Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Biblical Hatred

Corey, who I hate, posted a comment in yesterday's post about biblical hatred. What is it? Why is it there? What's it all about? Well, the short answer is this: "Shut up, Corey! Don't let me ever see your stupid face around these parts again!" (For those of you who don't know about my friendship with Corey, our love language is hatred. It's complicated.)

According to a quick search on, the English word "hate" appears 127 times in the NIV. ("Love" appears 686 times.) The majority of these passages do not have God as the subject of the verb, to hate. But there are some that do, and the object is occasionally human beings.

As I wrote yesterday, I don't believe that God hates sinners. The biblical evidence is, in my opinion, overwhelmingly in favor of the position that God loves sinners. The whole arc of redemptive history leads us to the cross, where God's agape love is most clearly on display.

What, then, are we to do with these hatred passages? Hatred is the intense or passionate dislike of someone or something. But the term has deeper connotations in our culture, implying oppression, ridicule, and antagonism. The imagery that gets conjured in our heads when we say, "God hates [whomever]", is of fiery destruction and torment--which is to say, of hell. But is that biblical hatred, properly applied to God? I don't think so.

Throughout the Scriptures, God relates to people through covenants. A covenant is basically an agreement between two parties, one greater and one lesser. God made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David in the Old Testament. When God chose someone with whom to make a covenant, this person was seen as particularly loved, blessed, and accepted. When God chose to not make a covenant with someone (Esau, for example), this person was viewed as rejected, hated, and cursed. I believe that biblical hatred, with God as the subject, is covenant rejection, and does not imply divine oppression, ridicule, or antagonism.

God's hatred is exclusively linked to his covenant-making choices. When the Psalmist proclaims that "God hates liars", it is because liars and evildoers and murderers are actively breaking the stipulations of God's covenant with Israel. "Thou shalt not lie. Thou shalt not kill." And so on. When you break the stipulations of a covenant, you stand to receive the curses, or punishments, outlined within that covenant. Which is to say, you will receive the wrath and judgment of God. This doesn't mean that God hates you, in the 21st-century American sense of the word, but that you must suffer the consequences of breaking his covenant.

Fortunately, we live under a new and better covenant, the one made by Jesus through his spilled blood and broken body. This is a covenant of grace that comes to us through faith in Christ, and it was made because of God's deep love for humanity. And this new and better covenant depends on the faithfulness of Christ, and not our own perfect obedience. Praise God we live in such a time!


Nate said...

Two things:
1) By your reasoning, isn't a person "actively breaking the stipulations" of the covenant of grace by not putting their faith in Christ, thereby earning God's hatred? I don't think anyone believes God doesn't love sinners, unless you reject Scripture. I think the point that "neo-reformers" make is that God does indeed hate those who reject Christ, who was/is his ultimate gift displaying his love. I guess I just think it's dangerous when we start saying we understand the mind/heart of God, particularly when discussing his love, and try to reason it out in our own puny minds.

2) I really need you to explain this phrase: "this new and better covenant depends on the faithfulness of Christ, and our own perfect obedience".

Thanks for making me think these past couple of days...

Paul said...

I have been wrestling with the concept of "God's Love" vs. "God's Hate" these past few days. And your posts have kept me thinking.

One area specifically that I have been wrestling with is the Church's failure to love those who are not a part of the Church. For example, and specifically, Gays. The Christian community has a tendency to judge them and we fail to love them.

The Great Commandment is "GO and Preach the Gospel", not "Go and Judge thy Neighbor". The gospel I read is a gospel of love and forgiveness. Jesus Christ never asked us to go and save the unsaved, he told us to go and love them, to love them so much that we would be known by our love.

It is HIS job to judge. It is HIS job to convict. It is His place to save them. WE can't do that for Him. He calls US to LOVE THEM so that He can LOVE THEM THROUGH US!! In fact, this is how He told us to love HIM!! "What you have done for the least of these, you have done unto me."

While this is a little off topic, as I wrestle with Loving others, and "Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin", I have been wrestling too with God's love and God's hatred toward man and sin.

Until His Work in me is Done...

andy said...

Nate, that should be "and NOT our own perfect obedience." Whoops! That's the worst kind of typo.

If by "hate" you mean that his wrath remains on them because they have not sought refuge in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, then yes, I suppose you're right. But the term "hate" is so loaded with imagery in our culture that doesn't apply to God's "hatred", I think a better term is "reject".

Nate said...

Whew...I'm glad that was just a typo!

So, you agree that God does "hate" sinners, you just don't like the cultural connotation of that word?

I guess my view is that I know I'm a vile sinner, my heart is still wicked, and I was dead in my sin before God saved me (Eph 2:1-2). I totally deserved God's wrath (hatred) but now I have been forgiven and am no longer a "child of wrath" but my privilege is to share God's love with others so that they may no longer be under his wrath/hatred.

andy said...

Well, as I wrote a couple days ago, I believe that God already loves sinners, and that this is clearly worked out in the New Testament, and proven by the historical fact of the Gospel. The Gospel changes everything, including the Old Testament. (See also, Galatians & The Sermon on the Mount.)