How Can Love & Hate Co-exist
I have the best grandmother in the entire world. If I were ever tempted to doubt God’s love for me, all need to do is look at the blessing he gave me in her. She’s loving and dependable and tells it how she sees it. Most of all, she’s wise.
When I was a teenager, she once told me something that was impossible for me to understand at the time. She said, “Love is staying married to someone even when you hate them. The good times come and go and sometimes you’ll hate that man so much you’ll wish he’d go too, but love is sticking together even when you can’t stand the sight of each other.”
I’ll be honest, that did not sound like happily ever after to me. As a teenager with a ring on my finger and stars in my eyes, I wasn’t capable of understanding that love and hate sometimes coexist. Listening to Nathan’s sermon this week reminded me of that conversation with my grandma. If you haven’t heard Sunday’s sermon, listen to it here.
Does God Hate Sinners
Proverbs 6:16-19 says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”
Which of us can say we are innocent in the face of this list?
In 1 Kings 17:18, we see God dealing with Israel in anger after they committed evil upon evil and refused to repent, “So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.”
If I were my grandma, I’d say this is when God couldn’t stand the sight of his people.
In Psalm 7:11, we see that, “God is a righteous judge, and a God who has indignation every day.”
God sees every abuse, every victimization, every molestation, every perversion of good and he burns with righteous anger. Would we desire anything less? He also sees every slight, hears every thought, and discerns every intent of the heart. Our basest motivations are laid bare before his eyes. Can any stand before a holy God?
For those of us who would rather not read these scriptures and who squirm at the thought of God hating the sin and the sinner, how do we wrap our mind around the concept of hate and love coexisting?
God is Love
Let us contrast who God is to what he does. 1 John 4:8 says, “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
God is love. You will never find a verse that says God is hate. You will never find a verse that says God is anger. Yes, God feels anger. Yes, God feels hate. God experiences these righteous reactions to a world which is perverting good and trampling right. But he never ceases to be love.
God’s hate is a reaction to perversion of what is right and good and pure but it leads to sacrificial love. By extension, hate should only ever be the same for us. This is why Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43-45
Jesus is saying, “You heard that you should hate your enemy…well, this is what righteous hate looks like. It looks like love.”
What is possible for God—and only possible for us through the power of the Holy Spirit—is to experience these righteous emotions without sinning. In Ephesians 4:26-27, Paul wrote, “Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
What God did when he was so angry that he couldn’t stand the sight of us, is laid out beautifully by the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:6-8.
…although He [Jesus] existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
When God was so repulsed by our sin that he couldn’t stand the sight of us, he ripped off his royal robes, covered himself with servanthood, and ran headlong into the filth to save us from eternal death.
John 3:16 puts it this way, “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.”
God Chose Love
When everything we were—our pride, our sin, our rebellion—set us up as God’s enemy…
When God’s indignation burned against us so much that he couldn’t stand the sight of us…
When there was nothing about us worthy of redemption…
God chose love.
Jesus laid down his life.
The doors to the Kingdom of Heaven doors were flung wide open so that whoever believes in Christ would be redeemed.
Righteous anger and hatred inexorably lead to sacrificial acts of love.