Lived Christianity has gone astray on what it means to “love the sinner” and what it does not mean.
To love is to will the good for someone. Your love is perverted if the good you will is not the true good of the someone. So, there are bad loves. But we are speaking only of true love, of a love that wills the true good.
Why do I need to define love, true love, as “to will the true good for someone”? Because none of us is GOD! That is why. Since we are not God, we are not our own fulfillment. We might exist, but that does not mean we have arrived. Our existence is one thing; our achievement of true meaning, true happiness, true life, is yet another thing. We couldn’t achieve anything without existing; true. Yet, just because we exist does not mean we have arrived!
Hence, we need to define love not simply in terms of “accepting” or “valuing” or “esteeming” or “cherishing” any human being. Rather, true love must will the true good of the beloved.
To love the sinner then entails to will the true good of the sinner. If I fail to will his true good, I fail to love him. Full Stop. Period.
Now, if he is committing sins, if he is in a state of sin, if he is “living in sin,” I do not love him unless I will that he be removed from that state of sin, that he leave it, abandon it, come to the truth.
Hence, to love the sinner necessarily entails hating the sin. The Sin is opposed to the sinner’s good. It is an evil. It conspires to make him eternally in-complete, eternally un-fulfilled, eternally miserable. Did I want him to be miserable eternally?
Thus, he who does not hate the sin in the sinner truly hates the sinner. For in this world there is no neutrality. I either love the sinner or I do not. If I do not, I essentially hate him.
Thus, he who “reaches out” to a sinner in such a way as to make it seem to the sinner that his sin is “OK”, that his sin “is not a true evil”, that his sin “is to be embraced” truly hates the sinner. This is no love but a sham lie and a deceit. If the alleged love thinks he is doing good and really wants the best but cannot find the way to make it clear tot he sinner that sin is harming him and instead just wants to be comfortable with the sinner, he is a very unskilled, inept and thus dangerous lover. Why dangerous? For he is leading this man to his doom.
He who reaches out in this way in a public manner would be bringing ruin on the sinner and on all who sinned in the same manner. Thus, such a one would be a grave scandal. If he did it unintentionally, he would still be a very unskilled and inept and thus dangerous lover.
Is the matter of love a tight-rope? Yes. It must be part of that “hard and narrow way, which few [can even] find”. Is failing to love, is hating, an easy way? Well, yes. For failing to reach out to a sinner in the first place is already withholding the abundance of wealth from him. And thus, failing even to approach the sinner, holding off as though from the leprous, is a crime. How easy it is to hold off from sinners. From those whose sins are “outward”, rather than hidden and inward. How easy it is. All the while, our own sins are probably deeper because hidden. Yet, to reach out in such a way as to cut off that public sinner from repentance, to reach out in such a way as to “ease his conscience” towards his wickedness, this too is serious sin. All this is part of that “wide and easy path, which many [go ahead and] take”.
God grant us the love that wills the true good of the sinner, which thus will bear the pain of the sinner’s alienation and not ‘mask’ it over with Pelagian magic of our ‘declarations’ that ‘it is OK’, and the prudence to find ways to approach the sinner so that he might the more quickly come to life.