By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
There is a common misconception among people that God loves sinners; moreover unconditionally. This is a fallacious argument. The justification given for this mundane claim is the statement by the apostle Paul, in Romans 5:8, ‘But God has shown us how much he loves us – it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!’ There are other related scriptures that are relied upon in this claim, but this is the most prominently quoted and relied upon verse.
On the contrary, I submit that actually God doesn’t love sinners. He dislikes them. And that is why He executes justice against them. This justice is not pleasant and desired by sinners, because it is not a pat on the back, or a flying kiss, or a friendly smile, or a bouquet of flowers, and so on. It is punishment, which, as defined by A.S. Hornby, A.P. Cowie, and A.C. Gimson, Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English, at page 690, is a, ‘penalty inflicted for wrongdoing.’ In this case, wrongdoing is sinning against God.
What happens in truth is that God is only patient with, merciful to, or tolerant of sinners, in spite of their sins. It is this patience, mercy, and tolerance that many mistake for being love of sinners. God is patient with, merciful to, and tolerant of sinners, so as to give them an opportunity to repent their sins, turn away from Satan and his evil ways that lead to desolation, and instead embrace their creator, God, who has plans of prosperity and a good future for them (see, Jeremiah 29:11), but not disaster, as does Satan.
God wonderfully and fearfully created mankind (see, Psalms 139:14) in His own image (see, Genesis 1:27). That’s why a person’s body is God’s temple (see, 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17). Now, when the person sins, his or her body (and consequently God’s temple) is polluted by that sin, and that draws away God’s spirit from him or her. The person loses holiness that is characteristic of God and His dwelling places. Yet God abhors sin, because it is contrary to His nature. So, He distances Himself from the unholy sinner, since like light and darkness, God and the sinner are incompatible, and cannot co-exist; so much so that God also forsook or separated Himself from Jesus while on the cross, (see, Matthew 27:46) when all the sins of the world were finally heaped on Him who was otherwise sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Dear reader, at this stage, the person is two-in-one – original good person, and now bad, sinful and unholy being. God always loves the first person – that wonderfully and fearfully created original person (for that bond is unbreakable, since even those condemned to hell, will always be God’s creatures); and that’s why He sent Jesus to salvage man’s sin-tainted soul by dying on the cross, as stated in John 3:16, ‘For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its savior.’ It is in this line of thought that the apostle Paul wrote those famous and popular words, in Romans 5:8, ‘But God has shown us how much he loves us – it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!’ By these words, Paul meant God’s love for the original good person, now turned sinful, whom God is only patient with, merciful to, and tolerant of, desiring for him another chance at redemption. A selfish and diluted interpretation of Romans 5:8 will give it an utterly absurd meaning.
But God doesn’t love the second person – the sinner. That’s for sure, without doubt. The sinner who doesn’t make use of God’s grace period of patience, mercy, and tolerance, he or she must await God’s justice, which is his or her lot, as stated by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:23, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ The unrepentant sinner rejects God, thereby leaving God with no choice, but to turn away from him or her, because, as stated by Grace to You, God cannot look upon sin (see, Grace to You, ‘Why Did Jesus Cry, “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”’ www.gty.org/resources/bible-qna/BQ032913). When God does this, He no longer loves that sinful person. Lest it be said that God and Satan are in alliance! This leaves the sinner to his or her chosen master, Satan.
Yet the two-in-one person must be judged as one entity by God. It is at this point that sinners get in a hopeless state, because God will either command or permit punishment upon them, since, as well stated and illustrated by Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, at page 230:
Men cannot with impunity reject the warning which God in mercy sends them. A message was sent from heaven to the world in Noah’s day, and their salvation depended upon the manner in which they treated that message. Because they rejected the warning, the Spirit of God was withdrawn from the sinful race, and they perished in the waters of the Flood. In the time of Abraham, mercy ceased to plead with the guilty inhabitants of Sodom, and all but Lot with his wife and two daughters were consumed by fire sent down from heaven. So in the days of Christ. The Son of God declared to the unbelieving Jews of that generation: “Your house is left unto you desolate.” Matthew 23:38. Looking down to the last days, the same Infinite Power declares, concerning those who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved”: “For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12. As they reject the teachings of His word, God withdraws His Spirit and leaves them to the deceptions which they love.
Misinterpretation of the scriptures has led to so much licentiousness (total immoral freedom to do as one pleases) among God’s people, vainly believing that they can sin and offend God, and get away with it; after all, they have His assumed divine promise of unconditional eternal love. This is regrettable ignorance of God and His nature; and Satan, in his characteristically cunning and deceptive manner, exploits this ignorance among God’s people, to his destructive advantage.
For, again as stated by Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, at page 331, ‘Satan leads many to believe that God will overlook their unfaithfulness in the minor affairs of life; but the Lord … will in no way sanction or tolerate evil. All who endeavor to excuse or conceal their sins, and permit them to remain upon the books of heaven, unconfessed and unforgiven, will be overcome by Satan. … The case of all such is hopeless.’ Their cases are hopeless because Habakkuk 1:13 has declared of God, ‘Your eyes are too holy to look at evil, and you cannot stand the sight of people doing wrong.’ And God Himself has declared, in Habakkuk 2:4, that, ‘Those who are evil will not survive, but those who are righteous will live because they are faithful to God.’ (Emphasis added.)
So, I assert that the evil ones – the sinners – will not survive, because God does not love them, while the righteous ones will survive, because God loves them. The statement by the apostle Paul, in Romans 5:8 should be put in its proper context. I hope this opinion goes far enough to make it better understood. Dear reader, may God bless you abundantly.