Chris Northcott: Why ‘Hell’ Does Not Equal ‘Hate’

Chris Northcott (guest contributor) explains how a Christian speaking of ‘hell’ or ‘sin’ does not at all need to mean that he or she ‘hates’.
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Some of the most powerful ideas are the ones that are not spoken. One of the most widespread assumptions in the Israel Folau social media saga is the idea that if someone thinks a particular person or type of person will ‘go to hell’, then they must necessarily hate them. The same goes for the application of the word ‘sin’ or ‘sinner’ to an action or a person: it is commonly thought that either of these words must carry with it an expression of hatred. Although there will certainly be cases where this is true, in many cases it is not, and it is certainly not a necessity.

There are a range of opinions among Christians on the fate of those without faith in Jesus after death. ‘Hell’ is just one of them. It is not universally held position among Christians, but for those who do hold to it, hell is not an unjust punishment in light of the appalling-ness of sin and the sacredness of the One who is sinned against. Laying aside the silly caricatures of hell based upon portrayals from lively medieval imaginations, hell is a seriously frightening prospect. But to say someone will be going there does not mean that one hates them.

Christians do not suppose themselves to be the gatekeepers to heaven, although some of them no doubt act as though they were. They do not regard themselves the rule-makers for human life, nor the determiners of morality, nor judges who hold the prerogative to condemn or acquit people. That is not the case. Instead, the case is that Christians believe themselves, and humankind universally, to be under the authority of a higher Power who has created us all. They hold that human beings are designed and given the dignity of responsibility to live up to, and in accordance with their purpose. They hold that this Creator is the Judge. It is he who condemns, and it is he who acquits.

For ‘hell’ to be ‘hate’ one would have to be wishing hell upon someone, perhaps in the manner of a curse. Calling divine judgement upon someone is not something many people would do lightly. Jesus told off his disciples once for suggesting it (Luke 9:51-56), and elsewhere instructed them to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). Christians will certainly disagree about many things non-Christians hold. That is simply part of living in a world of differing faiths and values. But disagreement – even strong disagreement – is not the same as hate, and hate is not something Christians should be inclined to do.

So if hell does not equal hate, what does motivate such speaking? I can think of three possibilities.

  1. Hate. It is indeed a potential motivator. Unfortunately, there are groups and individuals who identify as Christians and who clearly do hate others. But this is not something we should expect from a mature, stable Christian.
  2. Love and concern. Christians believe there will be a judgement of all people. This reality isn’t within their power to change. Given this belief, a concern for the fate of others and the loving desire to share the way of salvation should not be surprising. Even though it may surprise some people, most Christians are actually rather nice. They just don’t think they can change ‘metaphysical’ reality (i.e. God, and nor do they want to). They don’t want people to suffer for finding themselves on the wrong side of that reality.
  3. Indignation. To the Biblical God who Christians worship, ‘sin’ is offensive. People should be more surprised when Christians are not likewise indignant, rather than surprised when they are. True, Christian indignation should be tempered by humility, since they know that not one of them is free from sin. But nevertheless, what motivates this kind of indignation in Christians is that the righteousness of God is not reflected in his creatures.

Christians often use the phrase ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’. It’s clumsy language, because what someone does, comes out of who they are and what they love. Who people are and what they do are not so easily separated, even if that is the intention. However, motivations and intentions are important, even if misread. And the intention of ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ is easy enough to grasp.

‘Hell’ isn’t necessarily motivated by hate although it can be interpreted as such, even correctly sometimes. But normally the motivations behind such language will be both indignation and love.  People can indeed feel simultaneous conflicting emotions toward the same person. Even when people commit the most despicable criminal acts they do not dispel the strong affections felt by their friends and family toward them. These people will care for them and love them all the while hating what they have done and knowing it comes from a part of who they are. They do indeed hate the ‘crime’ but love the ‘criminal’.

Christians hold that God displays both love and indignation. There is a verse in the Bible that says “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This verse shows a loving act (Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross), for people who are deemed ‘sinners’. No one supposes that God hates people because they are called ‘sinners’. Instead, the sacrifice of Christ so that the sinners indebtedness might be forgiven is the great act ofGod’s gracious love. People who have received such love should have the same such love to spare for others. Not simply for family and friends but for strangers and enemies as well. Christians can love not just “because God first loved us” (1John 4:19), but also AS God first loved us. Those who are Christ’s are indignant toward sin – the sin that is in others as well as the sin that is in themselves. But at the same time they can love those who sin, and direct them to the mercy they see offered in Jesus. They do this so that ‘hell’ will not be the reality they someday face. ‘Hell’ isn’t a curse. It’s a warning.

This is why ‘hell’ does not equal ‘hate’.

Chris Northcott is a graduate of Laidlaw College and serves as a youth pastor at Lincoln Road Bible Chapel, Auckland

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6 comments for “Chris Northcott: Why ‘Hell’ Does Not Equal ‘Hate’

  1. Roland Green
    7 May 2019 at 6:45 pm

    A very good treatise Chris. It is because of experiencing God’s love, being rescued, and saved from the consequence of our sin that we desire all others come into that experience.

  2. Willis
    7 May 2019 at 7:47 pm

    –[Why “Hell” does not equal “Hate”] — wasn’t the most well thought out Title? I would say Hell does indeed equal Hate in addition to everything else Satan represents. How can you say that Hell does not equal Hate????? Perhaps the Headline would have been better to say “Speaking about Hell, or Warning about Hell does not equal Hate?????” (Whether true or not) …… that aside, the article raises some interesting issues that provoke thought? … QUOTE – “For ‘hell’ to be ‘hate’ one would have to be wishing hell upon someone, perhaps in the manner of a curse. Calling divine judgement upon someone is not something many people would do lightly. ” – COMMENT – As I commented above, how Hell …. cannot equate to Hate is a mystery?? and brings a fundamental semantic flaw to the article. When he writes of people calling divine judgment upon someone is not something many people would do lightly, is something that should not be done at all. See “John 8:7 – 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” … In essence one sinner should not condemn another sinner for sinning either the same and/or differently to themselves. Furthermore we see in “Matthew 7:3-5 – 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” …. QUOTE – ” ..I can think of three possibilities.
    (1) Hate. It is indeed a potential motivator. Unfortunately, there are groups and individuals who identify as Christians and who clearly do hate others. But this is not something we should expect from a mature, stable Christian.
    (2) Love and concern. Christians believe there will be a judgement of all people. This reality isn’t within their power to change. Given this belief, a concern for the fate of others and the loving desire to share the way of salvation should not be surprising. Even though it may surprise some people, most Christians are actually rather nice. They just don’t think they can change ‘metaphysical’ reality (i.e. God, and nor do they want to). They don’t want people to suffer for finding themselves on the wrong side of that reality.
    (3) Indignation. To the Biblical God who Christians worship, ‘sin’ is offensive. People should be more surprised when Christians are not likewise indignant, rather than surprised when they are. True, Christian indignation should be tempered by humility, since they know that not one of them is free from sin. But nevertheless, what motivates this kind of indignation in Christians is that the righteousness of God is not reflected in his creatures.”…………. –
    COMMENT – .. ” Hate? concedes that there are those who identify as Christians who do exercise Hate when speaking of Hell … So what parameters determine which are and which aren’t? Intentions? – Love & Concern? the concerns listed are not so contentious, but the key here is “LOVE” .. If there is a perspective of LOVE .. why would “HELL” (The Oppsite of LOVE) .. occupy the conversation. Should not the focus be GRACE and LOVE? Its not to say that consequences should not be mentioned ….. but mentioning the consequences as the Bible does is the key .. “AS THE BIBLE DOES” .. looking at Israels Post he states Galatians 5:19-21 KJV and Acts 2:38 KJV and Acts 17:30 KJV …. The words Warning Hell Awaits You or Hell do not feature in any of those verses. In fact …. According to the consensus opinion of modern Bible scholars, the word “hell” did not appear a single time, not even once, in the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament (OT). And the word “hell” is very hard to find in the New Testament (NT) as well. You can easily confirm this fact yourself, by using an online Bible search tool to scan various Bible translations for the word “hell.” .. SO if out of Love & Concern you wish to speak to loved ones than speak of the LOVE and GRACE of GOD and also the Consequences HOW THE BIBLE DOES! Its really simple! ( Israel quotes Galatians 5:19-21 KJV in hos post which amly does this) . When the blog writer speaks of Christian Indignation, I’ll comment simply by saying this … True Indignaiton is not within the Graceful Heart of a true Christ Like follower. ….. QUOTE – “‘Hell’ isn’t necessarily motivated by hate although it can be interpreted as such, even correctly sometimes. But normally the motivations behind such language will be both indignation and love. ” – COMMENT – The thought that Hell isnt motivated by Hate is again an unwise statement. It is indeed motivated by Hate and all things Satan . Perhaps the statement might have been better to have read “Speech in regard to Hell is not always motivated by Hate” … That may actually be so, when the speaker is not yet spiritually mature enough to grasp that when talking about the consequences of not having a Saviour such as Jesus, this should be spoken in the words used in the Bible and New Testament. So when the text of “Hell” and going to “Hell” is bought into it , I say that it is either a lack of spiritual maturity, ranging through to varying degrees of hate motivation. – QUOTE – ” Christians hold that God displays both love and indignation. ” – COMMENT – Firstly it should read “Some” Christians (as not all would be in consensus I suspect). I would suggest God is both LOVE and JUST … (which is why Sin must be paid to enter into Heaven and a place of no sin, and why Jesus covers that debt). BUT to say Indignantion? indignation is anger or annoyance provoked by what is perceived as unfair treatment? I’m not certain that this is perhaps the best way to describe any contrast? Still its open for interpretation. – QUOTE – ” Those who are Christ’s are indignant toward sin – the sin that is in others as well as the sin that is in themselves. But at the same time they can love those who sin, and direct them to the mercy they see offered in Jesus. They do this so that ‘hell’ will not be the reality they someday face. ‘Hell’ isn’t a curse. It’s a warning. This is why ‘hell’ does not equal ‘hate’. ” – COMMENT – ” If a Christian is Idignant towards sin … I see no issue with it in themselves, BUT in “others” .. I again refer to my commentary above in which sinners should not feel indignant towards other sinners (from a spiritual point of view) for sinning either the same and/or differently. But the key here is the writer has it correct when he says “they can love those who sin, and direct them to the mercy they see offered in Jesus” which I absolutely agree with (John 3:16). This should always be the focus because this represents Unconditional Love, Sacrifical Love, Pure and Complete Love, Mercy, Grace, Care, Kindness, and all such things. The writer however continues on to say ” They do this so that ‘hell’ will not be the reality they someday face. ‘Hell’ isn’t a curse. It’s a warning. This is why ‘hell’ does not equal ‘hate’ … which is fatally flawed because the consqeuences do not speak of Hell in many verses .. (again Hell is the description that Christians have all come to know and describe as the Devils domain). The consquences of unpaid sin are that such people will not inherit the Kingdom of God. That is the warning which should be given in contrast to the Gift of Grace in a subservient context to Grace as shown in John 3:16 for which the context of John 3:17 should not be lost. Therefore while I think the writer has raised some very good issues, I think the Title and Theme and some statements were fatally flawed with unwise word selection, and the overall conclusion ” ‘hell’ does not equal ‘hate’ ” is not only wrong becaue Hell, as we appear to understand it .. does equal Hate and other related things … it is also contradictory to the train of though, and most believers in God would probably agree, that Hell does equal Hate. If the words were (as suggested repeatidly above) were to say “Speech about Hell might not equal Hate” or something in that manner, than it comes down to the intent? The fact that there are instances the writer concedes Some who identify as Christians do hate others, that therefore concedes that some may well have the intention of hate behind their discussion of statements regarding Hell, which then defeats the conclusion the writer makes? more bluntly put, the writer may well have been better off to say the “Statements about Hell don’t always equal Hate?”. Overall its hard when objectively looking at most statements about Hell, as Israel has done, that there is not least a Bias of Indigantion or slight Hate in there, when some serious classes of sin didnt make the grade for the mentioned sinners (eg. Murderers) in his Meme. In the end, whether there is hate behind the Hell statements wil always be a matter of debate of the intent. I believe the more important question is ….could any statements about Hell be said “Better”. The answer is Yes, and the how is found in the Bible. Quote the Bible without edit and parapharse and from a place of intention with spiritual wisdom and Grace!

  3. Susan
    8 May 2019 at 7:12 am

    Hell is basically a state of mind – that of realising one’s soul chose unbelief rather than to seek out what God says is true, and regretting the choice, with no way back to start again, which is what Jesus has given us while we are in the body and grace is here. With many souls in this bracket this would make the place ‘hell’ – cut off from the grace of God, about which state humanity has been told (but preferred to take no notice, so it would seem – but it’s not for us to judge other hearts). We can only make ourselves available to proclaim the Good News how we can, risking the results as the servant is not greater than the Master.

  4. Harvey Rosieur
    8 May 2019 at 1:21 pm

    I find Chris’s article quite straightforward. I cannot comment on the state of mind or understanding of those who see it differently. Take a vessel ( a cup for example. ) Fill it with poison. It is not the cup which is poisonous ,but the contents. Empty the cup and cleanse it and it is good for noble use. Like us. God loves us but He hates what can be in our evil and corrupt hearts . He loves us and is not willing that any should perish , and through the Holy Spirit He pursues us in our detestable state, convicts us of sin, forgives and cleanses us and accepts us into His House. By giving us His Spirit, to live in us, guide us , teach us and correct us until finally we shall be perfect like Him.
    Incidentally, Hell is not merely a state of mind but a literal place. To suggest otherwise is a departure from truth and serious misunderstanding of all that scripture teaches. Such misunderstanding is a clear example of the danger of the false teaching which has lead the church to its present apostate state .To deny the truth of the word of God is blasphemy but some teachers today seem quite comfortable to change it to suit their purposes. We need to be changed to conform to God’s Truth.God never changes.

  5. Michael
    8 May 2019 at 6:33 pm

    “You’re going to hell” is essentially the grown-up version of “my big brother is going to beat you up!”

    I would say it is hate, but more a form of manipulation – manipulation into joining a certain religion and following certain rules.

  6. Susan Stanger
    12 May 2019 at 4:52 pm

    I would say that to show ‘love’ to anybody be they a relative, friend or a stranger is not only necessary but we are commanded by God to do it. To point out bible verses to a Christian or an unbeliever is showing ‘love’ because sometimes the truth hurts. If I didn’t ‘love’ my children then I wouldn’t teach them right from wrong and correct them…that is being a good parent.
    To tell christians they are being ‘judgemental’ is to actually not want to admit and confess your sin. Is it not better to offend someone else in this life than say nothing? How you say it of course should be motivated by love.
    To want to warn others about the dangers of Hell (which is an actual place) that the path they’re on is leading to there is a ‘loving’ thing to do. Jesus loved people but he confronted them with their sin, forgave them, healed them or met their need as needed. (ultimately salvation).
    How we speak, tell, preach etc Jesus and his gospel message to people is important.
    We are not to ‘judge’ but to point them
    to Jesus. It is the Holy Spirit ‘s role to convict people. Sadly there are many Christians who do not have the truth of God themselves and are being deceived. The bible verse Israel Folau quoted is true, all of us have sinned and unless we have or will repent and turn to Jesus we would or will go to Hell. It is not hate but the truth. The power of Jesus is the only way to salvation.

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