I know people who have done awful things. I am a person who has awful things. I have often heard the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin," but it has recently come to my attention that a big mission and next step in my life is to be someone who loves sinners, no matter how bad the sin. I say this because I come from a family with a lot of emotionally charged sin, but I am also a person who is no more or less a sinner than anyone else. Recently, it has come to my attention that I am certainly no saint, and for many people, it's hard to love others when they make horrible mistakes, mistakes that tend to hurt people.
The simple answer for why I want to become someone who loves sinners is because I have a natural propensity to stick up for the downtrodden and those other people give up on. In high school, I was always the kid that reached out to the person the rest of my friends ostracized, and in college, I've done my best to prioritize the art of reaching out to people, regardless of their situation or whatever I hear about them. Only I can make my opinion about someone else. Other people can influence it, but only I control how to regard and treat others, and most of the time I'll give the benefit of the doubt. That part of my personality has always served me well when I'm the person in a bad situation, the person people are saying terrible things about.
The professional answer for why I want to become someone who loves sinners is because Jesus did. In a parable I like to use often, the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, two men walk into a temple, a religious figure, the Pharisee, and a tax collector. The Pharisee prays "God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get." The tax collector prays "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" According to Jesus, the tax collector who prays for forgiveness goes home justified at the end of the day, not the Pharisee.
The parable ends with Luke 15:14, which states that "for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." Again, there are some recent unfortunate events in my life that have led me to be humbled, and I can say this definitively: there is absolutely nothing that makes you a more compassionate and empathetic person than being in need of compassion and empathy. When people reach out to you and extend kindness and compassion even when few think you deserve it are the times when you realize how virtues of grace and reaching out are in times of need for others. That is how you can get other people to believe in themselves.
Neediness is something people in my environment, particularly, scoff at. Being in an elite, highly competitive academic institution like Emory University, neediness is most often seen as a sign of weakness. But weakness often turns itself into strength, and there is better no way to improve a shortcoming than humbling yourself and admitting that you need help.
I have often heard that it's difficult to love others if you do not love yourself. I don't know if this is completely true, but I do believe the teaching has some truth to it. I would like to reverse the statement and say, instead, that it is difficult to love yourself if you do not love others. Say you spend your entire life condemning people close to you who do bad things and condemning the very people you regard as sinners. What happens when you perform the very same sin? Who's going to forgive you? Not yourself. Who is going to condemn you? That's right - yourself.
To love myself is the selfish reason why I want to become someone who loves sinners. Very often in my life, I used to stand on a moral high ground of righteousness, calling people out whenever they did things I disapproved of, like lying, cheating, or talking shit about others behind their back. What did it mean, later, when I did those very same things? It meant that I was a hypocrite, and that that same moral high ground meant that other people had the right to chastise me.
I've written before about how trying to be perfect is trying to be God. I believe we condemn people who do wrong in our eyes from a place of vanity, because we don't want to believe we can make the same mistakes. Those people. including myself at times, want to believe that they're not human; they want to believe they're God. According to crime writer, Zach Fortier, "anyone is capable of anything given the right set of circumstances." The now highly unethical Milgram experiment found that the vast majority of men would obey instructions to administer deadly shocks to observers and perform acts against their personal conscience. I wholeheartedly believe that if I were a citizen of Nazi Germany, I would have perpetuated the very same acts of evil that were performed in the war and Holocaust.
Romans 5:8 tells us that "God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." So, I want to move forward being someone who loves sinners for all these reasons, but above all because other people loved me when I myself sinned greatly.