On one side, we are told that "The Father loves you", and that in scripture we can see a love letter from Father God to each and every one of us.
Well, that settles it, doesn't it? Not so fast. Because apparently the same scriptures also teach us that God hates us !? Mark Driscoll explains it best:
To be honest even I am a little confused. And I know for a fact that there are many here in Edinburgh who are a little mixed up about whether God loves or hates people right now, following Driscoll's visit this weekend, where he spoke on this issue at a leaders meeting.
Let's see if our old friend Tom Wright can't shed some light on the issue. Wright recently wrote:
The biblical doctrine of God's wrath is rooted in the doctrine of God as the good, wise and loving creator, who hates - yes, hates, and hates implacably - anything that spoils, defaces, distorts or damages his beautiful creation, and in particular anything that does that to his image-bearing creatures. If God does not hate racial prejudice, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not wrathful at child abuse, he is neither good nor loving. If God is not utterly determined to root out from his creation, in an act of proper wrath and judgment, the arrogance that allows people to exploit, bomb, bully and enslave one another, he is neither loving, nor good, nor wise.
-- The Cross and the Caricatures, N T Wright.
Well, that helps a little bit. Let's see where we are just now:
- God (not just the Father, but the entire trinity) is a loving, wise and good creator. God is indeed love.
- Because God is love, he must relentlessly, absolutely, completely, and totally hate sin.
So far so good. Now here comes the catch. According to Driscoll, we can't separate the sin from the sinner. He mocks the idea that God can love the sinner, but hate the sin, as surely a person acts out of who she is. (He also correctly notes that "hate the sin, love the sinner" is one of Ghandi's teachings.)
This is where it gets tricky, and this is where I want my readers to chip in. To start the ball rolling I'll do my best to attempt to reconcile all of the above and come to some sort of conclusion.
I believe Driscoll is right in saying that because God hates our sin, he is angry at us. I prefer to put it like this: God hates that our sinful, corrupt, fallen, Adamic nature is the essense of what we have become. Therefore, without the mercy of Jesus we stand before God utterly incapable of escaping who we have become, and utterly incapable of avoiding the wrath and anger of God. Now I say "become", and not "are", because I believe also that God has created all of us in his image, and that we are all image bearers of God, whether you are a Christian or not, and whether you believe it or not. Thus far, this should not be controversial to anyone. Additionally however, I believe scripture informs us that the "Adamic" nature trumps our image-bearing nature, and therefore in some sense and in some way, we find ourselves as enemies of God, not because God for some particular reason hates us personally, but because as Wright reminds us, God hates all that is evil and wicked and wrong and perverse, and there is something of that nature in everyone.
So God loves humanity, not just a little bit, but without measure or bound. At the same time, he also hates everything evil that we do, and even more than that, he hates what we (without the grace of God) have become. Fortunately for us, he loves us even as we sin and even as we are his enemy. In other words, in the love/hate equation inside the Trinity, it is love that triumphs!. That love compelled the Triune God to send himself, the Son, in order to live, die, resurrect and ascend to Glory to sit down on the very throne of heaven itself, in order to rescue us from what we have become, and to restore us to a Glory even greater than that which we were meant to have, right back in the beginning of Genesis.
Why do I believe this? I think ultimately because of the biblical truth that on the cross, those that believe in Jesus also died with him. Although Jesus died for us, the mystery of the atonement runs much deeper. Scripture is absolutely clear about this:
2 Cor 5:17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!
Rom 6:3 Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Rom 6:6 We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 6:7 (For someone who has died has been freed from sin.)
What I read from the above is this: there was something so wicked, so evil, so corrupt, in each one of us, that God has to destroy and kill this in order to give us life. Jesus is not only our substitute, our sacrifice, and our representative. Metaphysically, or spiritually, those of us that trust in Jesus have been crucified on the cross with Jesus!
I believe that this is why God "hates us" -- because of the "old man" and "body of sin" that cannot be separated from the "true you" apart from blood of Jesus. So perhaps I would summarise the whole issue like this:
- God, that is, the Father, the son -- Jesus, and the Spirit, is love.
- God loves each and every person on this planet.
- God created us all with dignity, value and worth. We are all image bearers of God made by the hands of God, whether Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or any other faith, including no faith at all.
- God, because he is love, absolutely hates sin and wickedness and perversion and evil.
- All humankind finds themselves alienated from God, and in a sense he is opposed to us, because we are not "good people doing bad things", but image-bearers who have been tainted with a terrible disease of sin from which we cannot escape.
- We are under and subject to the wrath of God, for he opposes what we do and what we have become.
- Yet, even as we rebel against him, God loves us and his love triumphs and wins through. His love and forgiveness is poured out at the Cross of Jesus. Jesus himself says "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".
- And even though God loves us and forgives us, our "old man", our Adamic nature, is crucified and dies on the Cross of Calvary alongside Jesus.
- And finally, those that do not accept the reconciliation that God offers may ultimately face the prospect of existing for an eternity outside of God's love and outwidth his Kingdom; in other words they will be in hell. This is because although God loves all, he hates what we have become, and unless we turn back to him, we can never escape the corrupting influence of the body of sin.
Thanks for listening. Perhaps there are more concise or better ways of explaining this. What do my readers think?