In “Christian Clichés that Contradict Christ” I questioned the truthfulness of six Christian clichés concerning God’s “unconditional” love. There was one more cliché that I wanted to mention but didn’t have enough space, the very common saying, “God loves the sinner but hates his sin.” This particular cliché is more biblically accurate than the six I previously listed because it attempts to affirm God’s love for sinners while at the same time upholding His holiness. Like the six clichés I recorded last month, this one also falls short of the full truth, and it can thus be misleading to people and damaging to Christ’s cause. Why do I say this? One reason is that Scripture not only teaches that God loves sinners, but also that He hates them. Surprised? Read for yourself:
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity. You destroy those who speak falsehood; the Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit (Ps. 5:5-6, emphasis added). The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates (Ps. 11:5, emphasis added). I have forsaken My house, I have abandoned My inheritance; I have given the beloved of My soul [God’s people Israel] into the hand of her enemies. My heritage has become to Me like a lion in the forest; she has roared against Me; therefore I have come to hate her (Jer. 12:7-8, emphasis added).
All their evil is at Gilgal; indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds, I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; all their princes are rebels (Hos. 9:15, emphasis added). These verses of scripture are all in your Bible as well as mine! Your Bible declares that God hates “all who do iniquity” (Ps. 5:5). Since all unregenerate people “do iniquity,” we can conclude that God hates them all. (Incidentally, this verse among many others leads us to believe that God’s “gift of righteousness” is more than just a legal standing of righteousness that results in no practical righteousness. Otherwise, God would hate His children.)
But how can it be true that God both loves and hates sinners? The only way to reconcile this apparent contradiction is to recognize once again that not all love is the same. As I stated in last month’s e-teaching, some love is conditional, what I referred to as “approving love,” and some love is unconditional, what I referred to as “merciful love.” From the standpoint of His merciful love, God loves sinners (see Eph. 2:4-6; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:3, and look for the word mercy). But from the standpoint of his approving love, God utterly hates them–they are in fact abhorrent to Him. Can you imagine how you would feel if you had created a race of people who inwardly knew just how to please you yet who ignored and disobeyed you continually, even using your name as a curse word? Might you not be somewhat upset with them?
Note that all of the above-quoted scriptures do not say that God only hates what people do–they say He hates them.We cannot separate a person from what he does.What a person does reveals his character–who he is. Thus if God disapproves of sin He, of course, must disapprove of sinners. God is so pure that His disapproval is very strong, and the word hate describes it well.To separate the sin from the sinner by saying “God loves the sinner but hates the sin” is potentially misleading.