Having teens and now twenty-something daughters has helped me keep up with contemporary slang terms (kind of). One of the phrases that I learned from them a few years ago was, “don’t be a hater.” As I understand the phrase, it means something like, “don’t be jealous of me because of what I am/have,” or “don’t dislike someone or something that you may not know very well.” The sense is that the hatred being expressed is irrational or even unwise.
But not all hatred is in that category. Some hatred is good. And the kind of hatred that is the best is hatred of sin. In fact, Paul indicates that hatred of sin is one of the marks of salvation and spiritual maturity.
No unredeemed sinner hates his sin. He may dislike its consequences. He may not like feeling controlled by its compelling impulses and habits. But he won’t hate his sin. Because (by definition) he is a hater of God, he cannot be a hater of his sin. But when one trusts in Christ, his heart is changed. He becomes a lover of God and in loving God, he loves what God loves and hates what God hates. And since God hates sin, the child of God also hates sin.
That hatred is a gift and blessing from God. Because hating sin is a step towards overcoming and defeating sin. No one will say “no” to sin if he doesn’t hate his sin. As long as he loves his sin he will keep saying, “yes” to that sin. That is one of the implications of Paul’s statement in Romans 7:15 — “…I am doing the very thing I hate.” As part of his conversion, God gave Paul (and gives every believer) a hatred of sin. And that hatred helped keep Paul from sin. Though he still sinned on occasion, he did not delight in the sin, and he did not always sin, as he had as an unbeliever. And when he sinned, it grieved him.
And since God has likewise given us a hatred of sin, we do well to cultivate that hatred of sin. When we see enticements to sin, we must search for its ungodly roots and expose the idolatrous lies that feed it and be repulsed by its anticipated consequences. Hating sin is a good thing, as many theologians and believers have affirmed. Consider these few examples:
“When we sin, we show disdain for God’s fatherly love as well as His holy authority. We spurn not merely His law, but also His very person. To sin is to deny God His place. It is an expression of hatred against God. It is tantamount to wishing He were dead. It is dishonoring to Him.” [John MacArthur, A Tale of Two Sons]
“It is not just confessing yourselves to be sinners, it is not knowing your condition to be sad and deplorable, so long as you continue in your sins: your care and endeavours should be to get the heart thoroughly affected, therewith, that you may feel yourselves to be lost and undone creatures …Resolve to leave all thy sinful lusts and pleasures.” [George Whitfield]
“…a sanctified person can say he not only leaves sin, but loathes it. As there are antipathies in nature between the vine and laurel, so in a sanctified soul there is a holy antipathy against sin; and antipathies can never be reconciled. Because a man has an antipathy against sin, he cannot but oppose it, and seek the destruction of it.” [Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity]
“Since I came to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, the great mystery of godliness in His Son and the dealings of the Father with the Son, the Lord knows now that I abhor sin in secret more than I abhor hell itself.” [Jeremiah Burroughs]
“A principal part of his evidence that he is a believer arises from that abhorrence of sin which he habitually fells. It is true, sin still dwelleth in him; but he loathes and resists it; upon this account he is in a state of continual warfare; if he was not so, he could not have the witness in himself that he is born of God.” [John Newton]
These authors echo the truth heralded by Paul in Romans 7. Hatred is good when its object is sin. It is necessary to hate sin. We are living our identity in Christ when we hate sin. When we hate sin, it is neither irrational nor unwise.
So we might say, “When it comes to sin, be a hater.”