The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. (Psalm 5:5)
Sometimes people will take one verse out of the Bible and try to build an entire belief system from one verse without regard to what the rest of Scripture has to say about it. For example, “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Non-Christians and even many Christians use this verse to humiliate Christians into not making any judgments whatsoever. However, when read in context (Matthew 7:1-6) it becomes clear that what appears in isolation is not what is meant as a whole. Other examples could be cited, but this should do for the purpose of this writing.
Recently someone complained that the overused cliché – “hate the sin, but love the sinner” – is not biblical, and they used Psalm 5:5 (above) as their proof text. While the phrase itself is not found in the Bible, the concept is nevertheless both biblical and practical. Note that the cliché is not attributed to God, but rather it is intended for Christians.
The plaintiff claimed that the adage, “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” is not biblical because Psalm 5:5 says that God hates both the sin and the sinner. However, the challenger took one verse, Psalm 5:5, in isolation, and overlooked what the rest of the Bible teaches about God’s love – indeed, His love toward the sinner. Who of us can honestly say that we harbor no sin? If we are all sinners, even if saved by Grace, then by this assessment, God hates us. If we say we are not sinners, we have a surprise in store. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us … If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8, 10, emphasis mine). John was writing to Christians! Personally, I am grateful that God loves this sinner even though He still hates my sin. (By the way, the closer I get to Him, the more I hate my own sin.)
So, let us examine the challenger’s one-verse defense in its entire context. Psalm 5 is an imprecatory psalm, i.e. a psalm that calls upon God to judge His or our enemies. It is written from a human perspective. Because of David’s understanding of God’s holy nature and His hatred for sin, he concludes that God hates the sinner equally. “For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee” (Psalm 5:4). God cannot and will not abide sin. David continues: “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity” (Psalm 5:5, emphasis mine). As Hebrew poetry, the psalms are written in a parallel style, so that the thought in the first part of the verse repeats in a different way in the second. Strictly translated, the first part reads, “Not do stand the foolish before Thy sight,” or, better, “The foolish do not stand before Thy sight.” Comparatively speaking then, someone who “works iniquity” cannot stand in the presence of God, so that it appears that God hates the sinner. The Hebrew word translated “hate” is śânê’, and it means “to be in opposition to” or “to be an enemy or foe;” however, to be in opposition to someone does not necessarily require feelings of hatred. Is it the sinner that God hates, or is it the sinner’s works of iniquity that God opposes? The Bible teaches the latter. The KJV includes the future “shall” (not found in the original Hebrew) indicating that the sinner will never be able to stand before the Lord. The unrepentant sinner does not now, nor shall ever stand in the presence of God. Their sin has separated them from God eternally. Does that mean that God hates them?
“Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing [falsehood]: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man” (Psalm 5:6, emphasis mine). The judgement is reserved for a future time. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14-15). Does that mean that God did not love these sinners?
The Bible teaches that God loves mankind. It teaches that from the very beginning. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17, emphasis mine). “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine). “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; [He] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14-15)
Did God demonstrate hate for the sinner here, or did He show His love? By all rights, He should have killed them for their disobedience; after all, that is what He said He would do. Instead, God spared them, and He promised a Savior. Is that hate or love? One might rightly say, “Well, God was showing mercy.” Yes, that is true, but does mercy spring from hate or from love?
David, a sinner himself, pleads with God to “Destroy thou them, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions; for they have rebelled against thee” (Psalm 5:10). God will do that in due time, but because of His mercy and His love (yes, love for sinners), He gives them time to repent. “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee. For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass [surround] him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:11-12, emphasis mine).
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, emphasis mine), “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, emphasis mine). “For God so loved the world [i.e. sinners], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis mine). If God hates sinners, then why did He go through all the trouble of making a way of salvation? “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” (1 John 4:11, emphasis mine).
“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” It might be trite and overused, but it is biblical! It is also practical as it instructs us to love those who have offended us.
Reader, if you have not trusted in Jesus as your Savior, God does not hate you; He loves you, but He does hate your sin. You will never be able to stand before Him until that matter is settled. God loves you, and He sent Jesus to stand in your place and pay the price for your sins on the cross. Now He invites you to accept His free gift of salvation and eternal life. Acknowledge and confess your sinful condition to Him. Believe/trust that Jesus died for your sins. Ask Him to forgive you of your sin, and invite Him to be the Master of your life. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). His gift of salvation is yours for the asking. Do it today!