If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.-1 John 1:8-9
Is it true that God hates the sin but loves the sinner? Well, yes, in one sense, but not completely. Fourteen times in the first fifty psalms alone, we read of God’s hatred toward the sinner, his wrath toward the liar, and so on. And the Old Testament doesn’t stand alone on this. In John 3-the same chapter where we find John 3:16, one of the most famous verses about God’s love-we find one of the most neglected verses about God’s wrath: “Whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
Sin is not something that exists outside of us. Sin is ingrained into the core of our being. We don’t just sin, we exist as sinners. So, when Jesus went to the cross to die, he was not just taking the payment of sin, as if it were separate from us. Instead, he was paying the price that was due us as sinners. He was dying for us, in our place, as our substitute. In the words of Isaiah 53, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;… and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” When Jesus was pulverized under the weight of God’s wrath on the cross, he experienced what you and I deserve to experience. He endured the full punishment that was due you and me as sinners.
Therefore, we must be careful not to lean on comfortable clichés that rob the Cross of its meaning. At the Cross, God showed the full expression of both his wrath and his love, as Jesus was stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, crushed and chastised for the sake of sinners.
Does God hate sinners? Absolutely. Look at the Cross. Jesus endured what we were due.
Does God love sinners? Absolutely. Look at the Cross. Jesus saved us from all we were due.
God is holy, possessing righteous wrath toward sin and sinners alike. Yet God is also merciful, possessing holy love toward sinners. And because of his grace, his mercy, and his love, we have been invited to follow him.