In the world, but not of the World
This two-fold meaning of the world (the world created and loved by God and the world currently in rebellion against him) gives Christians their peculiar stance vis-à-vis the world. The world is loved by God, and yet it is the locus of rebellion and evil. We are therefore called to love the world, and hate its rebellion—or, in more classic terms, “to love the sinner and hate the sin.”
Loving the sinner means that we identify with the world in its suffering and seek with all our might to alleviate it. We even identify with the world in its sinfulness, knowing that we also have the seed of corruption within us, and as repentant sinners we are saved by grace and God’s mercy. Hating the sin means that we are clear, forceful, and unambiguous in our denunciation of sin. We may not and in fact cannot know how the sinner will fare on the Day of Judgment, but we can know that their sin is wrong. The oft-quoted and misapplied dominical precept “Judge not” does not mean that Christians are to throw away their moral compass and render themselves incapable of knowing sin when they see it. For how else can they repent of their misdeeds?
Evil is a constant and a chilling reality in society, and Christians must never shrink from calling evil by its true name. Such plain speaking will, of course, come with a cost, especially in the woke cultures now found in the west. But the Church, through its leaders, must take up the prophetic mantle and speak the truth to power, regardless of the cost. Loving the sinner always involves naming the sin and calling the sinner to repentance—not in a spirit of judgmentalism or disdain, but in love. The Lord is patient and does not wish for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9). This cannot happen unless the Church speaks prophetically to sinners and calls them home to God’s forgiveness and mercy. The first word spoken by St. John the Forerunner, by Christ, and by St. Peter was “repent” (Matt 3:3, 4:17; Acts 2:38).