God Is Love And He Must Also Hate

I remember reading Johnathan Edward’s notorious sermon “Sinner’s in the hand of an Angry God” in English class my sophomore year in high school. Interestingly, it was a required reading for that public school classroom credit. I don’t recall, but maybe we were studying early colonial Puritan literature (IMO Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” would have been a better portrayal).

As a young shallow cultural Christian with very little grasp of grace that reading was a harrowing experience for me.

Now I can’t breakdown the literary merits of Edward’s sermon. I do know he wrote/spoke exponentially more about heaven than hell. But the theological content of his most famous sermon is, for some, a microcosm of everything that is wrong about modern strands of evangelical/fundamental/reformed/etc Christianity.

So it may be said: A massive God that can be angry at the tiny people He created is too petty to be worthy of worship. OR A God that hates is in direct contradiction with the God who “is love.” OR In the NT Jesus revealed a loving heavenly father, not a ticked off tyrant. And so on and so forth…

To which I say respectfully: Let’s pump our breaks a minute.

As a pretty rotten sinner who finds unique ways to stumble every day, of course I want God to be a merciful Father/Abba, full of invincible grace and unwavering love for me. And amazingly He is that, through His precious Son, Jesus.

But I don’t think a significant point should be lost here: In order to love, you must have some capacity to hate.

For example: Let’s say I were to tell you in conversation that I love the Jewish people and wish the best for them. Yet, in the very next sentence, I said I was emotionally neutral about the subject of the Holocaust. “No!” you may say, “If you love the Jewish people, you must hate what the Holocaust did to them!” And surely you’d be right.

To love some things, is to hate other things.

If I love children I will hate child abuse.

If I love my wife I will hate committing adultery against her.

Human emotion is wrapped around a fallen nature, so even our most righteous anger has remnants of jealousy, pride, greed and general sinfulness. But we mustn’t project those fallen attributes to a perfect God’s righteous anger. God’s love and anger, unlike ours, is rooted in His fundamental holiness. Unfortunately, we usually interpret words like wrath/hatred/anger  and even love through the grimy lens of our own limited human experience and hurts.

But the perfect man, Jesus, was angry with people at times, spoke of wrath much, and I’m sure felt something of hatred when confronting the hypocrisy of the hyper-religious Pharisees.

Jesus was angry at the money collectors who tarnished His father’s temple. Real, visceral, vein popping, table-turning, righteous rage. It’s not a stretch to say he genuinely hated what they were doing.

And yes, Christ graciously dinnered up and fellowshipped with the prostitutes and tax collectors. Yet He also sternly promised millstones and gnashing of teeth to the prideful and scoffers.

For God to really love a bride, He must hate what separates His bride from Him. God’s hatred is not a petty “flying off the handle” explosion of unstable men, it’s a holy rational hatred of the sin that is killing His image(s).

“For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity” (Isaiah 61:8)

and conversely His bride must hate what separates Him from her:

“Let those who love the Lord, hate evil (Psalms 97:10)

What is most harrowing/heart-rending is that such holy hatred/anger/wrath was necessarily poured out on the perfect Son, Jesus, at the cross. The Son became “sin” for us, so that we could become sons and daughter like Him (2 Cor 5:21) Jesus took the proverbial bullet of wrath on our behalf, absorbed it fully, and even rose to show it would never…ever…touch us in this life or the next.

So God’s love and wrath doesn’t have to be torn asunder by our uneasy conjectures (1 John 4:10). And charges of cosmic child abuse do not have to be leveled against a heavenly Father who is wholly unique in His holiness.

The bare minimum fundamentals of the cross are too great a mystery to explain: In wrath, it pleased the Father to crush Christ for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:10), so that His love could be displayed in healing us of all guilt and sin(Isaiah 53:6) I’m sure I haven’t grasped a kindergarten level understanding of such grace.

Maybe that’s what old Johnny Edwards was getting at after all.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

32 thoughts on “God Is Love And He Must Also Hate”

  1. Love your post. I am surprised you went to a public HS where you read Edwards.

    Also on God’s anger and love… the cross explains that, that is where God’s justice and love met in the death of Jesus.

    God bless you

  2. A tour de force of a post, Bryan. You explained that our loving God must hate as well with great compassion and flawless logic, and are absolutely correct that the milquetoast message coming from too many pulpits is leading people straight to Hell. Peace be with you, friend. –Kelly

  3. “For God to really love a bride, He must hate what separates His bride from Him.”

    This is good stuff. I may use some of this for a future sermon or bible study.

  4. Great post brother Bryan!! Such a truth must be understood in the fullness of God’s divine nature– and you did that very well (from one kindergartener to another).
    Would like to reblog this maybe next week if that’s ok with you?
    Blessings to you and family
    Stephanie

  5. One of the biggest objections to Christianity is the “Old Testament God”. Truly, when compared with the loving Jesus of the New testament, the two do seem irreconcilable – until we consider Calvary.

    God was rightly angry in Old Testament times. He wouldn’t BE God if He wasn’t.

    Thankfully, God’s wrath was poured out on His Son, Jesus Christ, at Calvary when Jesus became sin for us. Jesus bore that wrath for us and ushered in an age of grace.

    But the warning sounds . . .

    If one does not YIELD to the LOVE of God
    and be CHANGED by the GRACE of God,
    There will be NO WAY to ESCAPE the coming WRATH of God!

  6. I agree that to love us God must hate sin, because of what it does to those He loves. What if the wrath (passion) of God is directed against sin and not people? What if Jesus was telling the truth when He said we are all going to taste of the fire of God’s holiness? And what if the purpose of that passion is not to destroy but to change and transform each one of us?

    I believe we have got it backwards when we interpret the cross through the Old Testament. Jesus is the final Word of God, the living Word, through which all other Scripture must be interpreted. We have to interpret the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus. The church has gotten it backwards.

    What if Jesus came to show us that God is NOT like the people in the Old Testament thought? What if He came to turn their doctrine on its head? … which is exactly what He did to the very ones who were experts at the Old Testament – the Pharisees.

    A little something to think about.

  7. Wonderful truth. I would say that yes, God hates sin. Yes, God loves the sinner. One cannot ignore the Old Testament in interpreting the Cross, because the OT points to the Cross…we see throughout the OT God’s hand at work revealing the weakness of the Law and directing His people to the better way that was coming through prophecy…yet, in the same way they rebelled against God in the OT, His children rebelled against the Word made flesh and the finished work at the Cross. And yes, the children of Israel did not seem to have the relationship with God that He desired…kind of like today. We always want to go and do it our own way.

  8. Good stuff. I too read “Sinners…” in highschool (Junior Year). I only wish then I had been taught how to appreciate Edwards’ literary pen more. Puritans are cool.

  9. Bryan this is beautiful. Thank you. I have CFM, so my memory gives me much trouble, not many days back I wrote a bit about the reason Christ had to die and how he alone qualified to paying the price for salvation based solely on the fact that he is and was and ever will be the sole human-born- a live birth, all men from Adams kids down to the last one ever to be ‘born’ of a woman other than Jesus Christ, were literally – still born! hence Jesus words in John 3 ‘”You must be born again!” Adam was hand made by God,and Eve came from Adam, the first Adam became a living soul, the Last Adam a life giving Spirit. So basic,and simplistic!! But missed by most men from Christ’s time right until today. Life is in the male, and Jesus was Conceived of the Holy Ghost, therefore he was unique, indeed not born of sin, although through Mary he received the life ‘so to speak’ of flesh, I apologize if this doesn’t make sense My heads a bit off right now, the article is better I just don’t remember the title right now.

    I like what you wrote Here I will check out more Later God bless

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