Hate Sin.

Recently I ran across this Facebook status from a pastor friend of mine:

Yesterday, I ran across that age-old idea of “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” My response was, “Or just love the sinner?” I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t need anymore of my hatred, nor can I find any scriptural evidence where hatred trumps love.
So, here’s to Love!

First, I’ll say that it is completely possible I misunderstood the intention of that status update and that this blog post is a complete waste of time.

Second, I completely agree that Christians need to grow in love and grace. This is an area where we all fall short because we are imperfect humans. I know this to be true most vividly in my own heart because I know myself most truly. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

I think part of loving others more truly though, is by helping them, not tolerating that which is most lethal to them. I love my daughter, which is why, if I saw her playing with a cobra, I would rescue her! I love my wife, which is why, if I saw my wife running across an interstate during rush hour with ear buds in and a blindfold on, I would rescue her!

There were a couple things that I thought were a little unclear in the status. Most specifically, what does the phrase “nor can I find any scriptural evidence where hatred trumps love” mean? Does that mean there are no Bible verses where we’re told to hate something? That’s not true (as demonstrated below). Truthfully, you won’t find something if you don’t look for it.

I’ve spent some time reflecting on this status update and have decided that I very strongly disagree for a couple of reasons (in no particular order).

  1. Not only is this statement unbiblical, it’s actually counter-Biblical (which is far worse). Scripture is replete with verses that either directly tell us to hate sin or show us that loving God leads to hating sin. Please allow me to demonstrate:
    • Proverbs 8:13: To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
    • Psalm 5:5: The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong… (This verse actually makes it sound like God hates the sinner and the sin.)
    • Psalm 11:5: The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. (Like the previous one, this verse also makes it sound like God hates the sinner and the sin.)
    • Psalm 97:10: Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
    • Psalm 119:104: I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
    • Psalm 119:128: and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.
    • Proverbs 13:5: The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
    • 2 Chronicles 19:2: Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is on you. (This verse makes it sound as though we shouldn’t love those who hate the Lord.)
    • Ezekiel 35:6: therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.
    • Amos 5:15: Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (This is a direct command to hate evil.)
    • Romans 12:9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Another direct, clear command to hate evil.)
  2. This statement doesn’t actually make sense when you plug specific sins into it. For example:
    • “Love the pedophile but hate pedophilia? Or just love the pedophile?”
    • “Love the hungry but hate starvation? Or just love the hungry?”
    • “Love the naked but hate nakedness? Or just love the naked?”
    • “Love the raped but hate raping? Or just love the raped?”
    • “Love the lonely but hate loneliness? Or just love the lonely?”
    • “Love the Godless but hate Godlessness? Or just love the Godless?”
    • “Love the idolater but hate idolatry? Or just love the idolater?”
    • “Love the sinner but hate sin? Or just love the sinner?”
  3. You can’t “love” a person and NOT hate that which is forever tarnishing and damning their eternal soul. It would be like someone finding out their spouse has an aggressive, lethal form of cancer and simply saying, “I love my wife but don’t hate the cancer that is destroying her body.” Love does not tolerate sin in others (1 Cor. 13:6), but seeks what is best for their soul.
  4. As my pastor so eloquently said, “GRACE and TOLERANCE are different. Grace points us toward truth (Tit. 2:11-14); tolerance let’s us run freely from it. Tricky.” Tolerating sin in someone’s life is not loving them. Loving them is helping them as they pursue holiness.
  5. Christ suffered for sins (1 Peter 3:18), therefore, if we love Christ, we must hate the thing which caused Him to suffer.
  6. Scot McKnight wrote an excellent article a while back. Here are some pertinent excerpts:
    • When we don’t see the gravity of sin, we won’t be reliant upon God for the grace of sanctification and transformation, and holiness won’t be our aim in life.
    • Humans ache to rule the cosmos. They want to be God. The ache to be God and acting as if we are God are what sin is all about.
    • Sin, at its core, usurps God’s place in this world and puts us there instead.
    • Sin damages our self-identity, changes our relations with God from love and trust to fear and mistrust, damages our loving union with one another to become a war of wills against one another, and sin also has cosmic effects—we find the world to be red in tooth and claw.
    • The Bible tells us not only that God is gracious and loving, but it reveals an unforgettable statement in Leviticus: “Be holy because I am holy.” Let us not forget we are summoned by God to make our pursuit in life a pursuit that is simultaneously after love and after holiness.
  7. Sin is toxic. James 1:13-15 and Romans 5:12 are clear where sin leads: death! How can we not hate that which kills everything it touches and alienates us from our Creator?
  8. This was posted by a pastor! A pastor who doesn’t hate sin is like an oncologist who doesn’t hate cancer, a fitness-guru who doesn’t hate obesity, a judge who doesn’t hate corruption, a teacher who doesn’t hate illiteracy, a policeman who doesn’t hate violence, or a fireman who doesn’t hate arson. In effect, what’s the point?

In conclusion, I think that a proper understanding of sin’s blatant affront to God’s character leaves us no option but to hate sin. Our love of God will produce a natural hatred of sin. Love of God is the point, but hatred of sin is an inevitable by-product. So, here’s to love!

If we would make it evident that our conversion is sound we must loathe and hate sin from the heart; now a man shall know his hatred of evil to be true, first if it be universal. He that hates sin truly hates all sin. Secondly, where there is true hatred it is fixed; there is no appeasing it, but by abolishing the thing it hates. Thirdly, hatred is a more rooted affection than anger; anger may be appeased, but hatred is against the whole kind. Fourthly, if our hatred be true, we hate all evil in ourselves first, and then in others. He that hates a toad would hate it most in his own bosom. Many like Judah are severe in censuring others but are partial to themselves (Genesis 38:24). Fifthly, he that hates sin truly, hates the greatest sin in the greatest measure; he hates all evil in a just proportion. Sixthly, our hatred is right if we can endure admonition and reproof for sin and not be enraged with him that tells us of it; therefore those that swell against reproof, hate not sin; only with this caution, it may be done with such indiscretion and self-love that a man may hate the reprover’s proud manner. In disclosing our hatred of sin in others, we must consider our calling; it must be done in a sweet temper, reserving due respect to those to whom reproof is offered, that it may be done out of true zeal, and not out of anger nor pride.

– Richard Sibbes (via Tim Challies)

  • James R

    I agree with this in all ways. I think this is a spot-on response to your pastor-friends’ statement.
    Reading through this reminded me of the following passage in James:

    19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,
    20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (Jam 5:19-20 NKJ)

    While this isn’t directly addressing ‘hating sin’, actions like this are based in a hatred towards sin. We simply cannot ‘love the sinner’ if we don’t ‘hate the sin’. We must act against the sin, based on our hatred of it, if we are to truly show the love we have for one another. It is by hating sin (among a list of additional attitudes and actions) that we love the sinner.

    I wonder if you are going to share your feedback with your pastor friend?

    • daniel

      Thanks for the encouragement, James. I was hesitant to publish this post, but I felt like I needed to voice my disagreement. I did share my feedback on my friend’s Facebook. I just shared a brief summary of this blog post on their Facebook status, which was this: I think we should hate sin because to fear the Lord is to hate evil (Pr. 8:13), Christ suffered because of sins (1 Peter 3:18), and sin ultimately kills everything and everyone it touches (Rom. 6:23 & James 1:15). HOWEVER, we should love sinners because we are no better and have been saved by grace alone (Eph. 2:1-10) and have been set free from sin to love others (Gal. 5:13). If we love God, I think we will naturally hate that which is an affront to His character. If we love our neighbors, we will naturally hate that which is toxic and destructive to their souls. We should love the Lord and love our neighbors, but hate sin.