As Christians, we believe that God’s Word is inspired in its entirety. But, let’s be honest, there are just some verses that are hard to understand! For example, how are we to understand the following verses?
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren. Prov. 6:16-19
The Lord tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates. Ps. 11:5
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, Nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man. Ps. 5:4-6
These are hard passages! We’ve always heard that God hates sin, but loves sinner. But these passages say that God hates the worker of iniquity, not just the iniquity. Considering Romans 3:23, “workers of iniquity” would include all of us. And as Christians who believe all that Scripture has to say, we cannot throw out these verses just because they are difficult. Do they mean that God actually hates sinners, and not just their sin?
To understand God’s hate, we must first understanding His love. Biblical language is much more rich than English. In English, we can “love” mashed potatoes, “love” our cars, and love our families. In the Bible, there are different words for love, two of which are agape and phileo.
Agape love is unconditional love. It is not based on the person receiving, but only on the person giving. The word for “love” in John 3:16 is agape. Agape love doesn’t have a lot of emotion attached to it. It is mostly a decision based on principle. God loves everyone with agape love, and we are to love everyone with agape love–a choice made to give each person respect and dignity whether they deserve it or not.
The second type of love is phileo love. This is brotherly love. It involves feelings of satisfaction, warmth, and bonds of affection. To phileo someone is to enjoy and like them. Unlike agape love, phileo love is based on emption. It means that you love someone’s character, you enjoy being in their presence, and you like how they treat you. While there is some blending between the two types of love, phileo love is almost entirely conditional. When God tells us to love our enemy, it’s agape love. He never commands us to phileo anyone! You do not have to try to conjure up “warm fuzzies” for those who are doing, because it’s impossible to do so anyway, but you do have to treat them with respect and dignity.
So, when Ps. 5:4 says, “You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,” and the other verses say God hates the worker of iniquity, this really means an absence of phileo love. God doesn’t enjoy the presence of iniquity. Jesus doesn’t have phileo love for workers of iniquity. Would you want Him to? Would you really want Him to enjoy being with groups such as ISIS who commit horrible atrocities? Would you want Him to feel warm affection for those in the Old Testament who offered their innocent babies as sacrifices to pagan idols?
The truth of the matter is that God has agape love for everyone the whole world over, but phileo love is for those who do righteousness. He agapes everyone, but He’s selective on whom He phileos.
So, what is the context in which agape love grows? Check out the following verse:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. Phil. 1:9-10
The Bible says that agape love grows in discernment–approving the things that are excellent, or being able to tell the difference between right and wrong. God does not want us to approve of those things which He has said are wrong, or to necessarily have phileo love for those who are engaged in those activities.
Just because you agape someone doesn’t take away your discernment. That is a new understanding of tolerance. A few generations ago, the very definition of tolerance meant that you had to actually disagree with the person you were tolerant of. Now, we are not to condemn people, but we are to have righteous judgment… discernment. As discernment increases, love increases.
What do you do if you find that you yourself love things that God hates. If you’re a lover of violence, homosexuality, or anything else that God hates, God does not and cannot phileo you in that sinful state. Make no mistake, He agapes you! He does (and wills that others would) treat you with respect and dignity. But only if you repent can He phileo you. All heaven rejoices when a sinner repents. That’s an emotional response. For it is only once you surrender to Him that your heart will begin uniting with His heart, your will with His will,, and your actions with His example. He will fill your heart with His love, a love that grows in knowledge and all discernment, and is able to approve the things that are excellent.
**Adapted from a sermon by Pastor Bill Nixon.**