“Hate the sin, but love the sinner.” This statement is as standard in the church as air conditioning is in the south. We have heard it so much that we just assume it is true. The truth is that “hate the sin, but love the sinner,” is never found in the pages of Scripture. It is believed to have come from St. Augustine in one of his letters when he writes, “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which roughly translates as “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”[i] Augustine lived a wild life before the prayers of his mother were answered in his conversion. Our culture has corrupted Augustine’s original meaning by twisting its emphasis. Augustine was referring to loving others and hating one’s own sins. The phrase regained modern popularity not with a Christian thinker, but with religious, pacifist Gandhi. Gandhi writes in his autobiography in 1929, “Hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which though easy enough to understand is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.” Gandhi did not promote the phrase, but rather his quote has been taken out of context and popularized in our culture.
All truth is God’s truth so regardless of where this phrase originated, we must ask, “Is it true?” Does God love the sinner and hate the sin? And if so, should we? The answer is Yes and No. Does God love the sinner? Absolutely. Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Does God hate sin? Absolutely. Habakkuk 1:13, “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong,” God cannot look on evil with approval. But does God hate the sinner? The answer is, surprisingly, yes. Psalm 5:4-6,
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.
And this is not an isolated verse. The Bible says that God hates sinners 14 times in the first 50 Psalms.[ii] And this doctrine is not only seen in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament in Romans 1:18-2:5 and John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
The Bible is too complex for clichés. Obadiah offers wonderful insight on God’s holy hatred towards sin and His holy love towards His covenant people. Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament consisting of only 21 verses. All we know about the author is his name given in the first verse, “The vision of Obadiah.” Obadiah means the “servant of Yahweh.” There is no other biographical information of him in the next and his name was very common in Israel. The prophecy can be broken down in two sections: a prophecy against Edom and a prophecy for Judah.
God Hates Pride
Obadiah opens his prophecy with a pronouncement against Edom. Edom was an ancient people group that inhabited the land south of Judah and the Dead Sea. The Edomites, also called Idumeans, descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. Obadiah 1:2-4,
Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom: We have heard a report from the LORD, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!” Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the LORD. (Obadiah 1:1-4)
Edom was located in a mountainous region southeast of the Dead Sea. They believed that they were secure from their enemies because of their location.
It is difficult to win battles when the opposing side has the high ground. The Edomites thought they were safe because of their lofty position. The Lord exposes how their pride has deceived them. Verse 3,
The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, “who will bring me down to the ground?”
They believed that they were untouchable; they believed that no nation was able to defeat them because of their position. They ask a rhetorical question” who will bring me down to the ground? but surprisingly the Lord answers them. Verse 4,
Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring down, declares the Lord.
Their pride deceives them with false security.
Pride is dangerous to the soul. Pride blinds us to our sin. God is set against the proud. Proverbs 6:16-19,
There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
The New Testament, both James and Peter draw out the dangers of pride by quoting Proverbs 3:34 saying explicitly, James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.”
God sets Himself up against those who are arrogant and disdainful. C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity,
As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man . . . It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.[iii]
Does that describe you? Are you always looking down on other people and their pursuits? Do you have pleasure and contentment in what you have or that you have more than others? The proud are condescending and rude. They never look to serve others, but only themselves. This was Edom. They thought much of themselves so God, said, “Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be utterly despised.” Their pride has caused them to despise others, therefore they will be despised.
Biblical Counselor Stuart Scott provides several ways pride may manifest itself in people’s lives. The challenge with pride is that we are often blinded to it. Do any of these characterize your life? (Remember God opposes the proud so we must root out pride wherever we find it):
· Being Unthankful – Proud people think they deserve only what is good
· Outbursts of anger, withdrawing or pouting when one’s rights or schedules are not met
· Perfectionist- want to be best at things to brag or for self-validation
· Monopolizing conversations, being stubborn – unwilling to hear others
· Being consumed with what others think of them
· Being devastated by criticism
· Being unteachable
· Defensive -cannot to admit to faults so they trivialize, rationalize or justify their sin and blame others
· Resisting Authority – a lack of submission exposed a prideful heart.[iv]
Does this describe you? As Jesus warns us, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you “(Matt. 7:1-2).
Beloved, we must work hard to foster humility in our lives. Pride severs relationships. Pride causes friction in the body of Christ. Pride produces bitterness towards others. Pride blinds you from seeing someone else’s perspective. Pride blinds you from seeing the impact of your own sin. Pride helps to justify a variety of sins. Humility is the foundation of love. Humility puts others first. Humility heals. Humility teaches us to listen. Humility models Christ who humbled himself taking the very nature of a servant, becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross.
We want to foster humility, but how? Stuart Scott offers 10 specific ways to foster humility in your life. I pray these are evident in our congregation:
· Focus on the Lord Jesus Christ – consume yourself with Him
· Be overwhelmed with God’s goodness – thankfulness characterizes humility
· Commune with God – be dependent on God in prayer
· Serve others – humble Christians want to be useful and fruitful for others
· Obey God’s revealed will in all things - live by, “What saith the Lord?”
· Learn from others – invite instruction
· Encourage others – cultivate eyes for the evidences of grace in others
· Pursue integrity in private and public
· Deny yourself by assuming no rights – you are not your own but belong to Christ
· Think rightly and sobering of yourself while bowing before God and others - John Bradford looked from his window upon the road to the gallows at Tyebourne. Day after day he saw poor, condemned prisoners being carried in a cart to die. He was known to say, “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.[v]”
Sadly, Edom did not think rightly of themselves, but were lifted high in their thinking. They were proud. How did Edom’s pride manifest itself? They persecuted God’s people.
God Hates Persecutors
The prophecy continues against Edom showing that they will be completely pillaged and ransacked. The nation of Edom came from the line of Esau. Obadiah draws out the comparison between Jacob and Esau. As Jacob and Esau were brothers, Edom should know its special relationship with God’s people. Yet instead of loving God’s people, they persecuted them.
If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed!— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings? How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out! All your allies have driven you to your border; those at peace with you have deceived you; they have prevailed against you; those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you— you have no understanding. Will I not on that day, declares the LORD, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau? And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter. (Obadiah 1:5-9)
It is interesting how the Lord speaks of future events as if they had already happened, “you have been destroyed!” and “Esau has been pillaged.” The Lord’s judgments are so sure that when He announces them, they are as good as complete. Edom will be destroyed, but we do not yet know when Edom will be destroyed or why the Lord will execute His judgment against Esau.
The Lord calls out Edom for how they persecuted His people. Edom will be destroyed, Verse 10,
Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.
Those who do violence to God’s people will have violence done to them. Since Edom cut off its help to Jacob, God will cut off His help to them. The Lord continues in verse 11,
On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.
When the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem, the Edomites did not offer any assistance to help His people. They did not act for God’s people, but rather acted against them. They chose the side of the powerful enemy in hopes that their future was secured. They chose the wrong side.
God takes it very serious when people act against His people. When people act against God’s people, it is as if they are acting against God Himself. On the road to Damascus, Jesus Christ appeared to the then Saul of Tarsus. Jesus said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” As far as we know, Saul of Tarsus never met Jesus in person, then how could Saul be persecuting Jesus? Well, Jesus so closely identified with his special people that, as Mark Dever notes, “Actions against God’s people are actions against God.” To sin against God’s people was to sin against God.
Do you see why God cares so much about unity and love in the local church? God hates persecutors of His people, because to persecute other Christians is to persecute God. God indwells believers by the Holy Spirit so to attack God’s people is to attack God. Does that put a greater weight on how we are called to live and love each other as a body of Christ? We are even identified as the “body of Christ.” This is an intimate picture of God and His people. Be encouraged those who oppose God’s people will one day answer for that opposition.
Obadiah promises Edom will face a future judgment on that Day and there will be nothing they can do to stop it. Verse 8-9,
Will I not on that day, declares the LORD, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau? And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.
The wise and the strong will not be able to help on that day. Notice the irony in which the Lord speaks on how often “the day” is used in verses, Obadiah 11-16,
On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress. For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, so all the nations shall drink continually; they shall drink and swallow, and shall be as though they had never been. (Emphasis added Obadiah 1:11-16)
The Lord says do not rejoice or gloat when God’s people suffer, because the Day of the Lord is near. “As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return to your own head.”
The Lord is fulfilling the golden rule. What you do unto to others, will be done unto you. This is a common theme throughout Scripture. Considering the day of the Lord, when you will be held accountable for your actions, you must live in a way that honors God by honoring God’s people.
God Hates the Prince of Darkness
Humanity fell in their pride to follow the ways of the Tempter in the Garden. After Adam and Eve sinned, they hid from God. Pride has its costs. People live in fear of judgment, but God promises a day when He will come and restore His people. Obadiah 17-21,
But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the LORD has spoken. Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead. The exiles of this host of the people of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb. Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau, and the kingdom shall be the LORD's.
God will restore His people Israel through His Son when He will establish His kingdom forever. Obadiah speaks about a future days when the exiles in Babylon will possess the land. This can only happen through the work of Jesus Christ who will destroy the works of the Prince of Darkness. Hebrews 2:14-15,
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.
The only way to destroy the one who has the power of death, the devil, is for the God-man, Jesus Christ, to humbled himself to share in flesh and blood like us and to die in our place. Jesus hates the Devil and therefore He destroys him through his death and delivers people from fear of death. The dreadful effects of pride are destroyed through humility of Savior. Now, God promises in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”
God hates evil and he hates those who bring evil. Although holiness puts Him at odds with evil, His love is always available to those who humbled themselves and repent and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus came to taste death for everyone that through Him they may possess the promise land and experience a kingdom that cannot be shaken. No one who pridefully opposed God will stand, but everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. The last line should give every Christian hope, “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” Take hope beloved, the Lord will reign. He is the only lasting King, and will rule the only lasting kingdom. Do not stand against Him in pride, but humble yourselves so that He may exalt you at the proper time. God will destroy enemies and He will deliver His people.
God does not delight in destroying his enemies. He wants his enemies to become his exiles. The exiles will possess the land. Peter refers to the church as exiles for he opens his first epistle addressing, “To the elect exiles.” The elect exiles are those who have been sanctified by the Spirit and who obey Jesus Christ through trusting in his blood. We were enemies but have become the exiles in the Lord’s kingdom. We now shine as humble servants to a proud world. God must demonstrate his hatred toward sin and death because He is just. Good cannot tolerate evil, but God has overcome evil through the blood of his cross. He has taken former enemies, like you and I, and turned us into his humble servants against the deeds of darkness. We are called now to go into all the world to rescue people from the Prince of darkness by calling them to repent for the forgiveness of their sins.
You can experience His love by turning to Christ and trusting in His death on your behalf or you can wait for His wrath. We are either children of God or children of wrath. John 3:16-18,
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
God sent Jesus so that you might be saved through Him. God does not want you as His enemy. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned. Believe in Him. Turn and experience His love today. Submit to Him as your King for, “The kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” You can overcome your sin by turning in love to the Savior. Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.
God hates sin. Sin separates people from God, but desires for sinners to be reconciled to him. Reconciliation is a mark of God’s people. We are reconciled to God and help others be reconciled to him. Alexander III was Tsar of Russia from 1881-1894. His rule was marked by oppression and persecution of Jews. Maria, his wife, was far more compassionate and gracious to the people of Russia. One day Alexander sentenced an enemy of the empire to death as an exile. He sent an order, “Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia.” This enemy was to be an exile. The hate of Alexander towards enemies led to a certain death. His wife, however, intercepted the order and changed the place of the comma. The new order read, “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia.” The man was set free. Beloved, in Christ, God has changed the sentence that stood against us. We all deserve, as enemies, his just judgment, “Pardon impossible, to be sent Hell,” but God has taken our judgment for us in Christ so now all believers hear, “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Hell.”
Friends, we all have the opportunity for pardon. God has promised to change our sentence. He has promised a pardon for the humble who bow their knee to Him as Lord, but wrath and fury for the proud who live as their own Lord. There is only one Sovereign. Do not experience God’s hatred towards sin, and his wrath against sinners. Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Humble yourself and receive Christ’s pardon.
[ii] Carson, D.A. The Difficult Doctrine of God’s Love. Crossway Books; Wheaton. C.2000
[iv] Stuart Scott. Pursue the Servants Mindset. Journal of Biblical Counseling. Vol. 17.3.1999 https://www.gracebaptistchurch.info/gbcj25/images/forms/Pridehumility.pdf, 11.
[v] Stuart Scott, 13.