Does God hate you? Part two

Unnews_angry_godWe’re continuing to look at the troubling question, does God actually hate sinners? This is a popular view held by many in the body of Christ, and they use Scripture to assert this claim.

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.

About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
This entry was posted in Father Heart of God, Love, Theology and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Does God hate you? Part two

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have two questions:
    1) Why did Jesus spit at the pharisees: “You blind guides! You brood of vipers!” and then tell everyone to love their enemies?
    2) When He’s supposed to have His sovereign hand on it, why does God ‘allow’ the Bible to be so mis-translated into these languages so that words like ‘hate’ are used instead of ‘let go’ ? Mis-translations like this, that change meanings so drastically, send people off the beam of His message terribly. It makes me wonder if He actually does have His sovereign hand on it at all. Or if it really is His book in the first place.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thank you for your questions. I will only be able to briefly answer them here:
      1.) Jesus was reprimanding the Pharisees for keeping God’s people away from their heavenly Father by placing heavy religious burdens on them with their traditions and for taking honor for themselves. But Jesus didn’t hate them. He actually loved them. THEY were the ones who hated Jesus and THEY wanted to kill Him.
      2.) God is sovereign but, in His sovereignty, He has freely chosen to give us free will. Why? Because of love. Love is not simply an attribute of God. It’s who He is. And love requires free persons, freely giving and receiving love. It cannot be forced. God wants people to freely love Him, and that requires taking a huge risk that people will respond poorly, and even badly misrepresent Him.

      Also, don’t confuse man’s response to God’s word to God’s intention. They can be two very different things.

      You need to keep a few things in mind about the Bible. It’s a Semitic book, not Western book, written in different languages, with different writing styles, to a very different culture than ours. We tend to read things from our modern day perspective and our cultural understanding. We don’t automatically understand the idioms and other cultural parts of the language that the original audience understood. We CAN understand them if we consider these things and dig deeper, but when we don’t, we risk misinterpreting what is meant. We can mitigate some of the difficult language if we take in the entire scope of a subject, making sure we don’t create contradictions or absurdities, like people do when they say that God hates sinners. I’ve laid out some of those interpretative tools in my blog posts.

      Also, keep in mind that the Bible is living; it’s a spiritual book, not a normal human book. The Word of God is a Person–Jesus Christ! As Paul said, spiritual things require spiritual discernment (1 Cor.2:9-16). The Bible’s purpose is not so that our heads become filled with information about God; its purpose is to call us into an experiential relationship with Him. We, in the West, don’t feel comfortable with this like the Semitic culture would be. We would rather keep everything philosophical, rational, neat and all figured out. So we turn it into an American book, or a European book, making it in our own cultural image. When we do this, we limit it to our human understanding.

      But God purposely hides His treasures from intellectual pursuit, preferring to shroud it mystery because mystery requires deep relational interaction with God. And, unfortunately, we’ve been very poor at relationships. We prefer head knowledge and doctrinal agreement, which makes us relationally immature. This was Paul’s point in 1 Cor.3:3 with the carnal, divisive Corinthians. But God is a deeply relational God, so we need to learn how to become relational in order to rightly understand Him. And part of that is removing the ideas about God that make us keep our distance from Him. One of those harmful ideas is that He is angry and hateful. After all, nobody wants to be intimate with someone who only conditionally loves them. That’s projecting our fickle human love on to God. And it’s a performance trap waiting to happen! 🙂

      The bottom line is, God is VERY MUCH in the Bible. But we must enter into relationship with Him in order to know Him in His Word.

      Hope all this rambling this makes sense. Kind of hard to explain this in a comment section. Blessings.

      • Anonymous says:

        (I’m starting a new thread so the column doesn’t get so narrow)

        I’m going to play “devil’s advocate” here because I think that this subject should be addressed in further depth.

        First, I love God and I love Jesus. I have a deep relationship with God and I owe Him my very literal life. I was a drunk and He saved me from the brink of death. Just so you know where I stand with Him. Yes, I was saved through passages in the Bible (a “Soul-Saver’s” baptist Bible). But mostly through direct revelation in a conversation with Jesus. But since then, I’ve had big trouble with the Bible for all the time I’ve been a Christian and that’s the truth. I’ve walked with God and talked with Him and I have heard His voice many times as one of His sheep (I took this from the Bible so I’ve read it – a lot). But at one point of reading it (Roman’s) I was sure it was telling me I wasn’t saved and I went into a hard crisis of faith. It put me into a real tailspin for a while. Maybe you might be thinking that it’s Satan trying to turn me off to the Bible. That may be true I’m not sure about that – yet. It’s tricky – that one. But as of now. I have a problem with the Bible. Especially when it uses words like “hate” when words like “let go” could have been used instead in the ENGLISH translation. I’m not talking about Hebrew here and their culture. If this is God’s book, then If He had it translated into English, into OUR language, I’m assuming that it’s because He wanted US to understand Him too. I’m talking about ENGLISH and OUR culture here. This is OUR culture and OUR language He had it translated into – not their’s – OUR’s. So why did God allow the word hate to be used in our English language instead of the words “let go” when “let go” could have been easily substituted and therefore better understood by US here in our western culture? There’s no reason for the word hate to be there. No reason at all that I can see. It has nothing to do with Hebrew culture that I can see – in the English. That word – hate – was one of the biggest reasons I’ve been turned off to the the Bible as much as I have been and here you say that it’s the wrong word? I can’t believe that God could have let Himself be so misinterpreted as that if it’s His book in the first place.

        I don’t know if I can my myself understood plainer than that.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Let me ask you. Why, then, did Jesus use the word “hate” in Luke 14:26? And it means “hate” in English. Are we to hate our families then? No, of course not. Not in the way we usually think of hate, anyway. Thinking it means hate in the normal way creates an absurdity. We HAVE to dig deeper to find the true meaning. We just can’t take them literally, or take it mean what we think it means. The word “hate” has more than one meaning and usage in the Bible.

          Again, understanding the Bible actually has everything to do with the original intent and how the language is used. It all applies to us, but we are told to “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Tim.2:15). This is what I’m attempting to do here.

          Let me be clear. I have total trust in the English translations of the Bible for two reasons. First, because we have a wealth of information, many different translations, and language aids to helps us dig deeper and find the truth. This is why I showed that other English translations make the meaning clearer in Luke 14:26. Second, because of what you said. His sheep hear His voice. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth.

          I really hope this helps you with this. You can trust the Bible. Just be aware of these things, and that there is honest disagreement between honest seekers of truth on some Bible passages. It doesn’t mean it’s not inspired by God. We all just have imperfect understanding. And that certainly includes me. 🙂 Blessings.

  2. Melster! Agree with your perspectives! What came to thoughts were Proverbs 6: 6-19: 7 things detestable to God. But would you agree it is the “behavior” not the vessel choosing that behavior?!?
    Love and appreciate you!


    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks. 🙂 Yes, clearly, in Proverbs 6 God is really speaking about behavioral issues, personified in the persons doing them. There is no doubt that God is set against injustice of any kind. But not because He hates the perpetrators themselves, but because of how it damages human relationships (for both the perpetrator and victim) and distorts the original intent and purpose of God for us as sons and daughters. If we understood people like our Father understands them, we would love them, pure and simple. We wouldn’t be shouting them down and shaming them. We would be picking them up, giving them value, bringing them into our Father’s embrace. This is what Jesus did with sinners and outcasts.

      Realize that everything Jesus got angry about had to do with relational abuse. The religious leaders, who should’ve been showing compassion and grace, encouraging people to know God’s goodness and love, were putting religious barriers between them and God. As Jesus said in Luke 11:52, “For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” THIS is what Jesus gets angry about, not at sinners who need to know the unfathomable love of a God who bankrupted heaven for them.

      But, as I said in my other comments, Jesus loved the religious leaders, even though they had Him crucified. Jesus loved Judas and called him “friend” on the very night of His betrayal. This is what love looks like.

  3. Lance says:

    Thanks Mel. Restorative versus retributive. We are stuck in the legal categories of the forbidden fruit. God isn’t. Our insistence on punishment and legal payments is our fallen nature problem. Selfishness and offenses are the driving force behind the cosmology of the good-bad. When we project our dysfunction on a omnipotent version of us with our very sustenance from the feast of forbidden fruit…voila…angry God. To the safety of the bushes we run. Sadly some point fingers from behind the leaves. This is why “God is Love” is still such a stumbling block. We have to meet Him to “know” Him. Then the head knowledge is filtered through a loving God lens. Oh yeah, that’s Jesus! You rock Mel. Couldn’t resist the pile on opportunity.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks Lance. What’s ironic about the “angry God” message is that it contradicts how we first encountered Him in reality. We didn’t respond to an angry God in actuality; we responded to the God who “so loved us” that He gave what was most precious to Him–His beloved Son. It was His kindness that led us to repentance (Rom.2:4). It’s not about Him wanting to punish us, it’s about Him wanting to heal us and restore us. It’s His love that we first respond to that actually wonderfully surprises us because our “fig leaf” religious mindset expected punishment. As you point out, this is because we’ve been eating from the wrong tree. But then we looked into the face of Jesus Christ and only found grace and love and light, not hatred, shame or condemnation.
      If we only believed what our heart already knows, we wouldn’t struggle with “God is love.” 🙂

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