@Helen_Tan I am also curious to hear what others have to say on this question. This statement is used very often and I wonder what peoples’ perspectives are on it.
I think in its modern usage to ‘hate’ something or someone is to want that person or thing to ‘go to hell’. So I think in its modern usage the phrase just means God wants sin to ‘go to hell’ but He does not want people to ‘go to hell’. Rather, God wants to redeem them. That may be all that is meant by it in its modern usage? But I think this definition of hate is modern and that the word love is tricky when used in a modern context.
If we break it down the statement has two fundamental clauses with God as the actor and a third clause that is assumed:
- hates the sin
- loves the sinner
- the sinner is not the same thing as the sin - they are in some way separable
So to understand this statement we must unpack each clause and focus especially on the definition of ‘hate’ and ‘love’.
1 - God hates the sin
If by ‘hate’ we mean God wishes it to cease to exist and to destroy it - I think you established this point well and I would only add that God hates sin because it is dehumanizing and harmful. Murder, theft, envy and lying are socially destructive. In Romans 1 God lays out the fact that it is a rejection of Himself that leads to a corrupted heart that participates in these destructive acts.
But in the Bible ‘hate’ can simply mean that God does not place His favor on someone - for example, when it says that God ‘hated’ Esau or that we should ‘hate’ our father and mother in order to serve Him. In this sense of the word, ‘hate’ simply means to place favor upon or put someone or something before someone else.
2 - God loves the sinner
In the Scriptures, I believe God’s love for the sinner means that God desires that those who are enslaved to their sinful nature and living in darkness would come into the Light.
But in our modern culture ‘love’ means ‘allows to do as they please without consequences as long as they do not hurt anyone’. That is obviously not what the Bible means by love. God has mercy on those who are evil - allowing them to live upon the earth - and He desires they turn to Him, but there are still consequences for choosing evil. That is Biblical love. The Parable of the Prodigal Son would seem a good example.
Matthew 5:45 - “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Ezekiel 18:32 - “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!”
1 Timothy 2:3-4 - " This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Revelation 22:17 - “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”
3 - Sin and the Sinner are Separable
As James 3:9 makes clear, all men are created in God’s image. So even though we have a sinful nature (as Romans 7 points out) that holds us captive to sin until Christ sets us free, we are still fundamentally creatures made in God’s image, though ruined.
James 3:9 - With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.
But at the same time it is clear that if a person chooses sin over God, then God gives them over to that sin.
James 4:6 - But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”
Romans 1:24 - “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts”
Sinners are people who have chosen to reject God in their hearts and God has therefore set Himself against unless they humble themselves through repentance. God loves them in that He desires that they repent and sent His Son that they might know Him, but He sets Himself against those who choose the love of the world rather than the love of God.
All of that said - I think the danger is really in the definition of the words ‘hate’ and ‘love’. If those definitions are Biblical, I think the statement is safe.
What are your thoughts? What is another statement we could use to say the same thing but with thoroughly Biblical words that cannot be misconstrued in our modern culture? Is there a better way of saying the same thing???