Thursday, March 22, 2012

Loving and Hating at the Same Time

Does God hate sin but love the sinner?  Most reading this post will answer that God certainly hates sin but loves the sinner because of the sacrifice of Jesus for the atonement of sin.  The typical expectation of God is that he is loving to all.  That hatred should never be attributed to his character manifests itself when dealing with the passage "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated" (Mal 1:2-3; Rom 9:13).  This disturbs the naïve believer and is generally softened by meaning teachers who say this is just a rhetorical device meant to compare God's intense love for the elect with his general love for the world at-large.

This comparative, though popular, is built on partial knowledge of scripture with buttressing of subjective reasoning.  Let's begin with a familiar passage.
Proverbs 6:16-19
There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.
Solomon appears to be making a clear delineation between the person and the act as the latter falls under God's condemnation, and rightfully so.  On the other hand, here are two passages that will give pause:
Psalm 5:4-6
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
Psalm 11:5-6
The Lord tests the righteous,
    but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
Let him rain coals on the wicked;
    fire and sulfur and a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
Notice the difference.  No longer does the deed alone fall under condemnation, but the person who carries it through.  The texts are clear.

One attempt to harmonize the apparent dissonance is to say that this may have been true before the cross, but afterward, the Lord has a different outlook because sin has been dealt with.  God simply does not hate those who have not believed but lavishly demonstrates his patience and forbearance until they do.  This sounds good but is just a variation of wrong teaching espoused by Peter Abelard in the twelfth century: Jesus is the example of the fullness of God's love, not a substitute for sin.

There is no question that the "soft" divine attributes are actively used by the Trinity today, however that does not detract from the harsh realities of wrath and judgment that all men live under who do not believe.  The apostle Paul describes unbelievers as children of wrath (Eph 2:3) and enemies of God (Rom 5:10)—the latter expressing "not our enmity for God, but God's enmity toward us." *  We are left with the paradoxical state the God both loves and hates unbelievers.  How can this be resolved, if at all?

We are born into this world disobedient and living in our passions (Eph 1:2:3), giving no thought for God or his precepts.  All unbelievers are objects of wrath, though they may not comprehend their condition and need for a savior.  Conversely, we know God loves the world.  John 3:16-17 is a clear indicator that his love extends beyond the confines of his elect, resulting in the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  As mentioned before, God is long-suffering.  He waits to execute his full wrathful judgment until the person dies or the Lord Jesus returns to earth.  Yet for those who know the truth and yet still disbelieve, God shows himself to be openly hateful and yet patient until the proper time.  It is to these that God shows himself as a foe in full indignation and promise of retribution.

In the end, we need to understand that God hates sin and both loves and hates the sinner.  Scripture clearly teaches that those who remain in their sin die and are judged, while those who believe the love and grace available through Christ live eternally.

* Walter W. F. Albrecht, Does God Hate Sin or Sinners?, Essay Delivered To The Springfield Circuit Pastors’ and Professors’ Conference, April 20, 1953.  Accessed at SoundWitness.

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