Hate the sin, love the sinner. Biblical or not?

Does God, indeed, ask us to hate the sin but love the sinner?  Is this what God does?  If He does not ask this of us then why is it we think we must do this?  Is it even Biblical? These were the questions posed to me by my pastor a few weeks ago.  My first gut-level reaction was, “Of course God loves the sinner.  God loves everyone.  We are all sinners aren’t we?”  I think that everyone believes this to a greater or lesser degree.  But is loving sinners Biblical?  To answer this question I turned to the final authority on love, hate, life, wisdom, and practically everything else; the Bible.

Since I’m a geeky kind of guy, I used a favorite website, www.searchgodsword.org to do a quick search on the words “hate” and “love” respectively.  I used the New American Standard version of the Bible.  What I found was that there are 90 verses in the NASB where the word hate can be found.  Conversely there are 310 verses that contain the word love in the NASB.  Can these facts alone give us any clues as to the nature of God?

Hate the sin…

Does God hate our sin?  Well, actually, yes He does. Take a look at the following verses:

Jer 44:4 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
‘Yet I sent you all My servants the prophets, again and again, saying, “Oh, do not do this abominable thing which I hate.”
Zec 8:17 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
‘Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the LORD.”
Mal 2:16 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”
Re 2:6 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

We see in Jeremiah God hating the fact that His people were sacrificing and worshiping idols.  In Zechariah God declares that He hates schemes and lies.  In the book of Revelations God states that He hates the deeds of the Nicolaitians.  In Malachi God makes known His hatred of divorce.  God takes it one step further in the book of Malachi when He says, “and him who covers his garment with wrong.”  In this last instance God states that He hates the sin and the sinner.  Does God really hate the sinner?

Ps 5:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes; You hate all who do iniquity.
Ps 26:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
I hate the assembly of evildoers, And I will not sit with the wicked.
Jer 12:8 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“My inheritance has become to Me Like a lion in the forest; She has roared against Me; Therefore I have come to hate her.
Ho 9:15 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
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.
It sure sounds like God can hate sinners. But what does God tell us to do?  We know many places in the Bible where we are commanded to love, but are we ever commanded to hate?  Well, actually, again yes.

Ps 97:10 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Hate evil, you who love the LORD, Who preserves the souls of His godly ones; He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Am 5:15 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

We are, again and again, in scripture commanded to hate evil.  Does God command us to hate the sinner?  This is a more debatable point as it is not so clear cut in scripture.  The only scripture that we could locate on this (and this was by no means an exhaustive search) was the following:

Mt 5:43 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’

Upon cursory examination we are not commanded to hate sinners.  Hate for the sinner appears to be God’s prerogative.  In fact, God has very definite plans for unrepentant sinners.

De 32:41 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
If I sharpen My flashing sword, And My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, And I will repay those who hate Me.
De 33:11 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“O LORD, bless his substance, And accept the work of his hands; Shatter the loins of those who rise up against him, And those who hate him, so that they will not rise {again.}”
2Ch 19:2 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD and so {bring} wrath on yourself from the LORD?
Ps 21:8 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Your hand will find out all your enemies; Your right hand will find out those who hate you.
But do these sinners deserve this hatred?  Turning once again to scripture (as we always should) we find the anser to be YES.
Joh 7:7 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.

The world hates God because He accuses us of our sin and wrongdoing.  He brings all our dark thoughts and deeds into the light and sinners scurry and run. There are even many in God’s own church who hate Him:

Ps 81:15 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“Those who hate the LORD would pretend obedience to Him, And their time {of punishment} would be forever.

God does apparently hate both the sin and the sinner because

  1. they commit the sin in the first place, and
  2. secondly because the sinner hates God.

This is all pretty heavy.  One might be inclined to ask, “I thought the Bible teaches that God loves everyone.  After all, isn’t God love?”  Well this is true, the Bible does teach that God is love, and that God does love everyone…in a way.

De 10:18 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.
De 10:19 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
Mr 10:21 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
1Jo 4:8 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

We see that God is just, seeing to the needs not only of His elect but also of the foreigners.  Jesus felt a certain love for the young ruler that He knew would not be able to give up his wealth for salvation.  There are other verses that speak about God causing the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the evil and the good alike.  Can we get a picture of God’s love by examining what God says about love in scripture?

De 6:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
De 7:9 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;
Jos 23:11 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“So take diligent heed to yourselves to love the LORD your God.
Ne 1:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
I said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
Mic 6:8 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?
Mt 22:37 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Lu 11:42 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every {kind of} garden herb, and {yet} disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
Joh 14:21 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
Joh 14:23 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him
Joh 15:9 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
1Jo 2:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:
1Jo 2:15 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
1Jo 5:3 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.
2Jo 1:6 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

We can see from this ponderous amount of scripture as noted above that with regard to love first and foremost we are commanded to love God.  We are to love God and enjoy Him forever.  God has a very special love for those who do love Him:

Love for the elect
Ex 20:6 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
De 5:10 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
De 7:7 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
De 7:13 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you.
De 10:15 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“Yet on your fathers did the LORD set His affection to love them, and He chose their descendants after them, {even} you above all peoples, as {it is} this day.
Ps 145:20 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
The LORD keeps all who love Him, But all the wicked He will destroy.
Pr 8:17 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.
Jer 31:3 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
The LORD appeared to him from afar, {saying,} “I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.
Da 9:4 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,
Mic 7:20 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
You will give truth to Jacob {And} unchanging love to Abraham, Which You swore to our forefathers From the days of old.
Zep 3:17 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.
Ro 5:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Ro 5:8 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Ro 8:28 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.
Ro 8:39 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2Co 13:14 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
Eph 1:4 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He F5 predestined R15 us to adoption R16 as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according R17 to the kind F6 intention of His will,
Eph 2:4 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead R83 in F30 our transgressions
Tit 3:4 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
But when the kindness of God our Savior and {His} love for mankind appeared,
Jas 2:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world {to be} rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
1Jo 4:19 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
We love, because He first loved us.
Re 3:19 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

We can see that we did not earn His love but that He chose us to be loved and to return our love to Him.  We can also see that if we love God and keep His commandments He will pour out love and mercy upon us and to our children.  Based on the ponderous amount of scripture regarding God’s promises to those who love Him that God will protect and bless those who love Him.  That if we begin to deviate from God’s plan for our lives that He will lovingly discipline us as wayward children to bring us back to Him.  And finally that nothing will ever separate us from God’s love for us, nothing.

We are also commanded to love our fellow man, the Christian and non-believer alike:

Le 19:18 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.
Le 19:34 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
‘The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.
Mt 5:44 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Lu 6:27 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
Lu 7:42 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?”
Joh 13:34 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
1Jo 4:7 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
1Jo 4:11 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1Jo 4:12 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.
1Jo 4:20 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
1Jo 4:21 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.
We are commanded to show love in a selfless way to each other just as God selflessly shows His love for humanity.  Always, we are commanded not to think of ourselves, but of others.  God does make the sun rise for the evil and the good every morning.  He showers and grows the crops of the evil and the crops of the good.  He lovingly tends the planet for everyone. 
Ps 109:5 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Thus they have repaid me evil for good And hatred for my love.
Pr 10:12 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all transgressions.
Ho 3:1 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Then the LORD said to me, “Go again, love a woman {who} is loved by {her} husband, yet an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the sons of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love raisin cakes.”
Ho 11:4 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; And I bent down {and} fed them.
Ho 14:4 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely, For My anger has turned away from them.
Mic 7:18 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity And passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in unchanging love.
Mt 5:46 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Lu 6:32 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“If you love those who love you, what credit is {that} to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
Joh 5:42 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.
Joh 15:13 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends
1Jo 3:1 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and {such} we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
1Jo 3:16 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.
1Jo 4:9 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.
1Jo 4:10 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son {to be} the propitiation for our sins.
God tells us to love everyone just as He loves everyone.  This is a little confusing since just back in the OT God spoke of His hatred of sin and the sinner.  Perhaps I’m confusing love with kindness at this point.  Luke says:
Lu 6:35 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil {men.}
So we see that God is not necessarily showing love toward those who hate him but kindness.  When one is kind to one’s enemies you can expect one of two things; they will cease to be your enemy because of your kindness, or they will hate you even more.
However, what scripture clearly does show is that God has a special love for His “children” even up to dying for us.  What’s more if we obediently order our lives in love in the way He commands…
Isa 61:8 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Hebrew]
For I, the LORD, love justice, I hate robbery in the burnt offering; And I will faithfully give them their recompense And make an everlasting covenant with them.
Ro 13:10 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of {the} law
…that God will deliver upon the promise of love.
Joh 15:10 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
Eph 3:19 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God
Jas 1:12 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which {the Lord} has promised to those who love Him.
1Jo 4:16 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1Jo 4:17 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.
1Jo 4:18 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
Jude 1:21 – [In Context|Read Chapter|Original Greek]
keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
I am by no means a biblical scholar and this is by no means an in-depth study of God’s love or hate.  This is a cursory look through scripture of how God looks upon those whom He loves, and sinners.  We have seen that God indeed hates the sin.  We have also seen that God hates the sinner but at the same time shows His kindness for sinners by meeting their base needs; air, sunlight, water, food. 
We have seen that God loves His elect.  That He disciplines them, and nurtures them, and makes many promises with regard to those whom He loves.  We have also seen that first and foremost God commands us to love Him.  Secondly God commands us to love one another, first the Christian, then the sinner.  We are commanded to love in an un-selfish way, just as God loves us in an unselfish way.  Finally we have seen that God will shower us with blessings if we abide in His love.
Perhaps the old saw should be: “Hate the sin, show kindness toward the sinner.”

4 thoughts on “Hate the sin, love the sinner. Biblical or not?

  1. Blessings:
    Scholarship is as scholarship does(I think it was that imminent scholar
    scholar, Forrest Gump who said that) I wonder if any of us could
    make much claim in truly understanding much of what He has
    given us. For sure though, great changes in His relationship to
    man began at calvary. I don’t think He changed, but thank God for the
    for the new way He has given us to approach Him.
    Keep up the good work you’ve begun here. Just curious: any
    thoughts on what He meant by saying “those who love me
    will keep my commandments?

  2. The Flying Dutchman

    Hello Tom, glad to have you along!

    Looks like a simple enough question but it has very deep undercurrents. I don’t know that I address it sufficiently. As Christians we will obviously (or hopefully rather) want to keep our our Sovereign Lord’s commandments. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit will help us in this regard. I think a more interesting angle those who keep the Lord’s commandments but do not love Him.

    All humans seem to have laws forbidding murder, lying, adultery, theft, etc. in some form or other. Is it coincidence that God’s laws appear in almost every society in the world? Can it be that there are those who are keeping God’s commandments without loving God?

    My personal belief is that this is further evidence of the existence of God that no one would have excuse to not know of God’s existence. These laws are as much God’s signature as are the sun, moon, stars, mountains, and all of creation.

    To directly address your question, I don’t know that we can truly keep all His commandments. But with the help of His Holy Spirit we can can keep striving to do so.

  3. Since God’s wrath is abiding/abides (Jn3:36;Rom1:18)… on sinners whom He hates(Ps5:45; 7:11), does God’s love also abiding(present tense) on sinners?
    (It seems from my translations, the love of God for sinners, the world(Jn3:16, etc) is past tense… at the cross, and is not present participle or ongoing in the present (except it is toward His repentanting adopted ones who continue in obediant living faith).

    1. All sin. When I speak of sinners, I don’t speak of Christians who backslide. I’m speaking of unrepentant sinners. The natural man who is at enmity with God. Scripture clearly states the end of all sinners. If God loved sinners why would He do that to them? Those who trust in Jesus have nothing to fear because God’s love is upon them. Nothing can separate them from God’s love which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. But there is a day coming when God will pour out His wrath upon the unjust, the liars, the cheaters, etc. Isn’t that so? Otherwise, what is the Book of Revelation talking about?

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