God doesn’t hate!” the young man declared. We had been discussing how God could hate the sin in our lives while he still loved us, the sinners. “God doesn’t hate,” he repeated. “‘Hate’ is too strong a word. Maybe there are things that he just doesn’t tolerate.”

I picked up my side of the discussion. “There are things that God hates,” I said. The young man started to object again, but I preempted him with an upraised hand. “Hold on a second,” I said. “Let me finish. Maybe if we looked at the matter from God’s perspective, we wouldn’t be so quick to say to him, ‘You can’t hate that.’ Who knows? Maybe we’d even be inclined to feel the same way that he feels about certain things.”

“Like what?” the young man asked.

“Well, like…” I paused for a moment. Then I continued, “You know, I’m a father. I have a little girl and a baby boy.”

“So?” he asked.

“My little girl is four-and-a-half years old.”

“So?” he asked again.

“So, what if—God forbid—she were dying of a disease? How do you think I’d feel about that disease?”

“Maybe you’d tell yourself that there was nothing you could do about it,” he answered.

“Maybe,” I went along with him. “Maybe I’d even console myself by deciding that I would just make the time I still had with her very special. Only what if every time I approached her she either looked at me as though I were a total stranger, or she snarled, ‘Get away. I don’t trust you. I don’t like you. I hate you’?”

“Why would she say that?” he asked.

“Suppose it was the disease,” I answered. “Suppose it wasn’t just killing her body. What if the pain were distorting the way she saw things. Tell me, how do you think I’d feel about that disease?”

The young man said nothing, but at that point he didn’t have to say anything. I really didn’t want him to. I wanted to go on, and I did.

“I’ll tell you how I’d feel,” I said. “I’d hate the disease with every part of my being because it was killing her. It had destroyed our existing relationship and would soon steal her away from me for all eternity. Believe me, I would hate that disease very much—so much, in fact, that if I could, I’d grab her by the shoulders and plead with her, ‘Listen to me! You’re dying, but you don’t have to die. Give your disease to me, so you can be free of it once and for all. Just give it to me and let me die instead. You can do that. You can let me die, because you want to know something incredible? I won’t stay dead. Ill come back, and we’ll both be free of it. Then nothing will ever be able to separate you from my love. Don’t die,’ I’d plead with her. ‘Please don’t die!'”

I paused for a moment and asked the young man, “Would I be wrong to hate that disease? Just because I hated it so much would that mean that I hated my daughter?” I shook my head and went on to answer my own question.

“No, I would hate the disease because I loved my daughter. What kind of father would I be if I didn’t care that much?”

After a while, the young man left. I don’t think that he understood what I was trying to tell him. But I understood. I understood a little better for having explained how deeply the Father loves each of us, and how desperately it hurts him to see the disease—our sin working its effect on our lives. I understood just a little better the extent of the Father’s love in sending his “only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

What great love! And what a Father we have! But would we want a Heavenly Father who loved us any less?