Things the Church Should Stop Saying (Part 2)

Last week I said that the church should stop saying, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

I still stand by that. It’s petty and cliche and something Christians should stop saying.

Last week I also said I wasn’t even sure if hating the sin while loving the sinner was possible.

Then Gerry left this comment (go HERE to read it in its entirety):

I loved that man and still do. I can’t wait to see him again and dance on the streets of Heaven with him.

But I hate his sin. With everything within me, I hate it, hate it, hate it. It stole his life from him before he knew how to live it. I want to punch it in the head, then hit it with a baseball bat, cut it in little pieces and spit on every piece.

Don’t tell me I don’t love him because I hate what killed him. He was my friend and I didn’t see you or any other love-niks there while his 6.5 frame shrunk to 110 pounds of sallow and scary skin, and he begged me to just hold his hands and pray for him while he struggled so hard to breathe.

And while I am spewing hate, I hate the drug addiction that separated Mike from his boys and made him an abusive, hurtful Dad. I hate it! Or the Oxy addiction that caused Rita to give blow jobs for another stupid pill. I hate it!

Obviously Gerry hated sin. And loved his friend.

So I was wrong. It is possible. This led me to my next question:

How? And why did Gerry’s story come across so overwhelmingly full of love and compassion, while the phrase “hate the sin, love the sinner” still rings false and hateful to me?

* * * * *

Gerry finished off his comment with the following thought:

If you are not skilled and good at loving the sinner while hating the sin, I doubt if you get out much, around sinners that is.

That’s it. That’s how it’s done. Because if I truly love someone, the mistakes they make that lead to their own pain will make me love them more, even while hating the thing that brings them pain. But if this person is some far off stranger, someone I don’t know and don’t care to get to know, then fear will drive me to hate not only what’s killing them. I’ll start hating them as well.

That’s what fear does.

* * * * *

Another piece of the puzzle, offered in the comments by my friend Maria:

If we are willing to be known by others, faults and all, it is a little easier to love. If we are willing to accept the nonsensical love that God offers, it is easier to love. Let’s be real. We are all a complete mess, entirely hopeless. Then God intervenes and we have all of this acceptance, forgiveness, redemption, possibility. It is amazing. It is truly beyond comprehension and surely beyond words. From this place of acknowledging mercy, we can begin.

That’s where I want to start.

* * * * *

Other similar posts include:

Things the Church Should Stop Saying
The Opposite of Love is not Hate
Words the Church Should Stop Using: Sin

Confessions From the Guy Standing at the Back of the Church

Recently I’ve spent a lot of time standing at the back of the church. Maybe it’s because I like to stand back there and take it all in. Or maybe it’s reflective of how I’ve felt lately: a little removed, a little estranged.

This week I meandered to the back of the auditorium and found a small space in front of an emergency exit door (and the metaphors mount). Actually, this particular location would be better described as the only slightly hidden spot in the auditorium: on one side, a table covered in sign-up sheets; on the other side, a man sitting on a mobility scooter.

I know the man. His name is Gordie.
Continue reading “Confessions From the Guy Standing at the Back of the Church”

The Art is in the Story

More than anything else, we want to share stories.

I could tell you that I’m a writer living in Pennsylvania. That’s one of the broadest versions of who I am, and a very unimaginative story. But I could also tell you that I write at a small desk squeezed in between my bed and a wallpapered wall in a double-wide trailer that my wife and I rent, outside of which is a garden, a stream and a large yard full of riding toys.

Now you are beginning to know me.

* * * * *

Once a month Maile and I meet up with four other couples on a Sunday night. We plant our 18 collective children with other people that love them, for just a few hours, so that we can cease being parents and be, I don’t know, adults, or perhaps kids again. We drink wine and eat delicious food and after dinner the men usually smoke pipes or cigars. I smoke a pipe, because I am getting old, and it seems to be the best way to gray gracefully.

I’ve noticed something about the group: rarely do we exchange facts about one another. I couldn’t tell you most of our friends’ ages, or what their parent’s names are, or their street names, or the high schools they attended. We do not exchange facts.

We take turns telling stories. If you want someone to truly know you, you don’t tell them just your name and birthday – you tell them what it was like to lose your parent, or to have a miscarriage, or how, when your child first asked you about sex, you wanted to chuckle and weep, both at the same time.

The art is in the laughter that makes your stomach hurt, and in the unwept tears that make it feel like you need a tonsillectomy.

* * * * *

Stop defining yourself (and others) with cliches and broad categories. Start telling stories, and listening to the stories of others. If you want me to know you, don’t tell me the definition of your psychological disorder – tell me how it makes you feel when you’re holding a knife.

Animals That Eat People

My son Cade asks a lot of questions.

Why did God make animals that eat people?

Why does my cousin’s scooter have three wheels?

Did the British believe in God? Then why did the colonists try to kill them?

Why did God give them a baby when they’re not even married yet?

What’s real about Paul Revere?

Are there scooters that have four wheels?

How fast is Superman?

Once our chickens arrive, will they peck us?

I say, “I don’t know” an average of 17 times a day, and that’s on weekdays, when I’m in my office most of the time. Is this the childlike faith that Jesus said you must have or you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

* * * * *

“When a child is born, friends get married, a parent dies, people revolt, or a nation starves, it’s not enough just to know about these things and to celebrate, grieve, or respond as best we can. We have to keep asking ourselves: ‘What does it all mean? What is God trying to tell us? How are we called to live in the midst of all this?’ Without such questions our lives become numb and flat.”

“But are there answers? There are, but we will never find them unless we are willing to live the questions first and trust that, as Rilke says, we will, without even noticing it, grow into the answer.”

– Henri Nouwen, Here and Now

* * * * *

Today I want to thank all of you that read this blog on a regular basis and put up with all of my questions. You are helping me to grow into the answers.

And My Favorites From March Are…

First of all, a huge thanks to everyone for making yesterday’s post (Things the Church Should Stop Saying) my most read post so far this year. The various comments and thoughts that you guys posted (all so generous and kind-spirited toward each other) have given me a lot to think about, and I think a follow up post is coming next week. Stay tuned.

Second of all…it’s time to announce my favorite blogs of last month. On Monday, you guys let me know your most-read posts from March. Well, I’ve read through all of them, and these are the ones that irrevocably changed my life forever:

My Favorite Five (in no particular order):

Why 99.9% of Pastors Agree With Rob Bell


The Time I Tried to Explain Euthanasia to a Kid Who Can’t Even Read Yet

conversations in a village church: fishers of (wo)men?!

Are Girls as Valuable as Boys?

Honorable Mentions

Speaking the Truth to Myself and Admitting My Own Racism

It Was Love at First Sight (I know, it’s about falling in love with shoes, which I am morally opposed to, but Michelle’s writing was witty and grabbed my attention)

Favorite New Voice (Someone I will definitely be adding to my Google Reader)

overcoming my inner fundamentalist, or, how i made peace with the beatles

Some Great Posts on Social Media

The Key to Growing Your Facebook Fan Page

Twitter Tools: Retweets, Favorites, Unfollowers, & More You May Be Missing

Looking at Stuff in New Ways

My Big Gay Post

The Greatest Job in the World

You submitted a slew of other great posts – it’s tough knowing where to draw the line on who to mention in this – so please go back and read through the 51 comments and blog posts you left for consideration. You’re bound to find a new blogger that you love…and that’s really the goal in this: connecting each of us to new blogs.

Have a great weekend, and be sure to come back at the beginning of May to share your most-read post of April!

(For goodness sakes, come back before then).

Things The Church Should Stop Saying

There’s this Christian cliche that has been around for far too long: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” We use it most often in association with people who do things that we consider to be the most heinous of sins (no, not gluttony or pride – those are far too common). We usually toss it out there when talking about the particular brand of “missing the mark” that offends us the most.

“Oh well, hate the sin, love the sinner,” we say, shrugging our shoulders..

Can we all agree to stop saying that?

Is it even possible to hate a behavior without hating the person attached to it? I get extremely annoyed at the behavior of cutting  in front of me in traffic, and you know what? I end up getting an elevated blood pressure, not at the act, but at the people who do it. I despise the behavior of leaving rude or insensitive or just plain ignorant comments on blogs. But it’s not the act of writing the comment that I end up being angry with. I can’t get ticked at the comment itself – it’s the people who do it that anger me.

Do we hate cheating or adultery or lying in court? I guess. I don’t know. How do you hate a behavior? Do we hate people who cheat others out of their life savings or sleep with our best friend’s spouse or lie in court and get away with it?

That seems much more probable.

I have come to the conclusion that we as humans are not very good at separating what we each consider to be the most polarizing behaviors, from the people who live them out.

* * * * *

People say “hate the sin, love the sinner” as if it’s in the Bible somewhere. Maybe in the Gospels, or one of Paul’s letters? Wasn’t it one of Jesus’ parables?

I think the only variation of this saying that might have come out of Jesus’ mouth was:

“Love the sinner.”

* * * * *

But God hates sin, right? Shouldn’t we hate sin? And love the sinner? It’s kind of the whole God/Jesus paradox that we can’t quite come to terms with: God hates sin; Jesus loves sinners. So shouldn’t we try to do both?

You know how I said earlier that it’s impossible to hate a behavior without also hating the person who is behaving that way? Well, there’s one instance where that’s not entirely true.

With my own children.

They can do stuff that I hate. And yet I never hate them. My kids could do pretty much anything in the entire world and I don’t think I would ever stop loving them.

This is why God can hate sin – because it’s possible for him to do that and still love us, his children.

* * * * *

The church has spent a long time reciting this little ditty about hating sin and loving the sinner, but I’m afraid that many of us have never gotten past the first half of the saying. I think we’ve gotten so good at hating sin, that we decided to just stop there.

Hating sin.

Maybe, just maybe, some of us should start focusing on the second part. Maybe some of us should focus more on just loving.

Loving everyone.

What do you think?

I know that by writing this post I am violating my own request from last year in a post entitled, “Words the Church Should Stop Using: Sin.” But I couldn’t figure out a way around it.