But in part one we found ourselves in a quandary. For instance, if we take the wooden literal approach to Scripture on the subject, we would have to conclude the following:
God hates and abhors the wicked, including Esau by name (Psalm 5:5; 11:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Hos. 9:15; Rom. 9:13).
God loves His enemies, including every person in the world, which includes sinners (Matt.5:43-45; John 3:16; Rom.5:8; 1 John 4:7-8, 19).
The God-hates-you proponents have tried to make sense of this by saying that while God is love, He also hates…like some Christianized version of yin and yang. Some have even said that He can’t love unless He also hates, which sounds a bit convoluted to me. No thinking person is going to buy this. Basically, they treat love like one of God’s many attributes (holiness, justice, mercy, etc.)
What’s curious about this, though, is that God actually IS called love (1 John 4:8), but nowhere is He called hate.
In fact, we’re told if we hate our brother, we prove that we don’t even know God (1 John 2:9-11; 3:15; 4:20). Seems a bit strange that God hates certain people but we are commanded to love our brothers, even our enemies.
How do we reconcile this contradiction then? I will look at three considerations that will hopefully help us make sense of it all.
1. The biblical use of hyperbole
If we are going to rightly understand the Bible, we must understand the frequent use of hyperbole. This was a common practice by the ancient Semitic writers. This is where something is purposely exaggerated to make a strong point. For the sake of space I won’t make the case here. I found an interesting article that you can read about that by Seth Tipton (Merciful Truth) titled, “Does God Hate You, Sinner?”
The point is that the literary device of hyperbole is often employed by the writer to emphasize something for our benefit. In this case, to show that sinful behavior is not in our best interest.
2. Does it pass the Jesus test?
This is an argument I would use–does it pass the Jesus test? Jesus said if we’ve seen Him, we’ve seen the Father. We know what God is like by looking at Jesus. And we know that Jesus loved sinners and embraced them to the point of being rebuked by the religious leaders. Furthermore, as we’ve already seen, He told us to love our enemies so that we can be like our Father in heaven.
If Jesus tells us to love our enemies so we can be like His Father, how in the world can we say that God hates His enemies? Would God tell us to do something He Himself is not able to do?
3. How is the word used?
Since the first two arguments are often made, I only briefly covered them here. I will spend more time on this one because I think it will be beneficial to us to look more deeply into how the word “hate” is actually used.
We will start with Romans 9:13. Paul quotes Mal.1:2-3 saying that “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I hated.”
So God loved the conniving and deceitful mama’s boy, Jacob, but hated Isaac’s favorite son, the rugged and birthright-hating Esau?
God hated Esau. The Bible says it, I believe it. Case closed, right?
Not so fast.
The Greek word translated “hate” in English is miseō. This is the same word that Jesus used in Luke 14:26…
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (NKJV)
Does this mean that we’re to hate our family like God does? I don’t think so, do you? My point is, we read this passage and assume it must mean something else, yet why don’t we give the same consideration with passages like Psalm 5:5 and Romans 9:13?
Actually, we can use other translations of Luke 14:26 to help us make sense of all of this. Consider the following:
“Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters… (MSG)
“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 [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God]…” (AMP)
So here we see the idea of “letting go” of someone in favor of something else. We are told to let go of our family in favor of making God our priority, which, hopefully, helps us to better love our family!
Negatively speaking, this reminds me of what Paul told the Roman church about those who refused to acknowledge God…
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom.1:24-25 NKJV)
Could it be that God doesn’t hate sinners the way we think of hatred, but “lets them go” or gives them up to do what they want to do? God let Esau go because he despised his birthright. God also gives the reprobate over to their own self-deception.
As C.S. Lewis said…
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.” (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce)
There you have it. You can decide for yourself.
My take is that God loves unconditionally. I wrote about that here. And unconditional love has no conditions. But He will give people what they want if they insist. That’s because love can only exist between free persons, so the choice to be loved is yours.