There are some “Christianese” phrases that I want to rethink about. I am not judging the heart of those who have said it – I probably have said one of these before – but I think these are phrases that can stumble people while resulting in misunderstandings.
1) “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”
This phrase initially carries the aim of not judging people but with all honesty, I think this a weighty statement that comes with a heavy judgment. In the end, what makes a sinner a sinner? The occupation of sin in him. However, I’m sure many non-believers, having not yet been touched by God’s life, are unaware of the existence of sin. By declaring this phrase to him or her, you are essentially telling him or her that, “you are a sinner – this is how I see you – and yet I still love you. See how loving I am? Look how merciful I am?”
I think it’s quite tragic that Christians are often trained to see others as primarily sinners – I am not minimizing the weight of sin – but I think we should move beyond that, just as we shouldn’t keep starting the Bible with Genesis 3 instead of Genesis 1. In other words, when we see others, we should primarily see them as precious vessels whom God created according to His likeness for the purpose to contain and manifest Him. This is God’s original plan – to have a corporate people that love and express Him. We should see that potential in people to be filled with Christ. We weep for those not just because of our shared nature of sin, but the very fact that they have missed Christ (in fact sin can be understood as “missing the mark”). We should lead people to see the supremacy of Christ; it is only after this can they receive Him while the Lord as the True Light convict them bit by bit about sin (and yes, sometimes God convict others through us, but not through mouth that speaks condemnation rather than compassion, see Comdemnation Vs Conviction). At least this is my own experience from my journey of growth.
2) “Count Your Blessing, Name It One By One…”
I know this is a wonderful hymn. I just dislike the fact that too many have taken this line out of the hymn and quote it so often that I almost thought it’s a verse from the Bible. Surely God is the one who blesses – He is all in all – yet whether He gives or does not give certain things, our love for Him should not change. I don’t think, nor has the Scripture supported the idea that, one of our tasks as Christians is to count our blessing or even name them one by one. I really don’t think that’s a way to grow in faith. Christ is our full joy and peace – one can declare that “I have a wonderful family. I have a great church fellowship. I have three good kids. I have a successful career. (the list goes on)” yet have nothing, meaning, Christ. Instead of counting our blessing and name it one by one, we praise God who is our all in all; and because His riches are infinite and immeasurable, we don’t give it a fixed quantity.
3) “God is Good.”
God is good – Amen. Nevertheless, there are too many ways to define good. I would much prefer “Good = God” in which, the definition of good is God. There is no “good” outside of God. There are only two types of men in this world – they are either in Christ, or not in Christ (thus in Adam). John says the anti-christs are the ones who deny the Lord, so essentially you are either for Christ or against Christ. Remember the sin of Adam and Eve? Instead of eating the tree of life, they choose to give themselves their own version of “good” and “evil”. God’s way is “Life vs Death” which surely includes the idea of goodness – but it’s beyond what we can grasp in our human definition of “good”. It seems that the human concept of “good and bad”, or “good and evil”, is often not what is in God’s mind at all. Saying this to someone who is a non-believer is especially unhelpful as good can be defined as many things that is not of God’s nature. If a non-believer hears this phrase while he is suffering in poverty, poor health, loneliness, I sympathize with his frustration or confusion upon hearing, “God is good”.