the "love the sinner, hate the sin" myth: tony campolo talks twitter (sorta)

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Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

the "love the sinner, hate the sin" myth: tony campolo talks twitter (sorta)

this won’t be a shocking revelation to long-time blog readers and those who know me beyond the blog, but sociologist tony campolo has probably been the most influential theologian in my life over the past 10 years. i’m consistently inspired, challenged and provoked by his wise words. he’s had decades of teaching and preaching and garnered a vast collection of notable quotes and cultural/theological insights.

a couple days ago while listening to an interview with shane claiborne (who was a student of campolo’s and still meets with him weekly for spiritual guidance), i was reminded of one of campolo’s teachings that has been particularly salient with me for several years. while talking about the church’s relationship to the LGBT community, claiborne cites campolo in talking about the christian cliché of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” he says, quite frankly, that that is not something jesus ever said. rather, jesus said, “love the sinner, hate your own sin.”

this has huge implications and i’ve tried to regularly repeat it as a bit of a mantra. it’s so, so easy to jump to judgments and only see the speck in others’ eye, while denying the obtrusive plank in our own. before we worry about others’ sin, we need to hate our own sin.

strangely, these thoughts came to mind after an odd series of exchanges on twitter this past week.twitter is a wonderful platform for social interaction and connections, but 140 characters often creates unintentionally terse and curt conversations. behind the veil of the internet, people often feel more emboldened than if they were face-to-face with the other participant. further—and likely the most prominent thing at play in my case—as with any form of written communication, all tone is lost. a smiley or attempt to write some sense of emotion is helpful, but often still gets lost.

such was the case this past week in an interaction i had with a twitter friend (who i’ve met in real life, as well). what was intended as a sarcastic and humorous “poke” (having met this person in real life and seen this person speak in similar ways with some regularity), was taken, i have surmised, as brusque and abrasive (though these are strictly assumptions). it led to an immediate unfollow and subsequent heaping on by others on twitter. i was called both a “fool” and an “asshat” (yes, i know, it’s ridiculous to even repeat here, but it’s true) and had (in a previous exchange) my opinion called “bullshit.”


my first reaction, of course, was to lash out. it’s completely unhelpful to list the perceived wrongs that would merit my lashing out, but needless to say, i was ready to fire back. and in my own little headspace, i did. i thought terrible things and convinced myself that i was in the right and the others were dead wrong.

i spent several days in that space. and then shane claiborne and tony campolo had to go and mess it up. 🙂

yes, in this scenario, there were certainly proverbial “specks in their eyes”, but pointing those out and lashing out only masked the fact that i’ve got my own huge and hurtful planks in my own eye.

i can be unintentionally abrasive. and curt. and flippant. and overly sarcastic. and quick to respond without thinking through the implications. and unnecessarily provocative.

in all honesty, none of these things come from a negative place and are usually in the spirit of candid and open conversation, but they simply don’t always come out that way. or, they often do come out that way, but i need to learn that some people just aren’t going to be able to process it or respond appropriately.

so, i’ve paused. and i’ve attempted to be self-evaluative and more self-aware. and hopefully, more like jesus.

yes, there is a world full of eyes with specks of sawdust, but i’ve yet to find a time when i couldn’t stand to trim a bit of the plank in my eye away.

so, thank you, dr. campolo, for your wise (and unintended) twitter counsel.

shane claiborne / from the drew marshall show: