You have heard the phrase, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” The Bible never said that. Sorry.

This saying is actually derived from a quote by Gandhi.

Well, you might say, even though these precise words aren’t in the Bible, the principle of the saying is there, right? Yes, the concepts are there, but not in exactly that language.

Romans 12:9 says, Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

That is about the clearest verse that speaks of hating sin and loving people, but note that it doesn’t say sinners. It says others. I do believe we can say, it’s Biblical, to hate sin.

It is right, moral, appropriate to hate wrongs like rape, murder, incest, child abuse, torture and sex slavery. We hate the harm they do to precious people.We grieve over such sin. Allepo and Mosul, I grieve the harm to women, children, old.

But one of the dangers in “hate the sin,” mentality is that we have a tendency to hate other people’s sin — sin we don’t have — while tolerating, excusing, overlooking or even loving our own sin.

The other evening, my wife and I were coming home from concert, she was driving, and she took a longer route than I would have to avoid some traffic.

The backstory is that she has been hating her commute from Chula Vista to Point Loma, all the traffic, and has been telling me that a lot.

So, when she took a route that I wouldn’t have taken, on the way home from the concert, I said, with all the sensitivity and wisdom of a good husband, “If you choose routes like this, no wonder it takes you so long to get home from work.”

As soon as I said it, I knew I was a sinner.

And she being a saint, she didn’t explain that to me, except to say I had hurt her feelings.

My name is Randy Hasper, and I am a sinner. And I think the church would function better if it functioned like an AA group. Mostly, I need to not get ramped up about other people’s sin; I need to take care of my side of the street, my sin, and seek to make amends to the people I have wronged.

Ashamed of my own words, I apologized to my wife. Repent quickly.

I think of Ann Lamott: , “God put us together with other people on the planet to make us crazy enough that we give up on our own bad ways and surrender to his love and forgiveness.” The point? Be more concerned about your own sin than others.

But there is something else to say about our own sin. Be careful not to hate your own sin so much, that you end up hating yourself and shaming yourself and thinking that you can get holy by beating up on yourself.

The other day, one of my daughters dropped and broke my favorite espresso cup.

She knows how much my espresso means to me. Every morning, espresso brings me back from the dead.

She felt badly, felt some shame, some guilt.

But we have a thing in our house where if someone breaks something — because we are all a bit brain damaged in my house — nobody says anything except stuff like, “Oh, it’s just a cup, no big deal, here let me help you clean it up.”

Shame won’t bring the cup back. Beating up on ourselves or others for sin just weighs us down. Hate won’t make sin go away. After we fail, after we drop the moral cup, it is a looking to God that helps, not focusing on the sin, for then we hear him say, “Here, let me help you clean that up.

Putting our eyes back on God, forgives us, heals us, and helps us get back to doing the right thing.

So hate the sin … well … that’s right, but keep you eyes on God not on your sin.

The other problem with the “hate the sin, love the sinner,” thing is that the NT doesn’t encourage us to judge or condemn ourselves — or even other people — as sinners.

Matthew 7:1. Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

It’s true that we do all sin, and say they don’t, but to label someone a “sinner” puts us in an judging, “us versus them” position, where we become the “righteous” person looking down our nose at those poor, wretched, ignorant “sinners” who just cannot get their act together.

Forget that. We need to worry about our side of the street. We are only responsible for our side of things, not theirs.

Last night I took responsibility for my side of the street with my wife. She has been complaining that I don’t always hear her when she speaks.

I told her, “I know, babe, so for you I went to the doctor about this last week. He told me I now have a 95% to 100% hearing loss.

I told him about our problem, and he is recommending that from now on you just stop speaking to me. It’s not my fault. I will just have to suffer, in silence, in blissful silence, the rest of our married life.”

Finally, the last and biggest problem with the “sinner” label, in the “love the sinner” thing is that there is much more to us than sinner. We were all created in the image of God, and while sin has twisted and smudged that image, it hasn’t erased it.

There is gold in you. “There is gold in them thar hills.”

Think of how Jesus viewed us. Jesus hung out with unrighteousness people like us, but that isn’t how he labeled us. Jesus’s own billing, his marquee, it wasn’t “Jesus the Messiah: eating and drinking with prostitutes and sinners.”

That was the labeling used by the religiously judgmental. When he hung out with sinners, he didn’t act like they were sinners.

His sinner were his friends, not his projects. They were people with faces and names. They were his sheep in need of his care. They were beloved children. Jesus wasn’t their accuser. He left that to the devil — or the religious right.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Take the woman caught in a sexual sin. Sinner is not how Jesus saw her. When he told her to go and sin no more he was revealing that he saw that she was person who was capable of righteousness.

She sinned, I sin, and you sin, we all sin, but that is not our primary identity. Our primary identity, our root identity, is as the children of God. Getting back to that is what helps us stop sinning.

1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

I remember once when life really beat me down, and I kind of lost myself, I called by friend Rob Mahan, and went to lunch with him.

I told him what had happened that made me lost my confidence, and he asked me, “So, then, who are you?”

I said, “Well, I am a pastor, a writer, a teacher,” and he was like, “Well, that’s what you do, but who are you?”

I was a bit confused. He was looking for a deeper answer. I’m dense sometimes. It took me some time to sort that out. I am — no matter what anyone thinks or says about me — a child of God. I am valuable, special, unique, useful, loved child of God. I am a person of value, not for what I do, but for who I am. Nobody can take that away from me.

This is true of you too. Never let anybody take that away from you. Nobody has that power over you, to proclaim you worthless, a failure, a mistake.

Sin is terrible, and the things we do to each other that take away worth are terrible, in fact they are so terrible they lead to the death of Jesus, but sin didn’t define him, and it doesn’t define you.

Jesus was the son of God, who triumphed over sin, and in him, you are a new creation, not a sinner.

Romans 8:1 There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

I am  done with being critical, with putting myself down or others down for imperfection, for weaknesses. And I am done speaking of others as if they are sinners.

It’s not Christian to be full of judgment. “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” I don’t actually recommend calling anyone a “sinner.”

They, and you, and we are much, much more than sinners. You and everyone else on our planet are beautiful, and we were made for a redeeming, righteous, intimate relationship with God.

And close to God we are gold, we are forgiven, we become powerful, we are free, we are good and we are whole.

The politicians up for election, how they clobber, club and crucify each other — and then we vote for them.

We are viciously elected animals — the back room hacking, the in-your-face attacking, the under-the-table cracking, the character fracking and reputation hijacking.

Campaigns are pretty much a public brawl, in a skirt or a tie, on a hill, in a hall. And then they rule — right or wrong, soft or cruel.

I long for something else — a quiet friend, who isn’t running for office, who isn’t telling other people off, who isn’t hiding smutty history, who has no record of groping or doping or wheeling or dealing the floor or the ceiling.

I long for something unselfish, undivided, unbiased — something not frantic, forced, frothing, fierce.

I think of my father, now in his final years, bending over my mother in the bath, gently splashing water on her rashes, on her shriveled, shrunken, surgery-scarred skin, softly washing her old body because she can’t wash herself.

I think of my brother, at the City of Hope, his 86th wrist band, the needle in his arm, the unwanted wait, the unwanted disease, the going back to work the same day to make sure people are taken care of, to make sure things will work when he doesn’t go to the office anymore.

I think of my friend who lost her husband two years ago. Thirty years then gone. There she is in the therapy room after the group meeting, waiting until everyone is gone so that she can secretly pay for her disabled friend’s care, even though her own financial future isn’t certain.

Such pauses from ourselves, such thoughts of someone else, such quiet, unseen, simple braveries — this is what rises to the top, this is what rules when all else is  lost.

Such kindness as these are of great note; such kindnesses as these all have my vote.

Note: You can find my other modern soliloquies at

The New York Times recently ran an article explaining the rise of a voting base in the U.S. that is “characterized by a desire to shut out the world, ruthlessly promote American interests, reject cooperation and meet threats with overwhelming force.”

This constituency is afraid, angry and isolated. They want to close the door.

I’m not.


Because I’m a Christian.  Jesus said to go into the whole world and love people of all nations and bring the forgiveness and concern of Christ to them all.

You can’t do that if you shut the whole world out.

Christian’s aren’t called to promote only their own interests. Christians aren’t called to isolate themselves from people who are different from them. Christians aren’t called to fear and hate and harm. We would do well to remember that in the Old Testament God opposed and judged the nations who were overly harsh and brutal in battle with other nations.

According to Jesus, we Chritians are the people of the other cheek, we are the people of go-into-the-whole world, we are the people who are to be known for their compassion, their generosity and their love. Yes, we protect the weak and innocent, no we don’t shut out the world.

I’ve gotten out a little, as a Christian — to Nicaragua, to South Africa, to Swaziland, to Italy, to Canada, to Brazil, to Puerto Rico, to Mexico, to England and to France — and from the small slice of the world that I’ve seen, the nations are full of beautiful people, people just like me, people who enrich and add to me whenever I get to know them, people with the same hurts and hopes that I have.

Worshiping in Zulu in Johannesburg, in Spanish in Mexico City, in Portugese in Campinas, in English in London, I have been overwhelmed with a powerful, deep and meaningful connection with the nations. There is someting profound beyond words about how much we have in common with others who are different from us, rather  about how different we are from those who are the same as us.

Unfortunately, some Christians leave their Chritianity at the slamed door when they enter the political battlefield. But closed doors, closed minds and closed hearts  — there is nothing Christian about that.


The news is booze! It will make your head wooze.

Last week — being over-exposed to the Presidential election news — I found myself anxiously consulting the headlines several times a day. Not good. I  began to suffer a kind of polical poison-brain.

When my brother Steve told me he had read an article that said overexposure to negative, unsettling or  violent reports on the news has an ill effect on health, I unhooked.

I was suffering from toxic political waste. It can cause stress, anxiety and depression.

I’m better now.

Over the weekend I baked an excellent pizza,  I went to the park with my family, I settled down to reading a fine biography of Ben Franklin, I took in a fun and inspiring Christian music concert, and I had an excellent time at church yesterday surrounded by people who don’t thrive on insults. Last night I watched 60 Minutes where I saw that a church — guided by love not fear — was sponsoring Syrian refugees.  How refreshing!

This week I’m living differently. I am glancing at the political circus, but I’m not buying a ticket to the big tent. With the lack of integrity that characterizes some of our candidates, with the level of hostility, vitriol and brutality that defines this election, I think it is best for me to wean myself from political voyeurism.

Frankly, the whole mess makes me vow to eschew lying, to long to live and act more humbly, to honor everyone I can around me, to be kind to suffering people from other countries, to never be inappropriate with women, to give away more time and money to charity than I ever have before and finally to further open myself to the astonishingly compassionate and unselfish heart of God for all people.

It’s what we are supposed to do.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8


I’ve been watching the 2016 Presidential race play out over the last few months, and it has been been eye-opening, fascinating, astonishing really, a study in some of the worst traits of human nature. I’ve have been particularly interested in how my fellow Christians have reacted, what they have been willing to support and what they have been willing to overlook.

It appears to me that there is some degree of inability to judge character well.

Politicians who show a consistent pattern of insulting others, of lying about what they have said or not said in the past, of self-aggrandizement, of greed for excessive wealth, of exploiting those they hire, of harsh judgmentalism of other races, of belittling, objectifying and misusing women, of scoffing at other’s weaknesses but of not sincerely grieving and apologizing for their own — such leaders show not merely that they fail to say the right thing; they fail to be the right person. Such failures are failures of the most profound order. They are failures of character and failure of love, and they represent the exact opposite of the character of Jesus.

Jesus consistnely maintained an opposite pattern from this, a pattern of humility, a pattern of profound respect for the weak, for the poor, for the sick, for women, for children, for the mentally disabled, for other races, even for those from other religions — such as the Samaritan woman. He was consistently kind to people who weren’t like him — except, as you may note, that Jesus was hard on leaders who were self-seeking, harsh, domineering, greedy and judgmental.

Who should we support, politically? It is challenging. It requires good discernment. But I don’t believe that it is an issue that should be decided for us by a political party, or by how we have voted in the past, or by the preassure of others who fire off their political opinions with little thought or reason. Nor should our choice be decided by our own moral weakness, by what we excuse in ourselves, or by our need for hitching our wagon to someone powerful so that we might ourselves seem to gain a little power.

I’m not sure how it all sorts out, but I am sure that Christians should not blindly support anyone with a persistently harmful character, thinking that this doesn’t matter as long as that leader advocates  something they have traditionally favored. And I am sure of this: Character matters! Whatever our political biases, we should never align ourselves with any leader whose character has a pattern that is precisely the opposite of Jesus’s.

We should all keep looking down, and up and out, and observing fastidiously the world we live in. We should see what is there, not what we want to be there or think is there.

Dealing in reality is so much better than dealing in comfortable fictions, fables, want-to-be resurrances, imagined interpretations, what we hope is true.

Reality, life as it is is fun, and you can learn a lot from it.

I just finished a biography of William Smith 1769-1839), the father of modern geology. What a hoot! The guy was high on what was low, the rocks, fossils and strata that were below his feet in Industrialized England.

Coal and canals to carry it gave him a life work, and it granted him access to the geological underworld and he went down into the digs and mines with gusto and figured it out.

Here is what he came up with, in his own words.

Fossil Shells had long been known amongst the curious, collected with care, and preserved in their cabinets, along with other rarities of nature, without any apparent use. That to which I have applied them is new, and my attention was first drawn to them, by a previous discovery of regularity in the direction and dip of the various Strata in the hills around Bath; for it was the nice distinction which those similar rocks required, which led me to the discovery of organic remains peculiar to each Stratum.”

This was the finding that became known as Smith’s Principle of Faunal Succession. Today it appears in geology textbooks the world over. The fossils and the layers they appear in give us a chronology for the millions of years it took for earth to come to it’s present geological state.

At the time, Christians were stuck with Archbishop  Ussher’s theory that the earth began in 4004 BC and was only about 6,000 years old. That was wrong. The Bible never said that. The Bible never gave us a chronology  for creation’s timeline. It told us that God did it; it didn’t tell how. And yet, believe it or not, there are still a few Christians who hold on to the idea that the earth is 6,000 years. There are tons of evidence, layers and layers of evidence to the contrary. All the evidence is to the contrary. God took a long time to make the universe and the earth. And afterwards, he didn’t create the appearance of age, (why would he traffic in smoke and mirrors) and it was aged.

I see this long, changing process of geology as giving God even more glory than a short and quick, wam and slam and bam creation. I could go on about this, but I won’t, because I just want to point out that there is a simple lesson here and it is very scriptural. “Consider the ant.”  

In other words, open  your eyes. See what is. Don’t get stuck in old mind-sets that don’t make sense, that lack common sense, that don’t jive with reality. Use you eyes, observe nature,  be the wisdom sage scholar the Bible recommends you be, commited  to truth, to empiricism, to observation and to reality — the best you can — and attempt to unbiasedly understand what you see.



I’ve seen it in the rainforest north of Juneau, where the fluffy moss puffs up like thick cat fur on the rotting logs, growing toward the sun, and I’ve seen it in Sequoia where the dark, thick redwoods just keep flinging their massive trunks upward. I love how the great ancient forests all leap upwards.

A raft of our greatest artists noted this — Van Gogh, Burchfield, Carr, Chagall.

In my office, a Van Gogh — one of his Olive trees — churns, surges and tendrils up above my desk. Likewise, the Northern symbolist Charles Burchfield paid attention to such movement with his cathedral forests, where all the branches and leaves coil and curl skyward in church-window like arches — the energy of up, the vibrating sky, as in  September Wind and Rain. Chagall took this tack too, and his donkeys, his angels, his lovers all leave the ground to float and drift in the sky, or wherever, as in Over the Town or I and The Village

Emily Carr, the Canadian arboreal savant saw it too. I like how with Emily her sacred trees are all rushing upward, for instance her Among the Firs and Sombreness Sunlight.

Carr respects the trees; her’s twirl and whorl and shout and shoot to the sky. She graces them with dark rich blues and greens — yellows and oranges and whites peaking through them — black trunk and limb pushing heavenward through fire.

I love how Emily’s paint, her broad brush strokes move up, the sweeping branches, the upsweeping skies, except for this — those gorgeous lateral slashes of paint and wind rushing through her trees. Burchfield did this too in Oncoming Spring.

This is the motion of life. Life is heliotropic — with the occasional slash —  it is ascendant, for me it is praise.

I like it best when they shut off the motor.

It is quiet and you can hear them breathing — a deep, low, misty exhale, coming from voluminous spaces within.

I especially like how their dorsal fin, that tall black triangle, comes out of the water first, then the slick, wet backs, the rolling to the side, a fin flopping, the salty water mounding on the surface in front, the smooth wave surging behind them, flukes showing as they submerge again.

The water in the Salish Sea was smooth and glassy that afternoon. We motored occasionally to keep up with the whales, a Canadian vessel opposite us, running in tandem with us, two other small boats, all of us keeping a respectful distance, all of us with the Orcas at center focus.

One of the juveniles rolled on its back near our boat, fins up and flapping — playful perhaps — then it slurped below the surface again.

For a few moments that sunny warm fall afternoon we were with them in the Haro Striaght of the Salish Sea — not with them as in we-were-in the pod — but with them as in living on the same planet, as in traveling together, as in not harming each other, as in being delighted with seeing them, as in appreciating them, as in respecting them.

I wish for more of this, this kind of podding-up with the creation, this sort of fluking-down, flipping-up, surging-on-together and especially the calm, quiet sitting with each other. And I like what it wasn’t, speciesism, killing, eating; and yes, perhaps it was a bit of exploitation, but not overly.

I like a large scoop of awe, a fair amount of reverence, a special blend of camaraderie — the kind that allows everybody to keep floating along calmly, the kind that keeps us all back just the right distance from each other’s teeth.

It’s interesting what we make of the living creatures that inhabit the planet with us, the finches, alligator lizards, the daddy longlegs, pandas, whales, each other. As I sit in my condo on San Juan Island on a rainy day, here in the great American Northwest, I find myself looking at jumping Orcas on a colored whale watching tour brochure.

What? This is what it has come to for us and the whale, chasing them around in motor boats?

Consider the great Megaptera — the hump backed whales of the oceans with their forty ton bodies and fifteen foot wing-fins, those lumpy, bumpy, barnacled behemoths who swim through the sea filtering their food and who occasionally hurtle themselves from the waters in great, beautiful bulking arcs.

They are great ones; they are the mighty ones among us.

But instead of honoring the whale’s place, we have instead spotted, hunted, chased, killed, captured, specced and displayed them so that we can gawk over them, put them in marine parks, post them on Facebook and brag back home. Yesterday at the Whale Museum I saw a harpoon tip. It had the distinct look look of the history of cruelty to me.

Even today, we think of whales as being among a kind of ecotouristic cast of natural entertainers — something like Yosemite park deer, Yellowstone buffalo or San Diego zoo elephants. To us the whales are a vacation business, a natural road show, at best a science project. To many of us they have become merely logo, post card, poster or cute emoji on our phones.

But the whales are much more than that. Whales are not nature’s burlesque show for vacationers, the world’s lab experiment for scientists. The Megaptera are our mysticetes — the great ones who live by filtering the small ones. They are the gentle kings of the sea, wave-masters of wide waters, a society, fellow creature, communicants, like us — just different. They breathe air through lungs, are warm-blooded, give birth to young who drink milk, they have hair, they communicate with each other.

Consider the Odontoceti, the gorgeous black and white whales with shiny skin. They are best known to us for their infamous teeth and for stories of their killing prowess. We think of what we have seen of them on YouTube videos, killing their trainers, hunting down Tiger sharks or dragging flopping sea lions off the beach.

But perhaps here too we mistake them. Whales don’t have egos, hatreds or evil intentions. They never kill themselves, or wage massive wars — none of the animals do — like we do. They mainly seek food and shelter and companionship.

I want a different relationship with the creatures than perhaps I’ve had. I want to better preserve their dignity, to not harass them, to enjoy them, to nurture them. Yes, there is a food chain; and yes, there is sometimes the need for protection from each other, but yes there is yet the potential for more respect.

The other day one of the therapists in my office asked me to remove a daddy longlegs from the corner. A widespread myth holds that daddy longlegs, also known as granddaddy longlegs or harvestmen, are the most venomous spiders in the world. It has been rumored that we are only safe from their bite because their fangs are too small and weak to break through our skin. Both these things have been proven to be false.

As for the grandaddy we found in our office, I carefully caught it in a paper cup and released it unharmed into our flower garden. For just a moment, I was the great bulking, powerful creature being gentle with the small, fragile vulnerable creature. I liked myself like that, on common ground with the spider, not caught in fear and myth, inhabiting the same planet, crossing paths, both hoping for safety, in contact for a moment, not harming each other, then going our separate ways.

I love it when they cut, stab, drill and peer into me with their cruel machines. I literally exult. I consider myself among the most privileged persons on the planet. Later I remember their tortures with the greatest fondnesses.

She pulls my mouth open with her fingers, slides the needle into my jaw gently and says, “Relax.” Then she starts humming in the way that I like.

He takes the top of my head with both his hands, firmly rotates it, and then with his right hand he cuts me. “Excellent,” he says. I agree, as I always do regarding his work. It’s why I keep coming back.

“Put you hands here,” she says, “side-by-side on the machine. Then place your eye against the rubber until you see the bright green circle.”

I love them. I love their machines. Each instrument does for me what I can’t do for myself. Each one achieves a goal, and yet it is not consumed in the process. Each one — masterfully manipulated — and I am better. Dig, scrape, lift, hammer, screw, compute — good, better, best me and you

Instrument, utensil, implement, machine, device, and apparatus — tools and the people who skillfully manipulate them — these greatly improve our lives.

We who are resourced, we who have multiple, modern armamentariums at our disposal, we who can hire dentists, surgeons, hair stylists, mechanics and  optometrists, we live so well, better than any ancient royalty.

Healthy care, beauty care, eye care, car care, soul care  — if you have it, suffer it gladly, you proviledged elite, you resourced rich, you spoiled pampered. Complain not that you have to go to the doctor or dentist; that’s unenlightened. It’s ungrateful.

For every time they stick a needle or drill or scrapple into you, for every time you get your hair cut, for every pedicure and pill and partial panacea that blesses you — be thankful.