It’s hard to believe that I would even need to post an article to make this point to anyone, especially to other Christians. But, apparently, there are many who actually do believe that God hates the wicked and despises sinners.
Who? You ask. Well, people like pastor, author and Bible teacher R.C. Sproul, for example.
Try to watch this clip below without throwing up. [It wasn’t easy for me].
So, just to summarize:
*There’s nothing more dangerous than preaching that God loves people unconditionally.
*People who hear this message of unconditional love may come to believe that God’s love for them isn’t dependent upon their repentance of sin.
*Mister Roger’s Neighborhood is better than the Kingdom of God.
*God loves Christ and then only those who are in Christ [Christians].
*God abhors [detests] the wicked [Psalm 11:5]
*God doesn’t send the sin to hell, He sends the sinner to hell.
*God is angry every day against the wicked [according to the “Biblical Character of God”]
*Every sinner is exposed to the rage and fury of God every second of every day. [See Romans 1:18]
*We shouldn’t “take the terror out of it [the Gospel]” [See 2 Cor. 5:11]
*The sinner needs to be terrified about his condition.
*To bring our nation into righteousness our preaching must dramatically change [to this message of fear/terror].
Got all that?
Where to begin? Well, for one I’d start with Jesus who never told us that God hates the wicked, and who told us that if we’ve seen Him we’ve seen the Father. So, what do we see when we look at Jesus? We see a God who loves sinners and embraces the unrighteous, and shows great compassion on the unwashed and the unholy.
We also read in the New Covenant scriptures that God so loved the world that He gave us Jesus: to show us this love, to demonstrate this love, and to teach us to love others in the same way.
How does Jesus respond to the sinners who nailed him to a cross? He prayed for their forgiveness even as they were in the act of murdering him.
How does Jesus respond when he rises from the dead and returns to face those who crucified him? He breathes “Peace” upon them and reminds them to follow his example of love.
Next, I’d look at the Apostles. Because, if it is so important and vital to preach the terror of God, and to emphasize the wrath and fury of God before we share the “Good News”, then why is it we never – not once – see any of the Apostles preaching about wrath, or fire, or condemnation, or fear?
For example, there are around 6 different sermons preached in the book of the Acts of the Apostles and guess how many of them include references to hell, fire, fear, anger, wrath or fury? [Go ahead, guess].
None of them.
Not a single one.
In fact, what we see is that Paul speaks to idol-worshiping pagans in Athens and affirms these truths to them:
*They are the children of God
*God loves them and showers them with blessings so that they might turn to Him
*They are already in God and are sustained by God no matter what they do
*God wants them to reconsider this information and turn to God
*God will judge the world in righteousness through Jesus Christ, whom He raised from the dead
Now, I get it: That phrase “Judge the world” is in there, so that must be the “fear” and the “wrath” part, right?
Well, if so, it doesn’t seem to have created much fear in his listeners. In fact, the only reaction to any of this is related to his statement about the resurrection from the dead, not to the world being judged in righteousness.
Paul doesn’t mention sin, or hell, or eternal conscious torment. He mentions a God who created us, cares for us, wants us to turn to Him, and who sustains us in every way – regardless of our condition towards Him.
That…sorta seems like…unconditional love….doesn’t it?[And yes, Paul does mention the word “repent” in his sermon to the Athenians, but that word in the Greek is literally about re-thinking our position, not about being sorry for our sins].
As long as we’re talking about Paul’s message, let’s look a little further to see what he has to say about things like sins and judgement.
“…in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” [2 Cor. 5:19]
What is our message? That God, in Christ, reconciled the world to Himself.
What does God want us to tell people when it comes to their sins? That God does NOT count their sins against them.
What is the message God has entrusted to us? The message of reconciliation [not fear, wrath, fury and conditional love].
How is that R.C. Sproul, and his friend John MacArthur, [and many others], get this so wrong? Aren’t they quoting scriptures to prove their point?
Yes, and that’s really the problem. It’s too easy to quote 2 Cor. 5:11 where Paul refers to “the fear of the Lord” as a motivation to preach the “Bad News” Gospel, and then totally ignore 2 Cor. 5:19 [just a few verses later] where Paul says that God doesn’t count anyone’s sins against them anymore and that we should carry the message of reconciliation, not fear.
In other words: They only see what they want to see. And, unfortunately, what they want to see is a God who is angry and full of wrath and fury; a God who hates and detests and abhors the wicked.
Why, I wonder, don’t they want to see a God that looks like Jesus? Why do they want to ignore a God who forgives sins before anyone even asks for forgiveness or thinks to repent? Why do they want to emphasize the Bad News rather than fully embrace the Good News [which is better by far than they can even imagine at this point]?
I think it boils down to this: You either believe in a God who looks like Jesus, or you don’t.
Some say they do, but in practice the God they believe in looks a lot more like King David who longs to dash the infants of his enemies against the rocks, or like Moses who wanted the Israelites to slaughter toddlers and split open the bellies of pregnant mothers, and kill every living thing without showing any mercy.
That is not the God who we see if we have seen Jesus clearly.
An insistence upon a flat Bible perspective is what leads us to this schizophrenic God who is both a blood-thirsty, angry, despiser of the wicked, and at the same time a God who is love and who looks exactly like Jesus.
We cannot have it both ways.
And the Good News is, we don’t need to. Jesus has come to reveal the Father to us! We can now see who God is and what God is like: God is merciful. God is forgiving. God does not count our sins against us. God keeps no record of wrongs. God is love. God does not hold this love over us and dangle it like a piece of candy that we can only receive when we jump through the hoops.
If you have children, you understand this implicitly. Your love for your children isn’t based on what they do, or fail to do. Even if they did something horrible, or even evil, you would still love them even if your heart was breaking for what they had done.
If we can love our children this way, how much more can our perfect “Abba” Father God – who IS love – love us?
If anything, I believe our message should be to everyone – sinner and saints alike – something like this: “Rejoice! You are so loved by God! Your sins are forgiven! They are forever washed away! Come, get to know this God whose love for you is wider, higher, longer and deeper than you could ever imagine! You won’t regret spending the rest of your life discovering the endless love of God for you.”
That, my friends, is the Good News. And that’s what I wish we could all join together to believe, and to proclaim boldly.
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.
His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.
He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.
Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean.
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