Hate the Sin… and the Sinner?

Today in Sunday school we talked about an article from the February/March 2008 issue of byFaith Magazine entitled “Redeeming Hate,” written by Carl R. Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

In between references to not one, not two, but four different movies based upon their villains’ embodiment of hate ((See if you can guess the movies based upon the villains: Khan, Anakin, the Emperor, and Joker.)), we talked a lot about, well, hatred and how it ought to impact a Christian’s life.

Society today tells us hate is bad. Tolerance is excellent and acceptance even more so. But no matter what someone does, don’t hate them. ((Exceptions are given in the case of child molesters, who seem to get it worse from society than even murderers.))

What little society knows about God can be boiled down into the Santa Claus god who is full love love, kindness, patience, joy, happiness, and little else — certainly not any hate or wrath or judgment.

Frankly, society’s god is far too small and is no more worthy of worship than the fingernail clippers to my right or the large cardboard cutout of Optimus Prime atop my computer desk. ((If that last part surprises you, please go up and reread the second word in this site’s title a few times. ;-) ))

But what society does know (or think it knows) about God presents a problem for Christians. How can we associate ourselves, let alone God, with hate, when we know that “God is love”?

That is, after all, a biblical expression. God is love, and He is overflowing with it.

But does God also hate? Should we?

You’d have to have been living underneath a rock in a cave for quite some time to not be familiar with the phrase “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”

Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin
Love the Sinner; Hate the Sin

We’re pretty much all familiar with Scripture’s admonitions toward loving others, sinners included — we may even know it as the Golden Rule. So let’s add a quick Scripture reference to the second part of the phrase:

Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Psalm 119:104

Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, is a love song of devotion to and adoration of God and His Scriptures. “Every false way” is to be understood as anything which runs contrary to the Scriptures.

Hate adultery. Hate lying. Hate murder. Hate homosexuality. Hate the theory of evolution. Hate Islam. Hate divorce. Hate Mormonism. Hate secular humanism, atheism, agnosticism, and moral relativism. Every way which is contradictory or in violation of the Scriptures, it is to be both hated and rejected.

So is “Love the sinner; hate the sin” biblical? To a certain extent, I would have to say yes.

But again, we must turn to the Scriptures. Perhaps we have become so familiar and desensitized to that unqualified “love the sinner” clause that we think it simply must be scriptural.

Does God just hate the sin, or does His hate extend to the person as well?

Whenever that question comes up, my thoughts consistently return to a passage from the Proverbs:

There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16–19

That passage makes it clear that God doesn’t just hate the sin, He hates the sinner. It isn’t just the murder, it’s the murderer. It isn’t just the evil, it’s the person who’s running to it. It isn’t just the lie, it’s the liar.

I’ll point out at this point that according to the above Proverbs passage, each and every one of us is an abomination to God, apart from Christ.

So we’ve established that God both hates sin and the sinner. What about us? What ought our attitude be?

Here is the passage shared with us in Sunday school:

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
20They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain!
21Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies. Psalm 139:19–22

Do not hate others because you are offended. Apart from Christ, you are no different than they are — a sinner deserving of everlasting hellfire & damnation.

Instead, our hate ought to be motivated by a jealousy for God, a passion for Him & His precepts.

That is why we should hate, and I believe it ought to begin within ourselves — where we are not conformed to the image of Christ, we ought to hate ourselves, which leads me past the “why” of hate and into the practicality of it: Our hate ought to inspire us to take action.

As was said this morning, “The way in which we hate people is to love them.”

Godly hate, as described in Psalm 139, immediately brings to mind the consequences of those things which are invoking the hate.

Knowing this, inwardly directed hatred ought to motivate us to repent of those things which are marring the image of Christ that we may draw nigh unto Him.

Outwardly directed hatred ought to motivate us to speak the truth in love, ((Ephesians 4:15.)) always warning of the judgment to come. ((Ezekiel 33:6.))

That is the purpose of biblical hate, as I’m understanding it, and just as they have done with love, society has corrupted the concept of hate so that when we think about it, we think of a hate which inspires men like Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson or even the movie villains mentioned above.

I’d be very interested in anyone else’s ideas regarding the biblical concept of hate. Given the two simple facts that God hates and that society corrupts everything it touches, including the definition of hate, then we must diligently attempt to define hate and the practice thereof biblically. Our understanding of the character of God is at stake.

7 thoughts on “Hate the Sin… and the Sinner?”

  1. Hi,
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  2. Walt Dickinson: Yeah, that’s what I meant by the Golden Rule — we are to love our neighbors.

    You’re right, Jesus did love, but did He not also hate? One cannot say His words toward the Pharisees and others of His enemies were kind words or words of love. And was it loving to refer to Peter as Satan? Or in that moment, did Christ feel such hatred toward Peter that He referred to him as the Wicked One?

    Likewise, I’d find it hard to believe that it is love motivating Jude’s indictment of false teachers in his epistles, repeatedly referring to them as “ungodly” and various other things.

    As I said, though, godly hate creates a desire to see a person turn from what they are into something which is no longer at enmity with God. So while Christ didn’t get all lovey-dovey with the Pharisees, scribes, and so on, He still told them the truth and pleaded forgiveness on their behalf while being crucified.

    I’ve heard that to “love your neighbor” isn’t to love them like you would a friend or a family member, but to rather wish the best for them; that is, after all, how we love ourselves — we desire good for ourselves, and we ought to desire good for others.

    In that way, we can hate a person for being enemies of God and love them in that we want them to repent and to find that which is good.

    Love and hate work together in this way, opposite sides of the same coin.

    But then again, the Psalms (the “Impreccatory” Psalms, I think is what they are called) sing out hate for the enemies of God and link it to a desire to see God destroy them.

    In that way, perhaps hate could also motivate a desire to see biblical justice meted out. That would explain why Psalm 139 closes with David’s asking God to search his own heart, so that he would not fall by the same judgment.

    It’s a complicated topic, to be sure, and is just another one of those things which reveal our limitations in trying to understand the mind of God, much less to be conformed to it.

  3. Walt Dickinson

    Rick: “We’re pretty much all familiar with Scripture’s admonitions toward loving others, sinners included — we may even know it as the Golden Rule.”

    I thought the Golden Rule was, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength. And love your neighbor as yourself”?

    And if we are to be more “like-Christ/Christ-like,” shouldn’t we follow His example, in that, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

    The very men who crucified Jesus practiced everything Proverbs 6:16-19 says God hates, and yet Jesus (who is claimed to be God) did not hate.

    So I’m slightly confused.

  4. Rick,

    I have a question about your web site that is unrelated to this post, but could not find a contact form or e-mail. Would you mind dropping me an e-mail when you have a moment? Thanks.

    Ian

  5. God does hate as it is written Jacob He loved and Esau He hated. Christ tells us to love our enemies but what people do not understand is that there are different types of love mentioned in the bible. And we must ask, is he talking about “worldly enemies” or “enemies from within our assemblies of brethren”? The reason God does not love the sinner any of them is because they reject His son. If the sinner has repented and turned his/her entire being over to Him then He can love the sinner. Sin separates us from God when we do not have a repentant heart and many gays think they can serve God and stay gay and that just isn’t so.

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