Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.
A common cliché used by Christians when expressing their objection to a particular human behavior is this: I hate the sin but love the sinner.
The reason Christians use this cliché is that they want to be on God’s side and the sinner’s side at the same time. Most Christians want to be liked and respected, yet they know the Bible says some pretty harsh things about non-Christians and the sins they commit. What’s a believer to do? Why, do what Evangelicals do best: come up with a catchy cliché that absolutely goes against the teachings of the Bible.
Here’s the problem with hate the sin but love the sinner thinking. According to the Bible — the book that Evangelicals swear by — God doesn’t think this way. Here’s what the Bible says about God and how he views sin and the sinner:
- God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. (Psalm 7:11)
- The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth (Psalm 11:5)
- Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows (Psalm 45:6,7)
- Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy. These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, (Proverbs 6:15-17)
- I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. (Amos 5:2)
- And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD. (Zechariah 8:17)
- I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. (Malachi 1:2,3)
- As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Romans 9:13)
- For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: (divorce) for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16)
- Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. (Revelation 2:5,6)
The Bible seems quite clear. God not only hates sin, but he also hates those who do it. According to old-fashioned substitutionary atonement Evangelicalism, God would even hate the Christian if it weren’t for Jesus standing between God and the believer. Look at what God did to Jesus on the cross. It is hard not to conclude that God really has a problem with anger. He beat his son to death, not for his own sin, but for the sins of others. Talk about taking the whole sin and sinner thing seriously.
Ponder the message of the book of Revelation. What’s the central theme of the book? The rapture? The second coming? What does the writer of Revelation spend most of his time writing about? God’s wrath. God’s judgment. God does some pretty sick stuff to the humans who are alive when Jesus comes back to earth. And when God is all done opening books and seals and turning angry angels loose to afflict the human race, what does he do? He sends all non-Christians to the Lake of Fire to be tormented day and night for all eternity. This sure makes me want to break out in song and sing, Our God is an Awesome God.
I used to explain God’s view of sin and the sinner this way:
Imagine you are taking a walk in the woods and come upon a skunk. Before you can run, the skunk raises its tail and sprays you. Do you at that moment say, I love the skunk but hate his smell? Of course not. The skunk is directly connected to the smell. No skunk, no smell.
So it is with sinners and their sin. Sin is what sinners do. You can no more disconnect a sinner from their sin than you can a skunk from their smell.
I should note in passing that most of the God hates talk is found in the Old Testament. Christianity would be better served if it jettisoned the Old Testament and the book of Revelation. And getting rid of Paul’s writings might not be a bad idea either. As long as these books remain in the Bible, Christians will continue to have a hard time explaining to non-Christians that God really loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life.
God may be love, but he sure has a mean streak.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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