Does God love the sinner but hate the sin?

It’s a common phrase that you hear banded about in Christian circles:

‘God loves the sinner but hates the sin’

I’ve thought about it a lot over the years – and probably a number of you have heard me talk about it….and some will be bored with hearing me talk about it, no doubt!

The question is – is it Biblical?

Personally, I don’t think it is – and what’s more I think the phrase is partronising and self-righteous – and those who use it have forgotten that they are also sinners in need of God’s grace.

It’s moralism gone crazy in my book!

No-where in the Bible does God separates the status of a sinner from their sin – and it is ‘whilst we were yet sinners that Christ died for us’!

God accepts us and loves us as sinners who sin – not because of what we have done or not done – but in Christ by his grace through our faith in his saving death and resurrection – this is incredible stuff!!!

Therefore, to say that God loves the sinner but hates the sin makes no Biblical or doctrinal sense whatsoever!

With this in mind, it was encouraging to read a post on the Euangelion blog (here) saying pretty much the same thing:

Recently I was driving on a highway in upper Wisconsin on a weekend away with the wife. Plastered on the side of a barn visible to everyone that drove by was the oft quoted evangelical proverb “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin”. I have been reflecting on this idea for a while now and the more I think about it the more I realize it is by and large the basis of the evangelical community’s relationship to the world. It  of course seems to capture the essential ideas of God’s love for his fallen world, but as I have rolled this over in my mind I’m growing in my doubt about whether this is really a biblical concept for two reasons. 
First, the concept inappropriately separates deeds from person. The Bible seems to rather point the opposite direction: our deeds are  a reflection of who we are.  I find it all to common that people rationalize  deviant behavior with the thought “this isn’t  really me”.  My retort is: “No this is you. And until you embrace that fact there can be no growth”. In my view, the mirror reflection of one’s identity is one’s deeds. 
Second, the perspective seems to undermine the radical message of Paul’s Gospel of God’s love for sinners. This is particularly pointed when I consider Romans 5:8-10:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
These verses suggest to me that God doesn’t divide between person and deeds. God loves sinners full stop.

This makes sense to me, and I’ve come to a similar conclusion – God loves the sinner full stop!

How?

In Jesus – through his death on the cross and resurrection from the tomb.

Thats what the Bible says – and thats what we should preach!

‘God loves the sinner and died on the cross at Calvary in order to deal with the sin’

Now thats a truth worth preaching, eh?

2 thoughts on “Does God love the sinner but hate the sin?

  1. Stephen Percy

    Interesting. An enjoyable read, Marts. I think the point you make is valid – the separation of sinner and sin is a way of removing ourselves by at least one step from our actions and thus our responsibility for our actions.However, perhaps the distinction is more apt for the believer? Once we’re born again, we become saints, not sinners. If we still struggle with sin (note the inappropriate use of the word if!). On this basis is there no distinction between saint and sin? If not, then to sin suggests we (a) lose our status as saint and thus (b) our salvation?I think for the believer it’s true that God loves the saint but hates the sin (that which so easily ensnares…)?

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  2. Martin Luff

    I think we need to add this to the list of things to discuss when you come up in a few week :)Think on this. Although as believers we are technically viewed as saints, it is a forensic rather than experiential status. In experience we are still sinners. The future Kingdom of God is now but not yet – so our status as saints is also now but not yet!As such, in this age we will continue to struggle with sin as we are transformed by the Kingdom breaking through into our lives – but without any threat to our status as saints or salvation – because our righteousness is not based on our actions but on Jesus’ salvific merit. Through faith we gain the benefits of his status both forensically and eschatologically!!! It’s all about him not us!!Actually, this is important. We need to view ourselves as sinners saved by grace through faith. This gives dignity to all men, since all are dependent on God’s grace – which then allows the building of community. If we see ourselves as ‘saints’ now – then we too easily become self-righteous and proud – and end up judging the Kingdom status of others from our opinion of their moral conduct! Sound familiar?

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