When Allen first met Steve, they were in high school gym together. Steve was quiet and insecure, with few friends. Then Allen began to include Steve in his social life. At first their mutual love for partying drew them together. But as Allen started to grow spiritually, he lost interest in drinking and wild parties. In college, they drifted apart.
When Allen reconnected with Steve after college, Steve's life was a mess. He was drinking heavily and was addicted to sexually graphic literature. Allen stepped in to help. With few resources of his own and a new wife to attend to, Allen drove Steve out of state to a rehab center.
Months passed and Steve continued to struggle with sin, but slowly Allen got through to him. He helped Steve establish a fully committed relationship with Christ and stuck with him through years of ups and downs. Steve often called Allen when desperate to return to his old life. Patiently, Allen continued to give his friend time and energy.
Today Steve is free from his addictive behaviors and growing stronger in Christ. Allen's commitment to love Steve, despite his persistent sin, has been worth the effort.
A common instruction in Christian circles is "Hate the sin but love the sinner." This is easier said than done. It's difficult to treat someone with robust and compassionate love while hating something they habitually do. More often we tepidly tolerate someone whose behavior repels us, or we ignore the harmful behavior of someone we love.
We may be coolly civil to our immoral neighbor, but is that what Jesus would call love? And what about ignoring a Christian friend's compulsive shopping or explosive temper—is that love?
Loving sinners is messy. Easy ...