First let us be clear, this phrase, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is not in the Bible. Where did it originate? Based on want I could find, Augustine of Hippo is credited with its beginning, but his actual statement was as follows:
"When convicted of the fault, it is her duty to submit to the corrective discipline which may be appointed by the prioress or the prior. If she refuse to submit to this, and does not go away from you of her own accord, let her be expelled from your society. For this is not done cruelly but mercifully, to protect very many from perishing through infection of the plague with which one has been stricken. Moreover, what I have now said in regard to abstaining from wanton looks should be carefully observed, with due love for the persons and hatred of the sin, in observing, forbidding, reporting, proving, and punishing of all other faults" - St. Augustine’s Letter 211.
It is interesting to note that this phrase was birthed out of Augustine encouraging Church discipline. The love the sinner was in the context of correcting and punishing, perhaps even to the point of expulsion from the society.
In this day in age, when the phrase “love the sinner; hate the sin” is spoken what is really being promoted is not a desire to correct sinful behavior, but to ignore it. It is in the same twisted vain that many people quote out of context “Judge not lest ye be judged.” To which Paul Washer rightly responds, “twist not scripture lest ye be like Satan.”
Perhaps the better phrase to deal the sin in people’s lives Jude 22-23, “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”
Jude is the appropriate way to see a sinner and their sin. We are to hate sin and its consequences, for it destroys lives. It does not just destroy the life of the sinner, but everything it comes into contact with. Sin has a ripple effect, sometimes lasting generations and generations.
We are also to show mercy to the sinner. How? By being moved by compassion and doing all we can to pull them out of the flames of their rebellion. For an understanding of how one might do this, read the rest of the book of Jude. You might be surprised about what he has to say about Sodom and Gomorrah.
The bottom line is that if Christians ignore the sin, we are disobeying the word of God, and we are displaying our love for self over our love for others. Followers of Christ are called to snatch sinners out of the fire of their wretched ways. To ignore the sin is to watch them burn. I have used this quote before, but it is good:
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” – Charles Spurgeon