Question: I am having a “debate” with a fellow believer who says that the idea of “love the sinner, but hate the sin” is an unbiblical concept. It seems that essentially we are to hate both the sin and the sinner. What do you think?
Response: It is certainly true that the phrase “love the sinner, but hate the sin” doesn’t appear in Scripture. And there are those who teach that it is impossible to separate the sin and the sinner, so therefore they must hate them both. The statement itself is traceable to Augustine, but no doubt he wasn’t the first to articulate this. Regardless of who first uttered this phrase, what do the Scriptures say?
As for the biblical basis for the idea, Jude 23 says in that when seeking to rescue sinners, “...and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” The hate is not directed at the one who is sinning, for all have sinned, but is directed at the action of sin and unrepentance. We also have the example of the Lord: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom:5:8). James:1:27 tells us, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” May the Lord give us wisdom in these things.