Old Slogan: “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” vs New Slogan: “Love People, Forgive the Sin”

That Unbiblical Slogan: Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin

The slogan “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is actually not very scriptural–at all. Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to “hate sin.” Absolutely nowhere.

We are, on the other hand, repeatedly encouraged to forgive sin. Jeremiah’s prophecy of the New Covenant highlights forgiveness. Paul taught us to forgive. Jesus taught us to forgive. Jesus came to forgive sin, even died on the cross because of it. Jesus forgave unrepentant people from the cross.

New Slogan: Love People, Forgive the Sin

We love slogans, we tend to think in slogans. A much better slogan for us would be “Love people, forgive the sin.” This is much more in spirit with the enormous emphasis on love and forgiveness in the Greek scriptures.


About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
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17 Responses to Old Slogan: “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” vs New Slogan: “Love People, Forgive the Sin”

  1. Daniel says:

    This is fantastic! I agree that it is much more in line with what Christ teaches and with his instructions concerning loving others and forgiving.
    Plus it prompts a whole new set of attitudes and actions toward others.
    Christ, Christian and hate should not ever be linked together, maybe this will help bring that about.


  2. Fred Conwell says:

    How about “Love people, forgive their sin”?


  3. Unfortunately, even the new slogan can be used to diminish gay people. It infers that simply being gay is more sinful than simply being straight. While I understand that according to scripture all have sinned and are forgiven by Christ, I do not think that I should have to bear the spiritual superiority of those who believe that they personally have to forgive me for being born gay. If you are straight, consider how would you feel if every time you held your wife or husband’s hand, some well meaning Christian passing by said, “I forgive you for your human contact.”

    For those of us who have been taught to deny our sexuality, who have prayed and prayed for it to have been taken away, who have worked to suppress it, who have lived the lie of repression, who have undergone reparative therapy, etc. there is no hope offered by Christians who “love” us but hate what we are. Trust me, it takes years of psycho therapy to be able to undo that type of mental abuse. The only hope we have through Christianity is by accepting ourselves as God made us, living fully into that life unashamed for having been created, accepting our full humanity (including the sin that all humanity does) and understanding that it is Christ alone who forgives the sin of the world and brings us into eternal life.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Understood. I’m working from the premise that we work with people where they are. I know a conservative pastor grappling with this issue, and he repeats a lot, “baby steps, baby steps.” I understand what you’re saying, but I think moving from hate to forgiveness is a good step.


      • Daniel says:

        “I think moving from hate to forgiveness is a good step.” For many of these people this move is not a “baby step” but a huge one. At the very least replacing the slogan that emphasizes hate with one the emphasizes forgiveness is shifting the focus in positive and biblical direction.

        James, I understand where you are coming from. I have to deal with some of those “loving” Christians, too. I have yet to find a way to open their eyes to just how hateful their “love” comes across.


      • Ron, I am grateful to you for all you are doing to open dialogue on the subject with those who have spent years believing that their persecution of gay people is indeed an act of love. But in regards to your comment about the conservative pastor I am reminded of the rich young ruler that spoke with Christ. What if he had replied to Jesus’ words about selling all he had with, “Baby steps, baby steps”? Would Christ have replied, “Okay this year you can get rid of your sofa and next year your bed and the next year your lamp?”

        So it is with love. You cannot say that you love me if you hate my existence. You cannot say that you love me if you say, “Well, it’s a shame James is going to hell. He’s such a good decorator.” You cannot say that you love me if you allow me to sit in your pew in church, but spend the service thinking that you will get AIDS/HIV if you shake my hand or drink after me at communion. You cannot say that you love me if you would deny me my constitutional rights as a citizen or advocate that others of my kind be imprisoned and put to death in Africa. You cannot love me and hold on to the current teachings of the Conservative Right on the subject. In order to love me, you have to accept Christ’s new commandment, understand the latest science, and grapple with concepts of progressive thought versus traditional theology.

        At some point, every person who would claim the name of Christ for their own has to answer the question, “Am I looking for TRUTH or do I simply want my current ideas to be proved true?”


      • Ron Goetz says:

        James, it may be that our vocabularies are coming into conflict. I have to say that the label “conservative pastor” does not equal hating the very existence of gays and lesbians, being afraid of catching HIV/AIDS from shaking hands, or supporting Ugandan death legislation. These are not equivalent to being a conservative pastor, or an evangelical pastor.

        I proceed from the assumption that the hearts of many evangelicals, and evangelical pastors, are not in the anti-homosexual crusade. At their core, they just don’t buy into it. But they feel like they are obligated to believe certain things to be a good evangelical. They don’t realize that they can retain much of their evangelical theology and culture, and at the same time embrace gay and lesbian believers without reservation or compromise.

        While many conservative and evangelical Christians don’t buy into the heated and hateful rhetoric, many others do. And I’ll leave them to the people who know them, who feel called to engage them. The closest I get to them are the occasional detractors (like several I engaged with yesterday on FB) who just know that I’m a false teacher leading deluded homosexuals to hell. I’m glad that’s pretty much the limit of my involvement.

        Would invoking the concept of good cop/bad cop be valid to describe differing approaches to evangelicals, an evangelical pastor in this case?

        And James, I agree completely: at some point, every person who would claim the name of Christ for their own has to answer the question, “Am I looking for TRUTH or do I simply want my current ideas to be proved true?”


  4. Kimberly says:

    I have asked for years where “love the sinner, hate the sin” is in scripture. Been repeatedly told it is the spirit of the scriptures. So I then ask did you know it is actually a very famous quote, do you know the author? Answers like St. Paul, Luther, Knox, Calvin, Mother Teresa etc……the look on their face is priceless. Who gave us this oft quoted Christian dogma? Mahatma Ghandi.


  5. Lane White says:

    Chiming in here . . .I feel the angst of those taking “baby steps” as well as the tempered indignation of those being labeled a sinner because of their orientation. I tend to fall in the latter camp, but spent time in the first one years back, so I understand the dichotomy. At any rate, I am not sure that there is any good solution. Those “loving the sinner” types need to be willing to take an honest look at the scriptures, and we who impatiently struggle with erroneous labels must continue to work to educate and be patient through the pain.


  6. Tim Attwell says:

    Many thanks, Ron, for raising this issue – as you have many others. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is a cliche loved by conservative evangelicalism because it attempts to cover the un-examined censoriousness and judgementalism that lurks beneath so much conservative evangelicalism. Many in the grip of conservative evangelicalism long to be more gracious, loving and Christ like, but fear the vertigo the freedom of uncompromised grace causes them, so find solace for their troubled consciences in this deeply flawed cliche. Your conservative pastor friend with his “baby steps” is a good example.

    The problem with the cliche, apart from being unBiblical, is that it puts the focus squarely on “Sin” and not on persons. “Love the ‘Sinner'” straightaway defines the person negatively in the eyes of the wannabe lover (the user of the cliche); assumes that the lover isn’t the one with the sin and “love” is replaced by patronizing, a poor substitute for love.

    May I modify the phrase further? Forgiveness is not for sins, but for people. It is an expression of love . So it’s not just “Love the person, forgive the sin.” It’s “Love the person, forgive the person.”

    The act of forgiving is the act of accepting a person unconditionally, which is what loving is! Loving and forgiving/accepting are inseparable. In the context of unconditional acceptance the forgiver and the forgiven are both transformed by their restored relationship and the things (sins?) that divided them are exposed and dealt with in a healing relational environment.

    When someone in the grip of conservative evangelicalism trusts her/himself to the vertiginous pull of grace and freely accepts people who are gay without condition, the “sin” that is exposed and expunged is not “gayness” but censoriousness and judgementalism.


  7. Logan Johnson says:

    This thread is funny since it is focusing on taking negativity out of language, when the language around conservative Christians (which is me) is overwhelmingly negative. I speak for myself when I say I have been raised in the Church and know my way around a Bible. I read countless scriptures and most of the versus found in this thread. Point being, the people in this thread believe that conservative Christians are unable to read and discern the scriptures they seek to follow religiously. Before you take the negative language out of slogans, perhaps your rhetoric deserves a look.

    While I tend to be in disagreement with Ron this slogan is excellent. I wouldn’t replace the original in my language, but it is a good alternative for those who seek a more positive trend in their spoken word. And it does not get rid of the word ‘Sin’. We cannot let this word trickle out of our lives because sin is what separates us from God. Homosexual sin and Heterosexual sin. In practice you do forgive the person but you forgive the person because of THEIR sins. The enemy wants us to forget why sin is so important. They want us to separate from God.


    • Logan, as an openly gay man who was raised in a Fundamentalist household, went to an Evangelical college, and grew up knowing as family friends many of the leaders in the Fundamentalist and Evangelical movements (even my first job was with one of the most famous of all tele-evangelists), I can only speak from my own experience of Conservative Christians. That experience has been one of great hypocrisy, rejection, and out and out aggression.

      I do not expect that any Christians who consider themselves to be Evangelical or Fundamentalist of Conservative hold with the idea that their actions express hatred of any kind. Indeed, many of them who are most virulent with their expressions insist that they are acting out of love and concern for my soul and keeping it out of Hell. Of course they are not on the receiving end of their actions and words. They do not know what message their words and actions actually convey. But I can tell you that the sum total feels like hate. It tears families apart. It destroys lives. It promotes suicide. And it causes no end of psychological damage all in the name of Christ.

      The saddest aspect of this is that whether it is conservative Catholicism, Episcopalians, United Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Church of God, or Baptists (or any other denomination or religion), there are large contingents of people who feel that their embrace of Christ’s message entitles them to righteously ignore the science, the basic human dignity, and the inclusiveness of Christ’s own words when it comes to homosexuality. They will scorch the earth, split their churches, and promote violence and death in order to feel righteous about how they despise gay people.


  8. Kira says:

    “Love people, forgive the sin” is good. I still prefer “attend to the moat in your own eye before you bother with the speck in your neighbor’s”. Some Christians spend way too much time focused on the “sins” of others while ignoring their own. They need to stop trying to run the lives of others, particularly when those others may not subscribe to the same viewpoints.


  9. Roy White says:

    Maybe we should avoid slogans and sound bytes. It is a modern attempt to drastically simplify an issue or story so it can either entice people to hear or read a story, or it becomes a short-hand slogan of one group’s point of view. “Love people, forgive the sin…film at 11.” The problem: many of the issues we face today cannot be reduced to a slogan or sound byte. It is hard to top “Love God and love one another”–which is like a slogan, but more than just a slogan.


  10. Pingback: The Best Blog Posts I Read in January-February 2016 | Jesus Without Baggage

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