CW: self-harm, depression, pornography, shame, self-hatred
For anyone who reads the Bible, it’s clear early on that God hates sin and asks Christians to do the same (1 Peter 1:16; Romans 12:9). But hate is a strong word, isn't it? What does biblical hate look like? Unfortunately, history and modern media have portrayed some very unloving "Christians" doing evil, hateful things to both themselves and others in the name of "holiness" and taking on the unnecessary responsibility of "punishing" sin.
Because of our sin nature, all Christians are still tempted by sin and make unwise, unhealthy choices on the daily (Galatians 5:17, Ephesians 4:22). We'll be battling our sin the rest of our earthly lives. When we feel we've failed God, it’s easy to develop a sense of shame and self-loathing. However, neither self-punishment nor self-hatred are biblical ways to hate sin.
God is holy, which means He has no sin in Him (Isaiah 6:3; 1 John 3:5). He is all the things sin is not. “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
Sin is lawlessness and the opposite of our perfect God. Sin is evil. Sin is the root cause of all calamities in this world—including murder, death, and war. Without Christ, we're slaves to sin (John 8:34). Ephesians 2:1 calls those who are unsaved "dead in sin." Sin separates us from God (Romans 6:23). Sin can ruin families, friendships, careers, and our very lives.
That’s why God asks believers to hate sin. Sin is all the unhealthy choices we make that ultimately hurt us. Sin is the opposite of who God is, and, though sin may feel good in the moment, it can destroy everything.
Now, just because God hates sin, that doesn’t mean He hates sinners. In fact, God LOVES sinners. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Later in the same chapter, the Bible talks about how God saved us while we were still His enemies actively working against Him.
This is seen over and over in the Bible. Jesus spoke to and showed compassion for a Samaritan woman who was living a life defined by sinful behavior (John 4:1-42). Jesus reprimanded a crowd ready to stone another woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus even ate with a tax collector, which was akin to publicly dining with a dishonest politician—for tax collectors regularly stole citizens' money and aided the oppressive Roman government (Luke 19:1-10).
Once we have accepted the gift of salvation from God (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9), we receive unconditional titles and promises that are unaffected by any sin committed either before or after that we are saved:
God hates sin AND loves us abundantly. He wants us to do the same.
Remember that God is the judge of our sin—not ourselves (James 4:12). God may reprimand His children, but He will never shame us (Hebrews 12:9-10). He decides what disciplinary measures to take and NEVER asks us to punish ourselves (or others). Self-punishment, self-hatred, and crippling shame are tools used by the enemy to discourage us and make us less effective Christians. (See Romans 8.) In fact, valuing yourself as a child of God can be a form of worshipping Him (Romans 12:1-2).
That said, we DO have a responsibility to avoid sinful behavior (1 Peter 1:15). We aren't going to be perfect at it, but a willingness and desire to TRY is what God is asking for. Growing in our faith is a journey that will last the rest of our lives.
We can take proactive steps to keep sin out of our lives—especially if we're struggling with depression, anxiety, or addictions like pornography, drugs, or self-injury. Proactive steps may include: getting an accountability partner who can pray for you and check up on you, putting filters or restrictions on your phone to protect your mind from tempting images, joining a small group to learn more about faith in God, participating in Bible studies, reading other books that address problem areas in your life, and avoiding triggering scenarios that bring up sinful temptations. These are all healthy, biblical steps to protect yourself from the harmful effects of sinful choices. And NONE of them require you to hate or punish yourself.
Finally, instead of focusing on a list of dos and don’ts, the most effective way to become more Christlike is by spending time with Him in Bible study and prayer. Spending time with God is the first step to “renewing your mind” (Romans 12:2) and developing a healthy understanding of both sin and yourself.
God hates sin and loves us abundantly (Romans 5:8). He wants us to do the same. Neither self-punishment nor self-hatred are biblical ways to hate sin. We learn to hate our sin by understanding God’s unconditional promises and love (Romans 8:38-39), that God may discipline us for sin but never shames us (Hebrews 12:9-10), that we are not responsible for punishing ourselves or others, and that building a relationship with Christ will help develop a healthy understanding of sin and ourselves (Romans 12:2).
Sarah Burkey is a graduate of Frontier School of the Bible with a BA in Youth Ministry. Along the way, she discovered her second passion: geriatric health. Sarah is a physical therapist assistant in a local nursing home. In her free time, she struggles to finish writing her novel, enjoys baking and reading, and watches a little too much anime.