A lot of people on this side of the besetting issue really dislike that old nostrum "hate the sin: love the sinner."
I understand why. There are a lot of people on the other side who trot out that line as a cover for all sorts of hateful blather - much of it directed at the sinner (as they see it) and not so much at the sin.
But the fact that some people misuse it doesn't mean that the nostrum is any less correct.
But it is really difficult for us mere humans to separate our feelings about sin - or more particularly about a given sin - from our feelings about the sinner.
Unless, of course, we are confronted with it at some level.
Like I was today.
There I was, innocently trolling the blogosphere, when I saw an article in Toronto's national newspaper - and article that left me feeling like I'd been punched in the stomach.
A friend of mine - someone I first met nearly 30 years ago - has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography. The police allege that he had a large collection of very disturbing images.
Well, first, I needed to remind myself that he was charged, not convicted.
But then what?
I guess then I need to contend with the fact that he may be guilty.
And if so, then what?
I guess that is where hating the sin and loving the sinner comes in.
It would be very easy to turn my back and deny him.
But he was my friend two days ago. If I cared for him before this, why should I care any less for him after? Indeed, doesn't he need my care, concern and friendship all the more now?
That doesn't mean condoning what he is alleged to have done.
But whatever he may have done, it doesn't change the fact that he is a child of God - and one whose life stands to be ruined regardless of the legal outcome. Even if he is innocent, the charge will dog him forever. And if he is guilty, his life is irrevocably changed.
So, while I hate the sin he is alleged to have committed, I must love this sinner (for sinner he is, regardless of his guilt or innocence on these charges). After all, I am supposed to follow the example of one who ate and drank with outcasts and sinners.
But mostly, I'm still just feeling like I've been punched in the stomach.