There is one problem.

It is impossible.

As human beings, we are tangled, messy balls of yarn—the kind kittens like to chase, bat around and trap in corners. Our physical, spiritual, psychological, emotional and mental “selves” are all an interconnected whole. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). There is no putting us into nice and defined categories. We cannot be spliced and diced that way. Won’t work.

And at our very core: sin. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). We are diseased. And it isn’t just a small dot of cancer on the surface of our skin that can be cut off and cured with one swipe of the knife. Sin runs through our veins. It pervades us from beginning to end, from top to bottom, from inside to out. It goes far deeper than our bad behavior. It affects even our most pure of motivations. Our goodness won’t cut it. It can’t.

We are screwed.

God, help us. God, have mercy on us.

Exactly.

We cannot separate the sinner from the sin. Only God can look at us that way. When God sees us, it is through the sacrificial lens of his Son. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). When we run to Jesus, we are clothed in his righteousness. Pure. Sinless. White as snow. We are loved, forgiven and accepted. We are covered by his grace. His beloved and cherished children.

We cannot separate the sinner from the sin. When we try, we end up hating both. It is not only presumptuous; it is dangerous.

We’re playing God. And we’re not God.

What does it mean then to love the sinner? We are all sinners—saved and unsaved alike. If we exclude sinners from the list, there is no one left to love…no one left standing…not even you, not even me.

We are called to love. Simply. Plainly. Unconditionally. Like Jesus. God can take care of the rest. Anything more is above my pay grade.

And that’s a relief.

I can’t even take care of my own sin.