I’ve heard it said by too many professing Christians that the God they worship hates no one. I’ve also heard it said by too many professing Christians that God just hates the sin but not the sinner. To these I respond, if the God you worship does not match up with the God of the Bible, then you are worshiping an idol; and God doesn’t send sins to hell, but sinners.
The correct expected rebuttal is straight from the Scriptures where 1 John 4 speaks boldly that God is love. This is indeed a truth that no Christian can deny. In fact, that’s John’s point in that passage. To deny love is to deny God. However, to take “God is love” out of the context of 1 John 4, and certainly that of the entire letter, is to prove one has never read First John or one does not care; both are grave errors.
John begins this chapter by calling believers to “not believe every spirit, but test the spirits.” (I John 4:1) It seems, then, that the church John is writing to has, to some degree or another, failed to test the spirits—that is the witness and teaching of false teachers—to discern whether what is spoken is truly of God. We see something similar in Paul’s ministry, when a group of people of Berea sat under his teaching not only “with great eagerness” but also “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11) Quite frankly, Christian, if what is preached in pulpits, printed in devotions, and discussed in studies does not jive with Scripture, then it is not of God. John is setting this truth into place before he dives into the God of love because even in his day there were those with the “spirit of error.” (I John 4:6)
It is in this “spirit of truth” that John tells us “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.” (I John 4:7) Many objectors to any notion of God’s hatred point to passages like First John and say, “Ah ha! See, right there ‘love is from God!’” Correct, love is from God, but notice the Apostle qualifies that love in the same verse. He continues by affirming, “and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” (Emphasis mine.) Now, I ask you dear Reader, given the context of John’s three epistles, is he suggesting that anyone who experiences love is born of God and knows God? Quite frankly we know that is not true and is never supported in Scripture. Our human experience of love is certainly a communicable attribute of God that, out of His common grace, mercifully gives to saints and sinners, to believers and pagans, to those who love Him and those who hate Him.
It’s clear, John has a particular, narrow view of love in mind. That is made known in the 9th and 10th verses, where the Apostle rightly points to Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, sent into the world “to be the propitiation of our sins” that those who believe “might live through Him.” To know this extent of love is to know its cost. This is, of course, the love that nailed Jesus to the cross. That is the love John has in view here and that is the love with which God loves only His elect.
“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:35-36)
Time and space do not permit for a fuller exposition, but it should be abundantly clear that God’s love is narrowly applied to His adopted children. God’s love for the world, as in John 3:16, is His pleasant disposition toward His creation. There are in fact two different words translated as love in those respective passages.
The long and the short of it is, yes, God does love all His children equally, fully, and eternally. But that same disposition is not shared toward the sons of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2). There are plenty of biblical examples of things God finds abhorrent, reprehensible, and inadmissible. For this article, I’d like to focus on the seven He gives to us in Proverbs 6:16-19.
Solomon begins this section by reminding us that there are things God considers an “abomination.” We know that’s a strong word but it does not appear in daily usage, so it’s meaning might be wholly unfamiliar. You might think of the abominable snowman, which describes a monstrous creature. Really, the word simply means “disgusting.” The mold that grows on the food left in the back of the refrigerator is an abomination. The mass murder of children by deranged gunmen is an abomination. We are disgusted by such things and want to quickly dispose of them.
Now that you know what that word feels like, this is the same feeling God has toward the following seven things.
Haughty eyes. This Hebrew word has two common meanings. The first of which conveys something raised up in loftiness. The word is literally rock, like a tall precipice. The sense in Solomon’s teaching is eyes perched in self-exalted grandeur, looking down upon all others. Quite simply, God is disgusted with pride. We should not be surprised this is the first on the list. Interestingly, this same word has a second meaning, which also fits Solomon’s proverb: “to be rotten, wormy.” There is a notion of corruption that is always present in the prideful man or woman.
Lying tongue. James was right to call the tongue a fire, a small instrument that can cause great damage. (James 3:5) Solomon appends this tongue as one that is deceptive, leading astray through falsehood. This tongue promotes disappointment and disagreement for the sake of defrauding others. God is disgusted with the man or woman who backbites, gossips, and lies.
Hands that shed innocent blood. Thou shalt not kill is firmly written in the stone tablet of the Law and on the hearts of every person. This is one of those universal ethical truths that are hard to ignore. Innocent here doesn’t mean sinless, Jesus dispels that in Luke 13:1-5, but simply unwarranted or unmerited. The shedding of innocent blood is the unwarranted death of another; whether aged and infirmed or cradled in the womb. To do so is an abomination to the Lord.
Heart that devises wicked plans. The heart, in the Hebrew context, is the seat of a man’s understanding and will. We Westerners might replace it with the mind or conscience. Regardless, the meaning is the same, if a man or woman is inclined to devise wicked plans, he or she is disgusting to God. The word translated as wicked conveys a sense of vain exertion often associated with the vain toil a pagan exercises in worshiping an idol. The plans in mind here are more generally the thoughts of a person. That word can also be rendered as imagination. A person who devotes all his or her energy to an unrighteous goal is laboring in vain and is revolting to God Almighty.
Feet that run rapidly to evil. The feet, in the Hebrew context, represent a man’s ability or power. The world is God’s footstool means He reigns in power over it. Feet in motion convey the idea of a person striving to do something or journeying toward some purpose. In this instance, Solomon chides feet that run rapidly—moving swiftly with determination and speed under a single-minded focus—toward evil. This is the most general use of that word, so it seems that any man or woman who constantly prioritizes that which is displeasing to God is himself or herself displeasing to God.
False witness who utters lies. We’ve seen already that God detests a lying tongue. In one sense Solomon is repeating the same admonition; perhaps because lying is the most common sin, for who has not told a little white lie or deceived an annoying toddler for a moment of solace? That may be the case, but I think the king has another thing in mind. Witnesses were very important in the Old Testament, so much so that they had certain rights and responsibilities. A testimony was considered true on the basis of two or three witnesses. False witnesses were a disgrace, because they were often used by others as a means to tyrannize God’s prophets. In a sense, false witness who utter lies are akin to false teachers who prophecy deception, and such false prophets are loathsome to God.
One who spreads strife among brothers. Jesus and the Apostles employ agricultural imagery as a means to simply convey doctrines and concepts. Solomon does much the same for the one who spreads is the action of a sower. Jesus, of course, speaks of the sower of the word. Here, the king speaks of the sower of discord. This is a phrase unique to Solomon for it only appears in the Book of Proverbs. He chides the man or woman who seeks to implant division and discord, especially among the brethren. Brothers in the Old Testament, much like in the New, refer to the people of God. Solomon’s concern here can be summarized using Paul: “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words… he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words.” (I Timothy 6:3-4) And, I will add, such a person is an abomination before the Lord.