“Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner” Except if the Sinner is a Legalistic Bigot?

Legalism

“Hate the sin, love the sinner”

This is usually what we have to say when met with a legalistic believer that attacks a person who struggles with a certain sin issue. We preach the grace and love of God, and ridicule, mock and attack people who act against it, but in the process forget that these “Pharisees” are sinners just like us as well who need “love” not hate. Ultimately, we fail to address this little loophole in our belief system- “If I hate legalistic people and attack them like a rabid dog of the love revolution, what makes me any different than them?”

There is a great paradigm shift happening all across the church today. There was once a time just a few years ago when “sinners” were considered the victims- the homosexual, the rebellious student, the searching seeker or the live-in partners- and the Bible-bashing believers were the bullies. Today, weight has transferred and it’s the legalistic people who are at the receiving end of ridicule and heat. Articles attack them, the media portrays them as the villain, modern preachers tell us not to be like them and the government wants to sue and fine them.

When we force grace teaching to those who thrive in more rigid and discipline-oriented means, isn’t that legalism too?

Everytime a “bigot” or a “hypocrite” gets thrown down, the whole world rejoices as if Satan were trampled under Jesus feet. But are these people really Satan? Is bigotry, legalism, hypocrisy really a worse sin than others? Or are we just making the same mistake they made?

And I am in no way condoning or defending the sin that legalism bears. But when we force grace teaching to those who thrive in more rigid and discipline-oriented means, isn’t that legalism too? Stop and think about it. All of a sudden we realize that all this while we were crucifying the pharisee, we fail to realize that we nail Jesus to the cross once again with our own blinded and limited human opinion.

I hate hypocrisy and I’m pretty sure God does too. He says so in Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” But have you ever considered that maybe all that time Jesus was speaking to those yeast-filled pharisees that He was trying to persuade them into grace because He loved them and hated their sin? How is it that legalism all of a sudden is a disqualification to “hate the sin and love the sinner”?

How do you react to a person, post, comment, opinion that does not align with your beliefs about Christ? Do you act in hate and rejection or do you try to prove to them that love does indeed conquer a multitude of sins and that Jesus truly does speak forth salvation by grace and not works? Didn’t God tell us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44), and exchange evil with kindness (1 Peter 3:9)? These are just questions I want to throw out in the open.

I say this because I admit that at one point in my life I was also a pharisee, and sometimes I still am. I can be bigoted, judgmental, prideful, arrogant and unreceptive to ideas that interject my own. But in all of that I realize my sin and fall repentant before Christ not because a bunch of free-thinking Christians in jogger-pants and covered in tattoos told me I was being a legalistic prick, but because the grace and love of Christ overcame and overwhelmed me to the point that it changed me from the inside-out.

While reading “Accidental Pharisee” by Larry Osborne, I come to encounter this Bible character that forever changed the way I thought about legalism. His name was Joseph of Arimathea- a Pharisee. He’s not what the disciples would consider the “ideal Christian,” but without Him, Jesus’ finished work would not have happened the way it did.

“Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.”

Mark 15:43

Two things we know about the Arimathean: First, he was on the side of the “enemies of Jesus,” and second, he was the only one bold enough to step before pilate to claim Jesus when all the other disciples- the “ideal Christians”- had denied and deserted Him.

It makes you wonder how we may have missed the point in all of the labeling and stereotyping. At the end of the day, I hope what this teaches us to do is what Matthew 7:1 teaches us- ““Judge not, that you be not judged.” Judging judgers does not take you off the hook. That’s still judging.

I hope this makes you think and search your heart, and install Christ where there is hate. There is enough hate in the world today. Live and speak love to all as much as you can coming from a fruit of the Spirit that overwhelms us with God’s joy.

 

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