Does God love Saddam Hussein?
Saddam Hussein was born on April 28, 1937, son
I am not here today either to support or to vilify
of a poor peasant family in Iraq. In 1947, aged
President Saddam Hussein. There is no doubt,
10, he moved to Baghdad and, 10 years later, he
even if only 10% of the accusations made against
joined the Baath party, an arab socialist party.
him by his own people, by former senior
members of his government and by foreign
When they were able to seize and stabilise their
intelligence agencies are true, that he is
power in 1968 Saddam quickly became vice-
responsible for some utterly wicked and terrible
president of Iraq, at the age of 32.
He nationalized the oil industry.
Some of the things that Saddam Hussein has
He instituted a nation-wide literacy project,
done are unimaginably awful. They should make
making Iraq one of the best educated
us shudder. But our task today is not to construct
countries in the Arab world and achieving an
a biography of Saddam Hussein.
award from UNESCO (explain).
It is to look at the character of God, specifically,
He improved the country’s health-care system
the God of the Bible, the Christian God, who I
to be one of the best in the region.
believe is the only true God – the God who is
really there. And in order to help us think about
In 1979, Saddam became president of Iraq. On
this question of whether God loves Saddam
the day he took power at his party’s conference
Hussein it’s important to keep a couple of facts in
he accused 60 of the government’s most senior
ministers of treason and had them shot. Not
surprisingly that silenced most of the opposition.
The first is that no matter how wicked Saddam is,
and I believe he is very wicked, he is a human
In 1980, Saddam invaded Iran, strongly
being, with all the contradictory and complex
supported and aided by the United States and
emotions and actions that we see in every human
the United Kingdom. During the Iraq-Iran war,
being. There is plenty of evidence that Saddam in
Saddam used chemical weapons on Iranian
his early years did much good for the people of
troops and on Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. By
Iraq. He is cultured, intelligent, kind to those who
1987, Iraq had developed the fourth largest army
are loyal to him and genuinely believes himself to
in the world, with medium range missiles,
be a liberator of his people.
chemical and biological weapons, and a nuclear
weapons development program, funded by oil
The second thing we need to remember is that
exports and all with the approval, or at least the
Saddam’s regime was, for many years, kept in
complicity, of the major Western powers.
power by the people that we, the population of
the UK, elected. And there are other wicked
Then, in 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait. A US-led
regimes around the world that still are kept in
coalition liberated Kuwait the following year and
power by our country and our government. And,
imposed economic sanctions, weapons
since we live in a democracy, that means by us.
inspections and no-fly zones on Iraq. The war
decimated Saddam’s military forces and Iraq’s
The reason we need to remember those things
economy. His refusal over almost 10 years to
will, I hope, become obvious as we go on.
cooperate with UN weapons inspections led to
US-British bombing raids in 1998 and, of course,
So – does God love Saddam Hussein?
ultimately, this year’s war.
In many ways it’s a peculiar question for me to
It has been widely reported, though never
be speaking on at all when you think about it.
conclusively proven, that Saddam has diverted
humanitarian funds from the Iraqi people to his
After all you wouldn’t come up to me and say
personal fortune. As far as we can tell from his
“Does George W Bush love his wife Laura?”
lifestyle, even in the days when the West loved
him and he could go where he pleased, it seems
How do I know? I’m not George Bush – he should
that Saddam is relatively uninterested in money.
really speak for himself, shouldn’t he?
But he is absolutely obsessed with the idea that
Whether I think God loves Saddam Hussein or
people should admire and praise him. Almost any
not, is of no ultimate relevance and probably
poem praising Saddam sent to Iraqi television
very little real interest to anyone.
during his rule was broadcast irrespective of its
So the real question is how can we know what
God thinks about President Hussein?
Well to find out what God thinks we’re going to
God hates wicked people. So how’s Saddam
turn to the place where God speaks to people.
The place where he sets out his plans for the
world, his like and dislikes, his character. And of
Well, it has to be said, that it’s not looking good.
course that place is the Bible.
On the second commandment it is absolutely
clear, isn’t it, that Saddam Hussein has not loved
Specifically we’re going to look at two incidents
other people as himself. He has tortured, killed
involving Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ. And
and abused thousands and brought suffering to
Jesus has authority to speak on such matters in a
way that no one else does. Because Jesus is God
himself, come to earth in human flesh to reveal
On the first commandment it’s not looking good
God to us with unparalleled clarity. What Jesus
either. It seems that President Hussein has not
says, God says.
worshipped the God of the Bible. As far as we can
tell President Hussein worships only one person –
So then, what does Jesus, the one who is God,
himself. He is at the centre of his own universe.
have to say about Saddam Hussein? Well
obviously the answer is nothing, not directly.
And Jesus himself said that those who truly love
Jesus didn’t really talk about Saddam Hussein, or
God, those who listen to God’s word and respond
Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Churchill, Thatcher, Blair,
to what it says will come and trust in Jesus.
Bush, me or you.
And it seems, as far as we can tell, though
Not in the sense of naming people by name – and
obviously it is not given to us to see into people’s
a good job too or the Bible would be an
hearts, that Saddam Hussein has not done this.
excessively long book wouldn’t it? Maybe you
already think it’s an excessively long book! But
But before we say, ah well, that’s it, game over
Jesus did talk an awful lot about what it means
for Saddam, it’s worth reflecting for a minute on
to love and be loved by God.
how we match up to those standards that the
Lord Jesus set out. Love the Lord you God with
And if you’d like to pick up the little piece of
all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your
paper that you should find lying on your seat,
neighbour as yourself.
which is an extract from one of the gospels, the
biographies of Jesus’ life, we’ll see what light
How are you doing? Have you loved your
Jesus can shed on our question.
neighbour as yourself?
You’ll have noticed, no doubt, that Jesus in this
Never taken or even desired to take something
encounter isn’t talking about God’s love for us
that belongs to someone else?
but about our love for God. What Jesus is doing
Never hurt anybody?
here is setting out God’s standard for people who
Never gossiped about anyone?
want to have a relationship with God.
Never excluded anyone from your circle of friends
because they weren’t cool enough?
As Jesus outlines these two greatest
Never cheated in a romantic relationship?
commandments he is telling us something of the
Never risked the life of someone’s child by driving
character of God – he is explaining to us what
faster than the speed limit?
God is like. And it turns out that God is not, as
Never deprived an artist of the money they’ve a
we often imagine him to be, a bit like a massive
right to by copying a CD?
Father Christmas in the sky, just doling out
presents to everyone. He is not the kind of God
And that’s just putting it negatively. I guess we’d
who just sits around in heaven and lets anyone
find it even harder to say we’ve fulfilled what
in, no matter what kind of a life they’ve led.
Jesus asks if we put the question positively: have
you always done absolutely everything you could
The God of the Bible, the God who is there, is a
do to protect, care for and look after others? Let’s
God with moral standards. And they aren’t just
face it none of us have ever loved our neighbour
high moral standards – they are perfect moral
as ourselves. Probably not even for a day.
standards. What does God expect from people?
Certainly not for a week.
What does the one who created us rightly and
justly expect from human beings? Well the
So what about the 1st commandment – the one
answer’s right here: That we will love him with
Jesus said was the most important moral duty in
all our heart, mind, soul and strength. That we
all the universe: Love the Lord your God with all
will love our neighbours as ourselves. That’s
your heart, soul, mind and strength.
God’s moral standard.
Have we done that? Have you accepted the
And the Bible is very clear that God hates
things God says about himself in the Bible? Have
departure or deviation from those standards.
you obeyed his commands and kept his laws?
Have you tried to live your life to glorify only him
And we have all sinned. So, shockingly, we’re all
and not to promote yourself and your own
in the same boat. The same boat as each other –
ambitions? Of course you haven’t. I know I
the same boat as Saddam Hussein. Now you
might find it offensive that I should say that you
are in the same situation as Saddam Hussein.
And the Bible teaches that every single human
being on the face of the planet, no matter how
But it’s true. The things he has done wrong might
good they think they are, no matter how good
be more public than yours. They are almost
other people think they are, has done exactly the
certainly greater evils than you have done. But
all sin, whether we think of it as big or little, is
sufficient to alienate us from a perfect God. We
We have all failed to keep God’s standards. We
have all fallen short of God’s standards, rejected
have all broken the two greatest commandments
his rule and treated other people without love.
in the universe.
The consequence of that is that we all stand
We have all, to use the Bible’s word, sinned. We
under God’s judgment. When we die we will face
might think of that as a slightly old fashioned
God and he will find us wanting. Saddam Hussein
world. But it’s not to do with living with someone
is sinful. And so are you. And so am I. And God
you’re not married to. Sin means, as I’ve just
must and will punish all sin. So does that mean
outlined, rejecting God’s law. Failing to love God
God doesn’t love us? After all if everyone is sinful
with heart mind, soul and strength. Failing to
wouldn’t that mean that God didn’t love anyone?
love our neighbour as ourself. That is sin.
Well no it doesn’t. And we’ll see why if we turn
Now from our perspective, that might not be a
back to our little slips of paper and look briefly at
problem. After all, as far most of us are
another incident in Jesus’ life recorded for us by
concerned, standards are relative. What matters
Mark. You might think that men from the Inland
to me, for my own feelings of moral self-
Revenue are not popular. And you’d be right. But
righteousness, is that I think I’m better than
that is nothing compared to how unpopular tax
collectors were in Jesus’ day. In C1st Israel they
were Jewish people working for the Roman
That however bad some of the things I do are,
empire. So not only were they doing a job which
however much I fail to love both God and other
is unpopular at the best of times. But they were
people, that it’s OK really – because that person
doing it to tax their own countrymen to fund an
over there is worse than I am.
army which was occupying their own country.
Oh, and most of them were corrupt and on the
For many people that is the role that people like
take as well.
Hitler or Osama Bin Laden or Saddam Hussein or
maybe for some of us, George Bush, take on in
So here’s Levi, a man who has clearly not loved
our world. These people make us feel that there
God with all of his being or loved his neighbour
is someone bad to blame for all the problems in
as himself. And Jesus is talking to him. Now hang
the world – and that means we don’t have to look
on a minute. Isn’t that a bit inconsistent? After
at the contribution we make to the mess the
all I’ve just been saying that Jesus’ standards are
world is in.
incredibly high. This it the God who is too pure to
look on evil – and he seems to be inviting it
That’s why it’s important for us to see that none
round for dinner!
of these people are entirely and utterly wicked.
And none of us are entirely and utterly good. The
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day – the teachers
world is not divided into good people (like us) on
of the law who called themselves Pharisees –
one side and wicked people (like Saddam) on
certainly though it was a bit out of order. Why
another. Because every one if us is capable of
are you eating with such scum they ask? They’re
both great good and great wickedness.
the bad guys – surely you can’t love them? What
does Jesus say?
As one writer has put it: “The dividing line
between good and evil runs right down the
Jesus’ reply, though he doesn’t use the word
middle of every human heart.”
love, makes it clear that he does love wicked
people – people like me – people like you. Jesus
The problem we have is that God’s standards are
came for sick people. And he doesn’t mean
absolute. That’s not to say that he doesn’t
people with colds. He’s talking about morally sick
distinguish between different degrees of
people. People who stand guilty before God
wickedness – of course he does. But it is to say
because of our failure to keep his standards.
that God cannot stand any sin. The Bible says
that his eyes are too pure to look on evil.
Now Jesus isn’t saying that there are some
healthy people who don’t need him – we’ve
already seen that the God is clear that there are
When he died on the cross Jesus was separated
no good, no righteous people, that we have all
from his Father, the Father he had lived in a
turned away from God and are guilty as charged.
perfect relationship with for all eternity. As well
as the physically excruciating torture of dying on
It’s not that there are some sick people that
a cross he experienced all the wrath and
Jesus has come for and some healthy people that
judgment of God for sin and wickedness and
don’t need him. He is saying that of all the
people in the world, all are sick, but only some
realise that they need a doctor.
If President Hussein trusts in Jesus he will be
saved. He will spend eternity in heaven with God.
You see the Pharisees had failed to keep God’s
And it won’t be because God has gone soft on
laws too. But that wouldn’t recognise it. They
sin. It will be because Jesus has paid.
thought that because of all their religion they
were OK. They thought they didn’t need a doctor
Does God love you?
– they were healthy. They were wrong, but that’s
what they thought.
Yes he does. Not because of anything you have
done – for you done much that is wicked. God
But the tax collectors, the sinners, the people
loves you because he sent his son to die so that
Jesus was hanging out with. Well there was
the possibility of forgiveness by trusting in Jesus
something different about them. They knew that
might be open to you. And that doesn’t mean
they were wicked. They knew that they were not
that God has gone soft on your sin.
right with God. They knew that they were guilty
before him. And so they turned to Jesus as their
All the bad things, the wicked things, that you
Doctor. The one who could make them right with
have done. All the not loving the Lord your God
with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. All
the not loving your neighbour as yourself.
Jesus came to call sinners. Contrary to much of
what you may have heard in school assemblies
Well when he died on the cross Jesus was
Jesus didn’t come for good people. And a good
separated from his Father, the Father he had
job too – because there aren’t any good people.
lived in a perfect relationship with for all eternity.
Jesus came for bad people. He came so that
As well as the physically excruciating torture of
anyone, no matter what they have done, anyone
dying on a cross he experienced all the wrath and
who recognises their wrongdoing and turns to
judgment of God for sin and wickedness and
Jesus can be made right with God.
And the whole story of the Bible is focussed on
If you trust in Jesus you will be saved. You will
showing how it is that Jesus makes it possible for
spend eternity in heaven with God. And it won’t
us to be made right with God. When Jesus died,
be because God has gone soft on sin. It will be
on a cross, God himself took on the punishment
because Jesus has paid.
for sin that we deserve. God couldn’t just say our
rebellion didn’t matter – because it does matter.
Each of us is faced with a choice. We can be like
Sin must be punished. God must be just. But in
the Pharisees in our story. The people who think
Jesus, God himself took the rap for us so we
that we are OK, that we can earn our own way to
be right with God. We will be wrong. And we will
have to pay for our sin by spending eternity
That means that, just as there’s no-one who is
separated from God in a place Christians call hell.
good enough to meet God’s standards so there’s
no one who is too bad to be forgiven.
Or we can let Jesus pay.
So does God love Saddam Hussein?
Yes he does. Not because of anything Saddam
has done – for he has done much that is wicked.
But God does love him. And he shows that love
by sending Jesus to die so that the possibility of
forgiveness by trusting in Jesus might be open to
Saddam, might be open to everyone in the world.
And in case you think that the fact that God
would forgive Saddam Hussein if he put his trust
in Jesus means that God has gone soft on sin, let
me tell you that that is not true.