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What Does It Mean to “Hate Sin”

Psalm 97:10 says, “You who love the LORD, hate evil.” What does that mean in a practical way for the believer?

The first thing to note is that hating sin is not mentioned in a vacuum. It comes after the first part of the verse: “Love God.” Without a passionate love for God, there is really no need to hate sin, because sin is not offensive if there is no God. If there is no God who defines moral absolutes, then the definition of sin is relative to culture, time and circumstance.

However, if a person recognizes that there is a God who defines what is right and wrong, then the choice is whether or not to align oneself with the will of the deity or against the will of the deity. This verse does not speak to the latter. To the former, it assumes that those who are on God’s side are there because they love Him passionately.

Loving God itself means more than having warm feelings about God when you think of Him. Love is an action, a decision, a direction. Love is a commitment to please someone other than self. This kind of love finds its truest fulfillment when directed to our Creator who gave us the capacity to both desire and appreciate His infinite Being.

If this is so, then some might ask, “Why bother even mentioning the need to hate evil.” That is because of the inherent human tendency toward error. How many times is the failure of Israel recorded in scripture regarding the mixing of the worship of God with the worship of idols? How many times did Israel fall into the temptation to believe that they could truly devote themselves in love to God something or someone else?

This warning is for everyone who loves God: hate evil. Be aligned perfectly with God so that anything which is a deviation from His nature is an utter stench to your nostrils. Do not attempt to dissect it, study it or play with it. Hate it. Do not even give sin the time of day.

How does this pan out in modern terms?

First and foremost, it is seen in what you seek. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Do not claim to be devoted to Jesus and then spend every waking moment seeking wealth. Seek His kingdom to be built in your life, the lives of your family members, your friends and your community or sphere of influence.

Second, it plays out in your relationships. Do not date sinners. That is a clear command from scripture in Corinthians much less being common sense for a believer. In fact, if you are passionate about God, why would you want to attach yourself to someone who even claims to be a follower of Jesus but is lukewarm? (“But God, he/she looked so good” or “I was so lonely” doesn’t really cut it on judgment day, does it?)

Third, do an audit of what you watch, read and listen to for entertainment. You may not be able to change your coworkers or your family members from spewing a potty mouth, but you can certainly choose to turn off the TV or radio or put down the book, newspaper or magazine that is filled with evil. “How would I feel reading this out loud to Jesus or watching this with Jesus” is a good question to ask.

It goes beyond just these simple items. Injustice is a big thing to God. When you see it around you, don’t simply shrug your shoulders and say, “Oh, well.” Hate the injustice. If you can, do something about it. Exercise influence. Vote. Write letters.

In short, show God how much you love Him by acting against that which He Himself hates.

One final note is that the writer does not say, “Hate evil people.” Yes, the Bible says that God is angry with the wicked every day. But He still maintains perfect love toward them, hoping that they will turn from wickedness and follow the Truth. Our job is to be salt and light to evil people so they may taste and see that our LORD is good.

What better way to hate evil than to rescue someone from the deadly grip of the evil one? What better way to show God that you love Him than to introduce someone else to Him?

You who love the LORD, hate evil.

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