Does God Hate Sinners?

I knew that Sunday when I preached a sermon on Hell, that when I included the point of God's hatred of not only wickedness but the wicked, that it would at the very least raise some eyebrows. The intention of keeping such a statement in that particular sermon on hell was to help us understand our need for the fear of God and an understanding of His just wrath. These are doctrines we have to recover if we are to be effective in mission, swift on our feet, and urgent with the Gospel.

We can only understand hatred from a sinful and broken perspective. We know when we hate something that it is tainted with sin. When we hear that God hates something we are shocked by it, and yet, that is what the Bible clearly says (Psalm 5:4-5, etc.). The word used for "hate" in the 5th Psalm means "to have an aversion, unwilling or unable to put up with, to dislike intensely".

In other words, God, in His perfect righteousness and holiness is unable, and unwilling to put up with evil and the evildoer. What does that mean for our attitude toward those who hate God? What does that mean concerning God's disposition toward us when we sin? First, you have to ask, "What biblical category am I in?"

The Bible speaks of two categories of people - the righteous and the wicked. Read Psalm 1 for a clear depiction of the two categories. You can also read Matthew 25 to hear Jesus' words concerning the wicked and the righteous. There are no in-between people. We are either wicked or we are righteous.

The Bible also speaks of these two types of people as either under the Covenant God has made with His people or outside of the Covenant God has made with His people. You guessed it, those under the Covenant are those who are viewed as righteous and loved by God. Those outside of the Covenant are those viewed as wicked and hated by God. We are either a sheep or a goat. We are either righteous or wicked. We are either loved or hated.

The Covenant was made by God after sin entered the world. He promised that He would redeem the world and offer salvation. The entire Old Testament concerns the preparation of the fulfillment of that Covenant. At it's core, the Covenant is this, "I will be Your God and you will be My people. I will dwell with you and you will dwell with Me." Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that Covenant. That is why He said at the Last Supper, "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood which is poured out for many."

How does someone enter into the Covenant God has made with his people? There is only one way and that is through faith in Jesus Christ as the author and perfector of our faith. When we come to faith in Jesus, we are united to the person of Christ and His work. Everything that Jesus did and accomplished is on our behalf. When God sees us, he no longer sees our wickedness because our sins have been paid for and cleared by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, justice has been served on our behalf. Through Christ, God is perfectly just in loving people who once hated Him and sinned against Him.

For those under the Covenant through faith in Christ, there is never a time that you can make God love you more and there is never a time that you can make God love you less. God will never hate on you again. Even when you sin, and God is grieved, He doesn't fall out of love with us. He disciplines us and he calls us back into fellowship with Him. You can never lose the salvation that has been graciously given to you. It wasn't given to you because of good works and it can't be taken from you because of sinful works.

What about those people outside of the Covenant? God will not put up with and is unable to put up with their rebellion. God graciously calls those outside of the Covenant to leave their rebellion and to enjoy the blessings of His love inside of the Covenant. Romans 5 tells us that God demonstrated His own love for us in this, that while we were still God-haters, Christ died for us. In other words, even though God hates the wicked and the wickedness they commit, He still gave His son to call His enemies to be sons. This is the scandalous grace at the center of the Gospel.

If God hates the sinner and the sin, how does that affect our mission? Are we to hate the sinner as well? The simple answer is "no". Jesus tells us to love our enemies. This is the same word that Paul uses in Romans 5 to tell us how God demonstrated His love by offering His son for HIs enemies. We are not called to judge those outside of the Covenant. That is why the Scriptures tell us that vengeance belongs to the Lord. Our mission is to love our enemies by telling them of the great news of the Gospel and to act in such a way that makes the love of Christ evident in our lives.

The Christian Church has a problem. We mistake sayings that fit on coffee mugs for true theology. There is truth in the saying, "Love the sinner and hate the sin" but it is not robust enough to encompass a conversation concerning God's aversion to sin and His holy wrath. The saying has it's most modern use in a statement from Ghandi rather than any Christian source. Augustine instructed the church to love mankind and revile sin. It is a thoroughly Christian concept to love people and to hate evil. But that statement becomes more complex when we speak about the attributes of God.

I would also suggest that we stop using that particular statement, as those that we intend to encourage with it actually hate the saying. The reason they hate it is because today's culture easily identifies their personhood with their sin. In other words, to tell a person today that you hate their sin is equivalent to telling them that you hate them. It's not a helpful statement in most Western conversations about sin. We need something deeper and a more compassionate way to love and serve those who are on the outside looking in.

There is obviously much more to discuss concerning God's hatred of evil and evildoers. But for now, the biggest question you must answer is whether or not you have come to true faith in Christ and are under the Covenant. These passages were included in the original Scriptures to lead us to the holiness of God and our total dependence on His grace. There is no need to be ashamed of these passages or try to explain them away. Rather, let them be passages that lead us to worship God more fervently for the deep grace He has given us in Christ. You are no longer enemies, but sons and daughters of the living God. Let us be motivated to grow the family even bigger so that many can experience the love of God that we have in Christ Jesus.

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