Christians use this phrase all the time. Non-Christians hate it. Why? Because for some people, a Christian’s definition of sin is not their definition of sin. And that “sin” defines that person.
Not following? I’ll give you an example. Some of you may know that this last spring, a group called Soulforce came to my school (and it changed my life, read about the experience here). They are a group of LGBTQs and allies. For a queer person, to say that you hate their sin offends them, because you are saying that the very essence of them, the very thing that they feel defines them best, is hated by you. So to them, you are saying, “I love you, but I hate the very thing that defines you.” If you were to tell me, “I love you, but I hate that you are a Christian and I find Christ repulsing” I wouldn’t be able to be your friend. Why? Because I feel like you not only hate my Christ, but you hate the very thing that defines me, which in turn means you hate ME.
I think the phrase can be useful, just not with non-Christians. After talking with Soulforce, I realized that using this phrase with people who don’t have a relationship with Christ can do more harm than good.
But is the phrase useless? NO! Yet I think we need to remember what this phrase means. I think it’s a good summary of Ephesians 6:12.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Our fight isn’t against flesh and blood. It isn’t against sinners, pagans, non-Christians, etc. It is against the sin itself–the ROOT of the sin. That root is Satan and the “spiritual forces of wickedness”, the “darkness” that is in our world. That’s why we need to make war against those darknesses. We don’t make war by picketing, slandering sinners, and by telling people we hate what they are doing. We make war through prayer, through spreading the Gospel, and through love.
It can be a good reminder to yourself to hate the sin, meaning the darknesses behind it. But never tell a sinner you hate their sin, because that can keep them away from the light.