Love Sin / Hate Sin


My church held their annual picnic this last weekend. One of the church-wide contests was a chili cook-off. I told my wife I was going to enter and win the whole thing. This blogger can cook a scrumptious bowl of chili. I whipped up a batch, entered it, and indeed won the whole thing.

Upon winning that coveted blue ribbon, I let out a huge whoop, raised the hands high, and let everyone there know that I was triumphant. And later I felt bad about doing so.

Was it too much? The more time passed, the more I felt that I’d been a tad over the top in my moment of chili glory. While the other contestants trash talked before the judging, I was relatively quiet—I let the chili do the talking. But afterwards I really wanted to rub their noses in it, at least a little.

It’s been a tough last few weeks. The tenor in the household is “muddle through” stage. That stage has been common around here far more than it should, and I’ve grown to hate it. You feel that things will never get better.

So is a little rejoicing for a silly contest too much? Can a little hollering be good for the soul here? Or am I just exulting at someone else’s expense?

Sin is perpetually crouching at the door. The smell of it lingers in the air. And though we are told to flee it, despise it, and rail against it, there are times that I must confess—to my own dishonor—that I love it.

During my tenure in the Lutheran Church, I never got a handle on Martin Luther’s famous aphorism on sin that he penned to his buddy Philip Melanchthon 484 years ago:

If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here [in this world] we have to sin. This life is not the dwelling place of righteousness, but, as Peter says, we look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. It is enough that by the riches of God’s glory we have come to know the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day. Do you think that the purchase price that was paid for the redemption of our sins by so great a Lamb is too small? Pray boldly—you too are a mighty sinner.

Now that I am older, though, it makes more sense to me. As much as I am commended to loathe sin, there are still parts of me that love it just a little more than I should.

  • I love/hate reveling in accolades bestowed upon me.
  • I love/hate watching foes—real or imagined—get their comeuppance.
  • I love/hate convincing myself that I’m smarter than most people.
  • I love/hate gazing just a breath too long at the pretty young thing in line ahead of me at the grocery store.
  • I love/hate cutting down an opponent with a witticism worthy of Oscar Wilde or Will Rogers.
  • I love/hate knowing that the terrorist who just blew himself up and took out a dozen other people is going to burn in hell for eternity.
  • I love/hate watching haughty people taken down a peg or two.
  • I love/hate the dark fantasies I entertain.
  • I love/hate my own pride.

As a younger Christian, I would deceive myself into thinking that I wasn’t like this. But faux innocence is just that—a denial of the reality that in this world there will be sin. No one is immune no matter how perfect the persona we project to others.

I think the Christian blogosphere perpetuates this. Cruise around enough blogs on a daily basis and it’s fairly easy to see the hate portion of the love sin / hate sin equation. Yet there’s not quite as much of the love sin portion displayed. MasksToo much confession may alienate the more righteous readers. Too much confession may cast doubt on how well ANY of us Christians are doing in walking the walk as well as we talk the talk.

Far more of us are dying for confession than almost anything else, I suspect. Whitewashing takes exorbitant amounts of work, and legions of Christians are propping up an image of a fictitious sinner, the error Luther warns of, to their own detriment.

I crave grace, don’t you? What a marvelous gift, sublime, healing, and transforming all in one. Because of my love for grace, I can never be a fictitious sinner. My errors will always be bold. I can only ask that my prayer of repentance be yet bolder still.

Are you laboring to maintain the façade of a rosy righteous glow when darkness has become your friend instead? Christian, stop fighting and let someone else know!

…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….
—Romans 3:23 ESV

There is peace in confessing your sins not only to God, but to someone else:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
—James 5:16 ESV

Don’t be a fictitious sinner. It will steal your joy away. If you love a particular sin, acknowledge that before someone else and allow someone to draw up alongside you in the name of the Lord:

…a three-fold cord is not quickly broken.
—Ecclesiastes 4:12

Most of all, rest in the peace that the Lord Jesus bought with his own blood, the very blood that takes away the sins of the world. He said:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
—John 14:27 ESV

Beloved, now is the day to come into the light of Christ’s grace.

17 thoughts on “Love Sin / Hate Sin

  1. Pilgrim

    Well I guess that quote from Luther tells me two things. 1) I know why I am not a Lutheran and 2) I know why the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness arose. Taking Luther’s advice at face value and assuming the context is accurate I must say that Luther was giving extremely bad advice to his friend. I don’t think that is what Paul meant had in mind when he said where sin abounds grace much more abounds.

    Many Christians hold to the tradition that Jesus was an example of how we could live when yielded to and guided by the Spirit. Jesus did not live a sinless life only because he was God incarnate but because he was fully obedient to the Father. Luther’s advice boils down to judging intentions as more valuable than actions. Of course we know that Luther was somewhat prejudiced against works because of its history of abuse. Even if we grant him that point it does not make his advice accurate, correct, or wise. I cannot imagine Jesus ever recommending that we sin boldly.

  2. co_heir

    Cincinnati chili or the other kind?

    I think the tendency to hide our sins and failings is one reason why the Church has lost its influence in culture. By trying to present an image of having it all together, we turn those away who feel that they cannot measure up, as well as those who know us and know that we don’t have it all together.

  3. Anonymous

    hmmm. Personally, I think Luther was talking to a non-believing audience and trying to get someone to understand grace and atonement prior to salvation. Otherwise Romans 6 would be completely useless. If your commiting the same sin daily, then you are still a “slave” as Paul would put it there.

    Everybody struggles with sin. Usually the same sin. Holiness isn’t defined by perfection, but in growing and taking back strongholds/ being transformed by renewing of our minds. Even converts who’ve been in the fold 30 years are being “authored” in there faith. Heck Wesley himself said, “Every one, though born of God in an instant, yet undoubtedly grows by slow degrees”

    Just a real world example here. I was on a bike ride a few days ago on my local trail. I come around a corner and see a little cutie walking her dog. I get close enough to see it’s one of the girls I used to run track and work out with in school. We got to talkin’ and I found out that she’s a bikini model now, and my response was something like, “This is so ironic, I’m a male model, what are the odds?” She busted up and I was feelin’ pretty good about myself. But what I really felt good about was that I kept my eyes on her face and my mind in the conversation. Wouldn’t have happened a few years ago. I don’t think Luther would have said, “Take it all in man, sin like the sinner you are.”

  4. Dwayna Litz

    I love this blog! I am glad you won the chilly contest. 🙂 I really appreciated the quote from Luther. Back to the chilly, I think God was giving you some pleasure and joy in the midst of trials, and I don’t think it bothered God at all that you delighted so in winning. 🙂 This was another great post.

  5. Anonymous

    One other thing there. I’m not even close to being a male model. 🙂 And the thing I’ve noticed in my life, is that sin has been the most appealing to me when I’ve struggled with disappointment. I think everyone can relate to that. It’s an almost subconscious way that I use to get back at God. Maybe that’s what you meant by “muddled” also??? Happened to me when I was rejected for Air Force officer training a few years back. Your a righteous guy Dan, I don’t know if your struggling or not, but prayers with you.

  6. Dwayna Litz


    I don’t hate watching haughty people taken down a peg or two at all. I wonder if that is haughty of me. At the same time, I have and will still pray for these certain people who come to mind that seem to glory in their arrogance, and God has even let me see them in such a light that I have wept for them in prayer. My main concern with haughty people (who call themselves Christians) is for their salvation. I want to see them in heaven.

    I think many Christians struggle with being seen by others as “smart” because the world sends the message that an intelligent, evangelical Christian is an oxymoron. God has convicted me that I am not supposed to care about what others think but only what He thinks of me.

    The good news is if you were not saved, you would not even be struggling with such things. God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. May we all enjoy the Lord today—not “blogs” or “ministries” but HIM!!! :-)And we can’t sin when we are enjoying Him and abiding in Him.

  7. Not sure about your chili dish, Dan, but I do recognise my taste for some of your catalogue of love/hate-s. Some of them I rocognise as being expresssions of myself springing from my fear of rejection. I am learning, thankfully, a whole new way of doing things as if under the wing of the Lord. Others are just plain bad — I can be so bad at times.

  8. You can atone for gloating for over the contest by giving us the recipe 😉

    Personally, I was completely humiliated at our church’s chili cookoff – didn’t even place. And my cake didn’t do well in the auction either. Sigh. And I’m a good cook – really! I am!!

    Anyway – I try to be honest about my short-comings on my blog…but at the same time not turn it into a mea culpa. After all, confession may be good for the soul -but if I really let it all hang out on my site, it would be really depressing.

  9. Anonymous

    I recently discovered your blog, and appreciate your reflections. I have two comments – the first is in response to Pilgrim, who disagreed with Luther’s advice to “sin boldy”. Yes, at face value that makes no sense at all. My interpretation is not that one should sin on a grand scale, but that one should acknowledge [the nature of, not the specific acts of] sin fully to oneself. And we should do that with as much depth as we acknowledge Christ. Try to look sin honestly in the face, so to speak, instead of glancing away.

    My second comment is to the author. If we truly believe that “No sin will separate us from the Lamb…”, how do you also truly believe that the terrorist is going to burn in hell? Do you think God has a hierarchical list of sin? Either God’s grace is for everyone or it isn’t. This is our challenge.

  10. Anonymous,

    I do not support universalism. The Bible so clearly makes distinctions between the elect and the damned that I’m not sure how anyone can claim that those passages say otherwise. Matt 25 comes to mind here.

  11. Rooted in Him

    Your love/hate checklist is honest in a way often called “brutal,” but is actually how I know that I need to stand before our Lord.

    The faux persona you referred to is the result of the deceitfulness of sin. In politics it is said that “the cover-up is worse than the crime.” With us, hiddeness (of sin, of who we are) is sin also. (I cannot say that it is worse, because all sin separates from God, but hiddeness is kind of a “sin squared.” situation.)

    Your comment amount having to appear perfect reminded me of a comment a friend made many years ago about not wanting to go small group at church that evening. She said that she did want to have to put on her “elegant soul.”

  12. mercybee

    Dear Dan
    This is the funniest, honest, most gracious confession I have read for awhile.
    Unfortunately I don’t see nearly enough haughty people get there just desserts.
    Though I would love/hate too !!!
    I have found in my walk that we as Christians tend to be very gracious towards the UNSAVED “Sinners”, yet once we have dragged them into the kingdom we get out the Law and the hangmans noose.
    Grace goes out the window.

    I love this little say..
    Just if I’d never sinned, thats the message of the Cross, the Blood and forgiveness

    Yours in Christ
    New Zealand Correspondent

  13. Mercybee,

    Thanks for dropping in from the country that would be my second choice for a home (and that was long before everyone fell in love with NZ because of the LotR movies.)

    Like the mnemonic, too.

  14. dbriggins

    I have always paraphrased Luthers comment as “Love the Lord, and sin boldly.” If we live in this world, we sin. If we are truly bound by grace, we cannot be bound by the fear to sin. In effect, Luther was paraphrasing Jesus, (who was quoting from Moses) “Love God first, and live your life!” In the process of living we will sin. And that is what grace is for. But if we love God with all our heart, body and soul, we are much less likely to sin, simply because we are so inextricably tied to Gods will. If we fear to sin, we will question our motives, desires, and actions, and will be so focused on ourself that we will be of no use at all. So Love God, and Live!

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