Tag Archive for love

The Complexity of Hating What God Hates

No one should love what God hates. No one should hate what God loves. But, as we have seen, God has the ability to love and hate at the same time. It is this conscious simultaneity that we lack, and which adds such difficulty to our understanding of hate.

We have seen the kind of hate which is forbidden: irrational, baseless hate, personal animosity or malice, and hatred of something precious to God. We have seen some of the hates commanded by God: hating evil, hating God-hatred, hating false doctrine. Our difficulty is how to prevent holy hatred from becoming evil hatred; how to maintain a hatred for what God hates, while still loving what God loves.

We can picture the problem in thinking how to view a particularly heinous human being. If we imagine say, an unrepentant child abuser, we should feel revulsion towards his acts. We should desire that his cruelty and selfish exploitation of the ignorance of little ones be stopped, and stopped permanently. We should desire a retribution commensurate with his crime.

But all this is true, because, unexpectedly, we still love him. We love the image of God in humans, and for that very reason, we demand that the man live up to that. We are angry exactly because he is not an irrational animal, and we expected him to behave humanely to other humans. Our demand for justice would be meaningless were he incapable of responsible choice, but is fitting precisely because we still think of him as human. Our love for him as a neighbour demands we do anything but dismiss him. We may punish him, incarcerate him, or execute him, but in each of these acts, we treat him according to his rank: an image-bearer.

Here is where we can see the great lovelessness of much liberalism. In attributing moral evil to psychological derangement, by explaining sin as a necessary result of environmental factors, by calling evil a ‘sickness’ or ‘disease’, they do not love our neighbour more, but less. For to the degree that we remove moral culpability from an adult, is the degree to which we remove humanness from him. The less responsible a man is, the more he moves towards the beasts and away from the angels. By excusing his sin with his genes and his biology, we have not liberated him, we have made him a slave of physical forces. By calling for rehabilitation, we are not offering a cure, but a life-sentence with the same sin. By insisting that society “tolerate” his sin, and referring to those who don’t as “haters”, we handcuff the man to his evil with the golden chains of society’s approval.

Christian love is real love precisely because it accords rank and dignity to humans and makes consequent demands upon them. The applications for Christians are obvious. We may feel revulsion, anger, distaste, and feel indignation towards moral sin and evil in the world. We are supposed to hate those things, and feel indignation that an image-bearer of God is deepening his union with rebellion against God. We can only do that, though, because we retain love for our neighbour. We believe “he is as we are”, and believe that he may, by the saving grace of God, leave corruption and embrace life.

Because we are also progressively being changed into Christ’s image, we should be aware of how imperfectly we perform this love and hate. Our moral outrage is quickly mixed with personal annoyance, pride, jealousy, revenge, malice, and haughtiness. This does not mean we should abandon the enterprise of loving what God loves and hating what God hates because we are likely to introduce sin. It means we attempt to be angry without sinning, without letting the sun go down upon our wrath (Eph 4:26). It means we consciously think of ways to display love to our enemy, to overcome what would become fleshly malice, if left to itself (Rom 12:19-21).

In fact, the most difficult love command is the command to love our enemies, for here love and hate meet in the same person. The Lord Jesus’ only explanation for how and why to love our enemies is simple: God also loves them, and meets their needs, ungrateful as they are. “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45). We are to love people who hate us or hate what we love, even while we hate their hate, and possibly, hate what they love. And we should expect that it will take growth and struggle to achieve this.

We are naive if we imagine that the world will understand this love and its concomitant hate. Theirs is a binary formula: niceness to all, and fury upon all who do not show niceness to all. Self-contradictory as it is, it is not open to reason. It may, however, be persuaded by beauty: “having your conduct honourable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good [beautiful] works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. (1 Pet. 2:12). They will likely slander all acts of judgement, discernment, and thoughtful discrimination as malicious hate, and they will likely not honour acts of love for what they are. Since that is the case, Christians should get on with loving what God loves, hating what God hates, and proving to the world that Christian love alone brings peace on earth, and goodwill to all.

God Loves (and Hates) You

Does God hate the sin and love the sinner? We have seen it is more biblical to say that God both loves and hates the sinner. Several theologians have suggested just that.

Augustus Strong wrote, “These passages show that God loves the same persons whom he hates. It is not true that he hates the sin, but loves the sinner; he both hates and loves the sinner himself, hates him as he is a living and wilful antagonist of truth and holiness, loves him as he is a creature capable of good and ruined by his transgression.”

D. A. Carson put it thus: “Thus there is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at once. God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-bearers, for they have offended Him; God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God.”

Even John Calvin saw that both were possible. “All of us therefore, have that within which deserves the hatred of God. Hence, in respect, first, of our corrupt nature; and, secondly, of the depraved conduct following upon it, we are all offensive to God, guilty in his sight, and by nature the children of hell. But as the Lord wills not to destroy in us that which is his own, he still finds something in us which in kindness he can love.”

The best harmony of the biblical evidence is the notion that God is able to love and hate a sinner at the same time.

Of course, this solution raises its own questions. If God is infinite in His essence and immutable as to His nature, then each of His attributes, including love or hate, must be infinite and without growth or diminution. How then could God love sinners infinitely and hate them infinitely at the same time? To love and hate a person infinitely would seem to cancel each other out. Further, are we to assume that God has the same infinite love and hatred for a believer that He has for an unbeliever, or for Satan himself? How was Daniel “greatly loved” (Dn 9:23) more than anyone else? To summarise the questions, if an infinite God loves and hates at the same time, how can there be any degree to His love and hatred of individuals, as various Scriptures seem to suggest is the case?

The best answer is that a person can be more or less identified with his sin. This is probably the idea behind John’s statement that “he who is born of God does not sin” (1 Jn 5:18). One born of God is not thoroughly identified with sin as a practice, even though he still sins (1 Jn 1:8-10). Once justified, the believer is more identified with Christ than he can ever be with the old detestable nature. Justification locates a sinner in the centre-sphere of God’s pleasure: His Son. God may be angry with a justified sinner for his sin, but Christ’s intercessory work means that the child of God is ever accepted in the Beloved (Eph 1:6). Indeed, progressive sanctification apparently moves one in the direction of ever-opening vistas of knowing the love of God, precisely because one is becoming more identified with what God loves (Eph 3:16-19).

On the other hand, an unregenerate person may be on a trajectory that drives him ever deeper into union with his sinful nature, making his sin and his person increasingly indistinguishable. He does not simply commit sin, he delights in it (Rom 1:32). There comes a point when people are guilty of such “extended, hardened, high-handed lovelessness” of God, that they come under a curse. When one thinks of extreme examples of human evil like Hitler, Stalin or Pol Pot, one does not find it hard to consider their very persons as hateful, because they had become so identified with their evil deeds. To take it one step further, very few people shrink at the idea that God hates Satan. This is probably because Satan is so closely associated with his evil, that to hate the sin and the sinful being are almost the same thing, in his case.

God’s infinite love for His own image within human beings and His infinite hatred of sin in them means He cannot grow in love or hatred towards humans. Thus is not to suggest that God’s love does not truly respond to human behaviour. Instead, the trajectory of sinners towards sin or away from it drives them to be more or less identified with God’s wrath. God’s infinite love or hatred does not change, but as sinners move in respect to His holy nature, they are more or less identified with His hatred.

Finally, as Stephen Charnock put it, “punishment is not the primary intention of God.” God’s hatred only functions to preserve what He loves. Though God’s love is infinite, He values some things more than others. Uppermost in His affections is His own glory. Therefore, if sinners become so identified with their sin that they stand fundamentally in opposition to God’s glory, God’s love for His own glory will manifest itself in punitive hatred for those sinners’ rebellion, more so than in His love for His remaining and marred image in those sinners. Indeed, a marred mirror of God is all at once a cause for love and anger in God.

Does God Hate Sinners?

God’s hatred is a necessary part of His love. Whatever opposes, harms, defiles or otherwise threatens what He loves experiences His displeasure, often erupting in righteous indignation: a divine demand for change. We could say that God’s hatred is an ally of His love, destroying those things which are destructive of the true, the good and the beautiful. People who love what God loves are told to hate what He hates, or those who hate Him (Prv 8:13; Ps 139:21-22).

God hates several things: pride, lying, murder, evil thoughts, evil inclinations, bearing false witness, sowing discord among brethren (Prov 6:16-19), formalistic worship masking wicked living (Is 1:14), idolatry (Dt 16:22), and divorce (Mal 2:16), amongst other things. In fact, most every reference to something or someone being “an abomination to the Lord” refers to something that is loathsome or detestable to Him, a strong indicator of His hatred.

But the thorny question is this: does God hate individuals? Could a God of love hate people?

A plain reading of Scripture seems to indicate that, at least in some ways, He does. God is said to hate all workers of iniquity (Ps 5:5), and everyone who is wicked and loves violence (Ps 11:5). God told Israel that He hated the nations He was casting out before them (Lev 20:23). God said to Hosea that He hated Ephraim (Hos 9:15). He loved Jacob and hated Esau (Mal 1:3-4). Even where the word for hatred suggests something weaker than antipathy, one can hardly doubt that God directs this affection towards individuals and groups of people, not merely actions.

How do we reconcile God’s love for all men (John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:4) with His apparent hatred of people? One common suggestion is that the Bible is merely referring to God’s hatred of the person’s actions, where the action and the person are identified as one, but only the action is meant. But this only raises another question: can one make a sharp distinction between the sinner and his sin? And, more importantly, does God do so?

While it could be plausibly argued that an omniscient God is able to perfectly separate the sinner from his sin, the real question is whether God seems to do so in Scripture. On the contrary, Scripture often speaks of sinners and their sin in the same breath (Rom 1:29-32; 2 Tim 3:2-5). God’s wrath rests on both the sin (Rom 1:18-23) and the sinner (Rom 1:24-32). Furthermore, God does not send sin to Hell; He sends sinners there. It was not merely man’s sin in the abstract that was punished on the cross, it was Christ the Person suffering as the substitute for persons who are sinners. As one said, “There is no abstract sin that can be hated apart from the persons in whom that sin is represented and embodied.”

While a distinction between sinner and sin is a handy one for protecting the individual from God’s hatred, it simply cannot bear up under the weight of Scriptural evidence which has God showing hatred, or wrath, resting on individuals. Jesus condemns people as workers of iniquity (Lk 13:27), and will take personal vengeance on those who reject God (2 Thes 1:8). Deuteronomy 28:63 describes God’s joy in destroying those who are disobedient, which would be very hard to square with the idea of God hating the sin but loving the sinner. Even secular psychologists report a general difficulty with the idea of separating sin and sinner.

A more satisfying answer as to how a loving God can hate individual sinners than the division between doer and deed is to say that human beings are more than one thing. They are sinners, to be sure, but they are also made in God’s image (Jas 3:9; Gen 1:26). Insofar as the imago Dei is never erased, God cannot completely abhor the individual human. Augustine, when dealing with alms-giving, came close to this idea: “So then, we are not to support sinners, precisely insofar as they are sinners; and yet because they are also human beings, we must treat them too with human consideration.”

In other words, what it means to be God is to be able to love and hate sinners simultaneously. We’ll consider this possibility next.

The Hate That God Hates

God does not hate all hate. Some hate is actively encouraged by God. Indeed, if hate exists as the opposite of love, it follows that in many cases we must hate the opposite, or the destroyer, of what we love.

Some hate, however, is condemned by God. In the following verses, hate is the opposite of righteous behaviour:

Consider my enemies, for they are many; And they hate me with cruel hatred (Ps. 25:19)

They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, And fought against me without a cause. (Ps. 109:3)

Thus they have rewarded me evil for good, And hatred for my love. (Ps. 109:5)

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins. (Prov. 10:12)

Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool. (Prov. 10:18)

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, Than a fatted calf with hatred. (Prov. 15:17)

Though his hatred is covered by deceit, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly. (Prov. 26:26)

idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, (Gal. 5:20)

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. (Tit. 3:3)

Similar to this negative use of the word hatred is the word translated “malice”:

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:8)

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. (Col. 3:8)

For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. (Tit. 3:3)

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, (1 Pet. 2:1)

The problem with sinful hate is not its negative flavour. All hatred is negative, by definition. But if it is the negative form of a good love, then it is not evil. If you love animals, you will hate cruelty to them. If you love creation, you will hate its pollution or destruction. If you love human well-being, you will hate cancer. If you love babies you will (or you should) hate abortion. Hate, like love, cannot be judged in the abstract. Love is only virtuous if its object of its love is worthy. Hatred is only evil if its object is something God loves.

In these verses, malice refers to “a mean-spirited or vicious attitude or disposition, malice, ill-will, malignity” (BDAG).  In other words, malice delights in destruction. It does not hate something that is destructive of the one it loves; it hates another and loves its destruction. God does not delight in destruction for its own sake. “‘Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?’ says the Lord GOD, ‘and not that he should turn from his ways and live?'” (Ezek. 18:23)

God’s hatred is always His love acting against those things or people that corrupt, defile or destroy His love.

What sort of hate does God then hate?

We should never hate without cause. “Let them not rejoice over me who are wrongfully my enemies; Nor let them wink with the eye who hate me without a cause.” (Ps. 35:19). We know this ugly tendency in our hearts from the earliest age, where we develop a baseless antipathy towards another child, or character on a screen.  Evil is irrational, and does not answer to reasonable explanations. Ask Evil the question, “Why do you hate me so?”, and it will reply, “I just do”. This kind of irrational, blind, and senseless hatred is hated by God.

We should never hate out of personal revenge. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (Rom. 12:19) Justice for injuries and evil done to us is a function of human government, not individual vigilantism. On the personal level, we are not to take vengeance on our enemies in our hearts. In fact, we are told to do something both inwardly and outwardly to prevent this. Outwardly, we should meet our enemy’s needs if the situation arises (Rom 12:20). Inwardly, we must avoid all forms of gloating and delighting if our enemy suffers (Prov 24:17-18).

We should never hate what God loves. Included in the things that God loves are: all humans made in His image (John 3:16), the Church (Eph 5:25), the people of Israel (Rom 11:28), righteousness and justice (Ps 33:5), a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7), and the works of His hands. While we may hate distortions, corruptions and perversions in something God loves, we may never hate the thing or idea that God loves.

This leads us to the perplexing question about God’s love: does God truly love the sinner and hate the sin?

Ten Mangled Words: Hate

Hate has become the only sin the left recognises. To them, it is apparently not possible to sin sexually, and any and every form is to be celebrated publicly. Slaughtering innocents (perhaps the most heinous form of murder) is to be cheered and encouraged. Stealing other people’s property is no sin if it is “redistributing” or “redressing inequality”. No authority or family bond is sacred; any and all can be dissolved in the name of statism, equality, tolerance or climate change. Lying and distortion have become commonplace. And what passes for  arguments for “better living standards for all” or “the top 1% paying their fair share” is nothing more than coveting your neighbour’s goods. That’s commandments five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten that you can break with no guilt and regret.

But there is one sin, and it may be unpardonable. Hate is the sin that the left regards as the chiefest of evils. If your words can be classified as hate-speech, you can be jailed. If your actions can be construed as a hate-crime, you will be face the wrath of the law. If the courts don’t nab you, general society will. You may be called a “hater”, a bigot, a racist, a Nazi, and many other epithets before you’ve had the chance to tell your apoplectic neighbour that you actually love him or her.

What is this sin of hate? Asking the question of your accuser may bring a momentary puzzled silence. Hate has become a catch-all word for opposition. Whether you oppose something the left cherishes in a quiet, private way, or in a loud, public way, it will be considered hate. Whether your opposition is a religious belief that something is sin, or whether it is a practical concern with the impossibility of some leftist ideology, it will be considered hate. Whether it is refusing to recognise imaginary genders and use the corresponding pronouns, or whether it is simply insisting that you and your own house regard heterosexual marriage as the only natural way of human sexual relations, it will be considered hate. Whether you defend Christianity against attacks, or whether you evangelise others, it will be considered hate. Opposition is hate.

In other words, there is a Tower of Babel of ideologies. As long as you join and co-operate, you’re fine. Bow to the image, burn your incense to Caesar, take the Mark and you’re a good, enlightened Christian. As long as you do not oppose any of the popular positions held by the left elites, then you believe in love. If you actively or passively oppose those positions, then you believe in hate. And haters don’t deserve civility. That is, haters should be hated.

The childish partiality of this use of “hate” is transparently obvious for any with eyes to see. But for a Christian, the word hate has more complexity. After all, there are several Scriptures that actually commend hate.

You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. (Ps. 97:10)

Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies. (Ps. 139:21-22)

The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate. (Prov. 8:13)

Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. (Amos 5:15)

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luk 14:26)

But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (Rev 2:6 )

Granted, hate does not refer to the same thing in all those verses. But that is just the point. Scripture clearly has kinds of hatred that it commends, and kinds that it condemns.

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins. (Prov. 10:12)

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: …idolatry, sorcery, hatred, … (Gal. 5:19-20)

So should we hate, or should we not? Is hate an Old Testament phenomenon? If we are to hate, what kind of hate is “righteous hate”?

To repair this mangled word, we should begin by finding out what kind of hatred God condemns. Second, we should investigate the kind of hatred God Himself exhibits and therefore expects his people to have. Third, we should understand how a right hatred affects our understanding of love, including love for our enemies.