Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Does God hate sinners?

Does God hate sinners? No.

I’ve been exploring this question the last several weeks, and can come to no other conclusion. There is a group of believers who claim that God DOES hate sinners as well as their sin, and they point to verses such as Psalm 5:5-6 to justify their view (they also claim that those who claim God loves the sinners while hating the sin are deceived). But God’s hatred of evil-doers in these and other verses is not the human “hatred” which wants vengeance, but a righteous indignation by God against His creatures for their willfully disobeying His laws. His love is very much a part of this indignation, an indignation aimed at the evil actions and attitudes of the sinner.

Let’s look at two sections of scripture, the first in Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV):
Mat 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
Mat 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Mat 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Mat 5:47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Mat 5:48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Here, Jesus tells us that we are to love our enemies—those who harbor ill-feeling towards us—so that “you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (v. 45). Specific examples of us loving our enemies versus loving only those who love us are given in v. 46-47, with Jesus’ concluding admonishment in verse 48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v. 48). In other words, showing love toward specific enemies is a reflection of God’s love towards all, both the saved and unsaved. Some who believe that God hates sinners claim this is just a “general love towards mankind”—but the context, and the specific examples given by Jesus, make this argument ring hollow.

Next, let’s look at 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.” We show our love towards God by first and foremost accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior. So if God “first loved us,” this HAD to have been BEFORE we were saved, while we were still sinners!

In writing this, I am not seeking to “water down” the gospel message, which calls for repentance (turning from sin) on the part of the sinner for salvation in Christ. But the word “gospel” means “good news,” and a message that tells the unsaved, “God hates you” can’t be good news for anyone! (Plus, one person I discussed this issue with never really answered my question, when he claimed WE are COMMANDED to love sinners: so we love the sinners, while God doesn’t? Aren’t we supposed to be ambassadors for God to those lost in sin, according to 2 Corinthians 5:18-20?).

If you have any thoughts on what I have just discussed, just post them here.

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