By Elizabeth Prata
Psalm 5:5, The foolish shall not stand in your sight: you hate all workers of iniquity
John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
I was asked about an apparent contradiction between a God who says he hates people who sin and the love He expresses in John 3:16.
There are different types of God’s wrath. There’s cataclysmic wrath such as in when He sends tornadoes or hurricanes or earthquakes. There’s His wrath of abandonment such as when he ‘gives a person over’ to their sin (Romans 1:24, for example, or hardening Pharaoh’s heart). There’s eschatological wrath, prophesied to come in the future. And so on.
There’s different kinds of love. There’s God’s beneficent love to all general mankind we see in John 3:16 (That kind of love is shown as common grace, sending the rain to the wicked and the righteous alike). Then there’s His covenant love toward those He has purposed to save.
There’s different kinds of hate, too. Look at Luke 14:26,
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.
Is Jesus telling people to literally hate their parents? No. How do I know that? Because Jesus would not advise breaking the Fifth Commandment, “Honor thy Mother and Father.” No, He was using hate as a metaphorical comparison, you must love Jesus SO MUCH that by comparison is seems that your love for your parents is hate.
Is the hate expressed Psalm 5:5 the same kind of hate? No that is literal hate. It seems weird that God is love is also a God who hates.
That’s because in this day and age people vastly underestimate God’s hatred of sin. We’ve had a generation or two of “Jesus loves you and wants you to have a good life” kind of evangelism. It used to be “You’re a sinner that God will send to hell for rebelling against Him.” Sin is a huge problem to a thrice holy God. (Revelation 4:8, Isaiah 6:3).
Since God is love, sin is the polar opposite of everything He is. He hates sin- and the people who perform sin. Which makes his love for us all the more spectacular. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, He clothed them. Even though they had just done one of the most evil deeds in the universe of all history (Judas’ betrayal being #1, this can be seen as #2) He still loved them enough to clothe them and send them on their way and did not kill them immediately. That’s love through hate.
We’re familiar with the phrase “Love the sinner but hate the sin”. It’s a wonky phrase that actually does more damage than is helpful. If we are to love the sinner we must confront his sin. Here, Cameron Buettel explains in a clear and concise way about how important it is not to divorce the two, the sin and the sinner performing it.
That determination to separate who a person is and what he does has also infiltrated the church. The exhortation to “love the sinner and hate the sin” is a clever Christian cliché regularly used to deflect people’s responsibility and accountability for their sin. While it’s true that we should both love sinners and hate sin, the cliché distorts those truths by unbiblically severing the two.
We should love sinners. We should hate sin. And we shouldn’t divide those two truths into separate categories. Our hatred of sin should manifest itself in a love that warns sinners—compassionately, but no less clearly—of the dire consequences their sin demands. Short of that, how could we ever claim to truly love them? Source
We can take this trajectory to its ultimate conclusion. Once a sinner has been warned, given the Gospel, refused and rejected, we turn it over to God. God knows the heart and knows when it it time for His general love to turn to hate, giving the person over to his sin with the sure and devastating consequences. Since He knows the heart, He knows when it’s time to love and a time to hate.
If we agree with the advice in the essay, and apply the same principle to God, we know He would do it in perfection and purity since He is perfectly holy.
Here are two good articles talking about God’s hate. This short devotional from Ligonier makes the love-hate situation really clear. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis short article is good also.