Does God hate some people?

by May 16, 2008

They’re coming to Oahu this weekend, and they’re bringing banners. The coconut wireless is buzzing about the infamous “God hates…” church from Kansas, which is planning to protest in front of several island churches and military bases on Sunday to proclaim how much God hates false prophets, homosexuals, and soldiers (along with the churches who allow these kinds of people in their front doors).

Their motivation comes from verses like Psalm 11:5, which says, “The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”

That’s not a verse you hear much in churches these days, and I know it sounds pretty nasty at first, but it helps to understand the differences between God’s hatred and our own. When we feel hatred for someone, it’s usually a knee-jerk response to something that person did to us. We feel like we’ve been wronged, so we react with violent emotion. We want to retaliate and make that person suffer for what they’ve done. We lose control of ourselves, at least to some degree.

That kind of hatred doesn’t sound like any description of God I’ve ever read in Scripture. While it’s clear that God is angry when people rebel against him (and rightfully so – if my wife had an affair and it didn’t make me a little angry, what kind of apathetic husband would I be?), that doesn’t mean God is going to embark on some deranged vendetta against them. His anger is tempered by his patient desire for them to repent and turn to him. As God says in Ezekiel 33:11, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.”

God’s hatred is specifically focused on the attitudes and actions of people who sin against him. This is the implication of Proverbs 6:

There are six things that the LORD hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood…

Does God really hate the physical chunk of meat inside your mouth? Of course not – he hates the sinful lies that are enabled by your tongue. In the same way, God’s hatred toward wicked people is focused on their rebellious hearts, not on the beings he “crowned with glory and honor” (Psalm 8).

Christians must unequivocally express God’s hatred for sin, along with his desire for people to turn from their rebellion and put their faith in Jesus. We must be clear that, because of sin, no one deserves even the tiniest shred of God’s love. But still, God sovereignly chooses to express his love toward all people through what theologians call common grace.

The tactics of this noisy little group from Kansas don’t show a fully biblical understanding of God’s love and hate, and they don’t reflect the way God operates. When Jesus met the rich young man, an Internet-startup-CEO-type who refused to to give up his vacation homes and private jet to follow Jesus and serve the poor, Jesus didn’t hold up a banner saying God Hates Greedy Capitalists.

Instead, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21).