Westboro Baptist Church has not been in the national news lately. However, I am sure you remember the pictures of their people holding up signs listing all the things that God hates.
“GOD HATES FAGS”
“GOD HATES YOUR FEELINGS”
“GOD HATES OBAMA”
“GOD HATES AMERICA”
“GOD HATES YOU”
Is it possible for God to hate? Are there people whom God hates? It is easy to casually read the Bible and come to believe that God hates the same people you hate.
There are things the Bible says that God hates.
Proverbs 6:16-19 lists out 7 things God hates, haughtiness, lying, murder, wickedness, evil, giving false witness, and dissension.
Isaiah 61:8 adds to this robbery and wrongdoing.
Speaking to Israel God hates idolatry (Deut. 16:21-22) and pride (Amos 6:8).
The Bible even speaks of God hating people. In Deuteronomy 9:28 God says he hated the Israelites who worshiped the golden calf, the very same people he punished by sending them to wander the desert for 40 years.
The Psalms speak of God hating the wicked. Psalm 11:5 says, “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.” Also, the psalmist says, “you hate all evildoers” (Ps. 5:5)
Paul quotes Malachi 1:2 saying, “As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:13).
However, the Bible seems to contradict itself by saying that God loves.
God loves the sinner (Rom. 5:8).
God loves the world (John 3:16).
God is love (1 John 4:8).
What is going on here? Can a god who loves sinners also hate them? Can a god who hates the world also love the world? Can love also hate?
There is a teaching of Jesus where love and hate are intertwined with each other. Matthew and Luke have a parallel passage where Jesus is teaching his disciples the great cost of following him.
The passage in Luke says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26).
Jesus, the man who teaches us to love God and our enemies, is now teaching us to hate our families. Jesus, the man who teaches us to love our neighbors as ourselves, is now teaching us to hate ourselves?
There is more here. Let’s dig a little deeper.
The Matthew passage says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Mt. 10:37).
The passage in Matthew gives us clarification. Jesus is teaching us to deny ourselves, renounce our relationships along with our very lives, and follow him. The love and devotion we have for Jesus should be of such scale and substance our love for our family, our friends, and our enemies would pale in comparison. From the outside looking in, it would appear we hated our family compared to the love that we have for Jesus Christ.
This teaching from Jesus helps us to better understand the passages regarding God’s hatred. God is love, and yet, there are times when his attitude and actions towards us seem to be hatred.
Imagine one who has been treated harshly, oppressed, denigrated. The hatred builds in their heart until they feel hatred, violence, and wrath. Any love that is shown to this one would be painful, uncomfortable, unknowing. It would feel like hatred.
The love of God is utterly holy, powerful, and beyond description. When we encounter it we may feel its power and holiness and interpret it as hatred. We are so “other” from God his very presence can grate our sinful hearts, leave us downcast, and shamed. But, thanks be to God he does not stop loving us! He gives us new hearts, lifts up our head, and shows us grace.
We cannot wield God’s hatred as our own. For his hatred is only our own understanding. If we try to dish out the judgment of God we will tear down the very people God is trying to lift up.
If you want to know more about God’s love, check out my book coming out on June 19.