Tim Keller, Love, Hate, and Sin

In scrolling through some early morning Tweets, I came across a re-tweet from Good News magazine. It was from noted evangelical author and reformed pastor Tim Keller. Good news endorsed the tweet with the hashtag “truth.”

To what sins is Keller referring? Does he mean adultery, racism, speeding so that lives are at risk or drug addiction? What sinners are the Good News readers and writers eager to love and whose sins can they not wait to hate?

Hate is a strong word when applied to others or ourselves. Acknowledging hate does not make one realistic, it sows the seeds of greater hate. We teach ourselves to hate the best parts of ourselves. We give ourselves license to hate others. It seems justifiable because we couch our hate as a reaction to sin. The problem is we are not fighting sin or sinners. We are trying to embrace people whom Jesus made. We are working with flawed understandings of original sin that owe more to Milton and Dante than they do to anything in the Bible. There is too much hate in our Christianity. Anything which confuses love with a willing embrace of hate as part of Christian theology is wrong. Keller is incorrect. So are the those who shared the retweet at Good News magazine. “Love the sinner and hate the sin” is not the truth. It is a lie that makes our presuppositions and prejudices feel holy and righteous.

This well-worn cliché has been recycled by the evangelical community to justify any number of actions towards those whom they deem unworthy of full membership in the body of Christ. Words of love are mouthed, but no one believes in the love they profess. We do not have to accept everyone in the most Christ-like way possible. The cliché represents “magical thinking.” We pretend we are like Christ, but ultimately we exclude those whose sins we deem to be worse than our own.

It would be different if the cliché were Biblical. The words are not in scripture. What is found in the Bible is the liberal use of love. We are taught to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. There’s nothing, Tim, in the greatest commandment about hating our own or our neighbor’s sinfulness. Humanity is not or will never be the solution to the problem of sin. Jesus is the sole measure of what sin is, will be, or not be. Leave sin to Jesus. What business do we have hating anything when the world is crying out for love?

Richard Lowell Bryant