Hatred

Preaching and Worship Resources about Hatred

In its classic form, hatred is the disposition deep inside one's will and emotions to destroy something or someone. The hater wants the object of his hatred to be negated, removed, gone. Hatred is morally ambiguous, depending on its object. Thus Christians have been biblically taught to hate evil, but to love persons, including enemies. In Scripture the word "hatred" is sometimes used classically, but sometimes for milder attitudes. In the history of human life, classic hatred has often been a motive for other forms of evil — mockery, slander, assault, betrayal, rape, murder, genocide. Predictably, hatred is a usual root of war.

In Scripture

"The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers" (Ps. 5:5).

"Do not let my treacherous enemies rejoice over me, or those who hate me without cause wink the eye" (Ps. 35:19).

"Let God rise up, let his enemies be scattered; let those who hate him flee before him" (Ps. 68:1).

"The Lord loves those who hate evil" (Ps. 97:10).

"Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?" (Ps. 139:21).

"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that they should turn from their ways and live?" (Ezek. 18:23).

"Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate (Amos 5:15).

"I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies" (Amos 5:21).

"`You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous'" (Matt. 5:43 - 45).

"`You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Mark 12:31).

"`You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved'" (Mark 13:13).

"`I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you'" (Luke 6:27).

"`Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple'" (Luke 14:26).

"`God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life'" (John 3:16).

"`All who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed'" (John 3:20).

"As it is written, `I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau'" (Rom. 9:13).

"Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good" (Rom. 12:9).

"God our Savior . . . desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:3 - 4).

"Whoever says, `I am in the light,' while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness" (1 John 2:9 - 11).

"All who hate a brother or sister are murderers, and you know that murderers do not have eternal life abiding in them" (1 John 3:15).

"Those who say, `I love God', and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen" (1 John 4:20).

Points to Ponder

Hatred is a complex concept in Scripture, including various meanings and resisting easy categorization. Preachers will need to identify within preaching texts just which meaning is represented there. Still, some solid teachings emerge.

Human hatred of God lies in the depths of sin. It's passionate opposition to God, rejection of God, hostility toward God. Classically, it stems from taking offense at the idea that God is sovereign over us, superior to us — in other words, that God is God, and not we ourselves. To proud, self-governing human beings this idea is loathsome. John 3:20 suggests another motive: Because God is light, God exposes our sin to scrutiny and judgment. We can't hide our envy, greed, cruelty, injustice. And this, too, is intolerable. Sinners "hate the light" and the God who shines it.

Jesus taught us to love God with everything we have (Matt. 22:37). Obviously, he thereby forbids hatred of God.

Jesus likewise forbids hatred of other human beings, including enemies. The Matthew 5 text quoted above is classic. We are not to wish the destruction of others. We may dislike them, fear them, or oppose them. But we may not wish to have them removed from the face of the earth. It seems that Old Testament saints sometimes hated their and God's enemies (Ps. 139), but this is only a report of their hatred, not a commandment to hate them. God does not in Scripture command us to hate others.

Are Jesus' words in Luke 14:26 a counterexample? No. Simple reflection reveals that "hate" cannot be classically meant here. "No Christian would dare venture out into the world and declare to the public, without elaborate explanations" that whereas most people have affection for their mothers, Christians have none for theirs and in fact hate them in obedience to their Lord." In Luke 14:26, to "hate" is to "love less." A parallel passage in Matthew 10:37 provides the clue: "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." Jesus is requiring only that relatives not be preferred to him.

A moment's reflection tells us how much better the world would be if we quit hating each other. No more vicious racism with its smears and assaults. No more hostile tribalism with its hot feuds and cold fury. No more pogroms and genocide. Absent hatred, most wars and rivalries would cease. The prospect of harmony in the world lies at the center of Isaiah's dreams of future shalom and of Revelation's vision of "a new heaven and earth" (21:1) where death and pain "will be no more."

Does God hate? Absolutely. God hates sin in all its forms — injustice, cruelty, lawlessness, idolatry, adultery, perjury, murder. God hates Israel's worship when it empties out into mere formality or mere bargaining ("We'll give you all the praise you want, and you make my corn grow"). In fact, it is just because we know how much God hates evil that we may trust the vision of a future new heaven and earth.

God hates evil so much as to command us to hate evil as well. Hatred of evil by good people is one of their principal virtues.

So God hates sin, but how about sinners? Does God hate human beings? Texts like Psalm 5:5 suggest that God does hate evildoers. The word "hate" is there, but what is its meaning? Is God's intent to humiliate and destroy evil people, to wipe them from the earth? Does God want to plunge them into despair and then into the abyss? Has God no intent to heal, to rescue, to restore?

Given the whole of Scripture (including Ezek. 18:23), this sounds more like a description of Satan than of God. Of course God's wrath and judgment fall on evildoers. God is steadfastly opposed to evildoers in their evil. And it may be that this is what we should understand from texts which say that God hates them.

In any case, biblically instructed Christians believe that God is love. This is essentially, irrevocably, and eternally God's nature. Accordingly, God is not a destroyer, but a Savior. In John's gospel, "the world" is creation, including human creation, in its darkness and sin. It is of this world that Jesus famously speaks in John 3:16 - 17, a text that stands in its might against any notion that God hates human beings: "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.