DOES GOD LOVE OR HATE SINNERS?
This was from a discussion I had on Facebook. Someone asked:
Can you all help me to understand how God can love the world so much that He sent Jesus to save us, but at the same time it says below that God hates sinners?
Psalm 5:5, “The boastful shall not stand before Thine eyes; Thou dost hate all who do iniquity,”
Psalm 11:5, “The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked, and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”
Lev. 20:23, “Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I shall drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them.”
Prov. 6:16-19, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, 19 A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Hosea 9:15, “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.”
This is how I answered this question in my book, The Natural Ability of Man: A Study on Free Will & Human Nature
“While it is true that God hates sinners in the sense that He has a holy abhorrence or disgust of them because of their moral character (Ps. 5:5; Prov. 6:17-19), at the same time He loves sinners in the sense that He has a benevolent care and concern for them and wants their salvation (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:9). God hates and loves sinners at the same time. The former is a state of His affections or sensibilities, but the latter is a state or committal of His will.
God not only hates the sin, but He hates the sinner who is the cause of the sin. This is in the sense that He is emotionally disgusted and abhorred by them for their wickedness. But at the same time, God loves them and wants them to repent and be saved because He regards the intrinsic value of their well-being.”
Love is benevolence or good will. It is desiring the highest well-being of another person. The opposite of this love or benevolence is selfishness. In selfishness, a person has a disregard for other people. God is not selfish. He cares about our interests. There is a use of the word hate that means malicious, which is incompatible with benevolence, and this type of hate God does not have. But hate is also used to describe disgust, abhorrence, etc. That type of hate can certainly co-exist with benevolence. Thus the Bible teaches that God both loves and hates the sinner and this is no contradiction whatsoever, when the meaning of these words are properly understood.
It is interesting that the same Hebrew word for hate in Ps. 5:5 is also used in Pro 30:23 when it mentions “an odious woman.” Stongs gives odious as a definition of the word, and odious we understand to mean deserving of hate because it is “detestable, abomination, disgusting, offensive, an odious sight, etc.” Sinners are no doubt odious to God. They are an odious sight, thus Ps. 5:5 that they will not stand in thy sight for He hates workers of iniquity. Notice the connection between God’s sight and God’s hatred in that verse. Thus sinners are a type of abomination to God. They are disgusting or odious to Him.
Notice that in Ps. 11:5 it says that God’s “soul” hateth the wicked. The word soul refers to His “emotion, passion” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). Thus God’s hatred for sinners is an emotional disgust. And in Lev. 20:23 the word used to say that God “abhorred” them means “to be grieved, loathe, abhor, feel a loathing or abhorrence.”
I know what it is like to have that type of hatred. When I go out to the streets and campuses and preach to sinners, the things they do in front of me is disgusting. Lesbians will start stripping and making out, the crowds start chanting Hail Satan, etc. They are truly an abomination in my sight. Nevertheless, I have benevolence for them and preach the gospel of God’s love and mercy to them. As disgusting as they are, I have no ill-will. I want them to repent and be saved.
One of the problems I think people have is understanding the word love in the Bible with our own modern understanding of love. We talk about loving pizza, meaning we enjoy it. When the Bible says that God loves sinners in John 3:16 this does not mean that He has an emotional enjoyment and delight for them. It means that He is benevolent, has good will or wills their highest well-being. As Jesus said no man has greater love than this to lay down His life for His friends. God demonstrated His love through the atonement and He even died for His enemies, or while we were yet sinners.
And when we understand God’s love to be good-will toward sinners, we will see no contradiction in God at the same time finding sinners to be an abomination in His sight.
Hosea 9:15 seems to be a prime example of how God’s hate is in regards to disgust, not ill-will. When God said that He will hate them and will no longer love them, this word hate is contrasted with a Hebrew word for love which means “to have affection” (Strongs). It is the same word for love used in Prov 15.9 where it says God loves the righteous. And so God is saying that He will no longer have affection for these people, that they are no longer pleasing in His sight but they are hated or an abomination in His sight.
“The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.” Prov 15.9. Since the word “loveth” here means “to have affection for,” so God takes delight and enjoyment in those who choose to be righteous but God is disgusted and appalled by those who choose to be wicked. To think that we have the ability to so positively or negatively affect God’s experience! We could disgust Him or bring Him great pleasure and enjoyment! Oh how far removed is the God of the Bible from the impassible God of Seminaries, who portray Him as emotionless! No, God is angry with the wicked every day but He takes great enjoyment and delight in His saints! God rejoices when even one sinner repents!
Are you under the love or hatred of God today? Yes, God loves us all in the sense of benevolence and good will. His benevolence is unconditional as He even loves His wicked enemies. God sent Jesus Christ to die for the whole world, demonstrating His love for sinners. But are you living in such a way as to bring pleasure and enjoyment to God? Do you have His affection? Are you His delight? That type of love is conditional. But are you living a wicked and sinful life, putting yourself under His holy hatred by making yourself an abomination to Him?
“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.” Jn. 15:9-10
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Jude 1:21
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.” 1 Jn. 3:22
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