Let me say on the outset, there is no doubt that God hates what sin does to us, or anything that hurts His children. I don’t think there’s any disagreement there.
But some have taken it a step further, insisting that God actually hates you–personally–unless you repent. Here are excerpts from a sermon by former pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Mark Driscoll (you can see the video clip here):
“Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you…God hates, right now–personally, objectively–hates some of you…The Bible speaks of God not just hating sin, but sinner….Sin is not just a mistake that we make…. You and I are sinners, and by our nature are objects of wrath, That’s the quote from the Bible….God doesn’t just hate what you do, he hates who you are. My job is to tell the truth, your job is to make a decision.”
As vitriolic and extreme as this may sound, Driscoll is not alone in this conclusion. He’s just parroting the popular view that some evangelicals have been teaching since the Reformers. Modern day proponents, from Paul Washer to John Piper, are very clear about this view of God toward sinners. The controversial Westboro Baptists would be an extreme case. But the fact is, most conservative evangelicals would agree with this take on God’s hatred, even though they might only sheepishly admit so. After all, admitting such a thing to people you’re trying to show God’s love to is a bit embarrassing, if not sounding downright convoluted.
On a side note, I have observed something remarkable about our view of God and treatment of Scripture. God’s Word has the amazing flexibility to mean just about anything to anyone, allowing people to project onto God their own attitudes and emotions. I don’t even think it’s possible for us to see how deeply our own internal issues affect our interpretation of Scripture unless God reveals it to us. I know my own interpretations have changed drastically as God has healed deep wounds in me.
For instance, angry people tend to interpret God as angry. They will place more importance on His wrath and justice than on His mercy and love. If following rules are important to you, you will interpret God and Scripture legally. People who focus on social justice turn the Bible into a book about compassion and mercy. The same Bible has justified wars and human atrocities that has led others to total pacifism. So, we can’t just say, “I believe the Bible.” That’s contributes nothing whatsoever to the conversation. All parties are using the Bible to defend their position.
Mark Driscoll is a case in point. He has always come across to me as someone with deep-seated anger issues. Lately, he has come under fire for alleged abusive behavior which led to his resignation at Mars Hill Church. I don’t want to pile on here and add to the accusations. I actually hold him in high regard and believe he is a devoted follower of Christ and sincere in his views. I’m simply making an observation.
My point is this: how we interpret the Bible often says a lot more about us than about what God is really like.
We also need to be open and honest and say that disagreeing with this notion that God hates sinners doesn’t make one a bleeding-heart liberal, or a wishy-washy Christian who doesn’t have the hutzpah to tell the truth. While it’s certainly possible in some cases, it’s not necessarily true. I hope to show that here.
Of course, these God-hates-you proponents don’t come up with these assertions out of thin air; they infer them from Scripture. Some passages that seem to say this are as follows: Psalm 5:5; 11:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Hos. 9:15; Rom. 9:13. You can click on the link and read them yourself.
Here’s one in particular that seems to explicitly make the case for God’s hatred (bold-type added):
The boastful shall not stand in Your sight;
You hate all workers of iniquity. (Psalm 5:5 NKJV)
The psalmist isn’t just saying that God hates the sin; he seems to be saying that God actually hates the sinner. We can’t just ignore these passages. We must deal with them as objectively as we can, realizing that we all have an internal bias that’s affecting our view.
If we take a wooden literal interpretation of these passages in isolation, we must conclude that God hates sinners. But as I have said before, while one should normally take a passage literally, if it renders the passage absurd, or if it contradicts other passages that deal with the same subject, we must dig deeper.
And we definitely have a major contradiction on our hands here. For instance, here are just a few passage that say God actually loves sinners before they repent. (all are NKJV, bold type added):
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…” (Matt.5:43-45)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom.5:8)
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
So, while we can’t just ignore the passages that seem to say that God does hate sinners, we certainly have a conundrum here. We have a God who hates the sinners demonstrating the ultimate act of love for them by dying for them!
I will attempt to unravel this quandary next time.