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 biblegateway.com, 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!