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Legalism Legalises Hate

Draft 1 – Just putting it out there. I’ll finish this soon.
For many years there has been growing criticism of the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”. On one level, there is nothing wrong with the statement, the standard of the requirement to love even our enemies is universal. It doesn’t matter what a person or group of people has done to us as individuals or a community, we are to love them. This is a constant battle and not a natural reaction; but one we are to continually work at. This is part of the Gospel. Hand in hand with this, the Bible makes clear that there is objective truth – there is a morality that is universal and that certain actions, attitudes and behaviours are “sinful”. Sin is the great barrier in a relationship between mankind and the Creator God. That is Biblical Truth, but it is not the Gospel.

The Gospel is the Good News – the awesome solution, the other side of the coin to the dark and hopeless picture of a broken relationship between God and humanity. The Gospel tells us that God himself has arranged for a bridging of the gap; a restoration of the broken relationship that is free, and available to all. In fact, this restoration will bring about a greater, closer and more intense relationship than existed between mankind and God in the first place. Not only that, but it will involve not only humanity and God, but all of Creation. The crowning glory of this Gospel is that the bridge isn’t just planned by God, it is God Himself that has bridged the Gap.

This Restoration of relationship is achieved by God and is free. It is not dependent on anything an individual or community can do. Instead it is achieved only by the finished work of Jesus in his life, death and resurrection, deliverd through faith to the individual. This glorious restoration does not mean sin is irrelevant, quite the opposite. In the cost of the Restoration, the ultimate price is paid – the humiliation, death and sacrifice of God’s Son – so that the recipients do not have a price to pay to qualify for the Restoration. However, there is a cost to discipleship – to following. That is not salvific, but it is responsive and requires obedience. It is both a natural outflowing from the new relationship and evidence of that relationship. It impacts the relationship, but neither starts it nor finishes it.

And here the great battlefield of Christianity lies. Indeed, its the most crucial battle. The natural heart of humanity in terms of ‘religion’ dictates that acceptance/atonement/relationship with God, is achieved through our hard work. A system of trade offs. We sin and so therefore we perform x, y, and/or z “good-work” to gain the pleasure of the Deity. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” trades on that understanding. It is the Law.

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