, in reference to homosexuality.

Therefore, I’ll assume, for the sake of argument, that homosexuality is a sin.  After all, it’s fair to say this is something deeply believed by most Christians, including ones very dear to me personally.  So just for now, just for this article, we’ll start with the premise that homosexuality is a sin of gigantic proportions.  It’s a willful act of disobedience to God.  It grieves the Holy Spirit.  It is the sin to end all sins.

Let’s make one thing clear:  Jesus spent a huge chunk of his time with “notorious sinners.”  Some of his disciples were “notorious sinners,” and he walked right up to them while they were sinning and asked them to follow him.  By notorious sinners I mean tax collectors (Bible-era swindlers and con-men, think “preying on old ladies for their life savings”), prostitutes, adulterers, people who “deliberately and persistently transgressed the requirements of the law.”  They were notorious (famous) for being sinners because they generally had been outcast by society as a result of their sinful lifestyles.

Is it fair to say, then, that gay people could be seen by the Christian community as “notorious sinners?”

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”    ~Luke 15:1-2

We read passages like this throughout the gospels.  Jesus is constantly hanging out with notorious sinners, and he is constantly being called on the carpet for it by religious leaders.  Unfortunately, though, we often miss one glaring fact.  Jesus never said, “love the sin but hate the sinner.”  He didn’t really talk to the notorious sinners about their sin.  It’s not recorded in scripture that Jesus spoke to them at all about changing their ways.  Of course, some of them obviously did change their ways and turn away from their sin, the disciple Matthew being one prominent example.  However, the conversations Jesus has in the gospels are not conversations with the notorious sinners he’s spending time with, asking them to stop sinning.  The conversations he has are invariably with the religious people, telling them they are the ones in trouble with God for being so judgmental, hypocritical, and unloving.

The Church must be a safe place for “notorious sinners”. . .

Church leaders abdicate their calling when they play it safe on such questions as, “Would I be welcomed at your church even though I’m gay?” This question isn’t asked by an issue; it’s asked by a person who matters deeply to Jesus. This question is the cry of every human heart: “Will you love me and accept me, or will you reject me?”

People who are gay are people who matter deeply to Jesus.  If people who are gay are indeed notorious sinners, they are the very people Jesus would be hanging out with.  Not preaching to, not converting, not lecturing.  Eating dinner.  Having a glass of wine.  Partying.  And why aren’t we Christians doing this?

. . .“We love the sinner, but hate the sin.” I’ve never been able to embrace that statement. It seems to be used solely for the benefit of the one saying it, as a disclaimer, so they don’t disappoint God and He doesn’t think they are condoning sin. This statement infers that only the one being called “the sinner” has sin in their life. This phrase, and the culture behind it, has a way of pushing people, especially younger people, away from the Church and reinforcing their idea that church is not a safe place for them.  ~“Can I Come To Your Church?  I’m Gay.”

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” implies the gay person is the only sinner in the equation, yet scripture is clear that there is no hierarchy of sin.  While different sin brings different consequences upon ourselves and those around us, all sin separates us from God.  All sin grieves the Holy Spirit.  All sin needs Christ’s blood to cover it.  Whether we are notorious for our sin, or whether we hide our sin, we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Who is not a sinner?

And we’re going to make a gay person feel unwelcome at church merely because their sin is “famous” sin?  What does that make us?  It makes us the Pharisees, the uber-religious dudes who hide their sin by loudly pointing at someone else’s sin, by making up extra rules they can be proud of keeping, by keeping up appearances.  The Pharisees, who were constantly being called out by Jesus for their hidden sin, who were told they had less of a chance of getting into heaven than the notorious sinners.  Yep, that’s what it makes us.

Shame on us for making a huge public issue about homosexuality.  Shame on us for making homosexuals notorious for their sin so that we can pretend we have less sin or no sin at all.  Shame on us for acting more like Pharisees than like Jesus.

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6 thoughts on “Notorious Sinners

  1. You articulated this beautifully and I agree with everything you’re saying. I resisted becoming a Christian for a long time because of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mentality. I know a lot of people turn away from Jesus and God because they’re afraid of being judged by people, not God.

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