The Bible says God hates all who do iniquity (Ps. 5:5). It also says that He hates six (or seven) things, like “haughty eyes, lying lips, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run to evil, false witness, and one who spreads strife.”(Prov. 6:16-19) And again, it says “Jacob I loved, yet Esau I hated.” (Rom. 9:13 quoting Mal. 1:2)
But when the Bible says that God hates something or someone, it does not mean what most think. Often we haven’t looked deeply enough at the context of those passages. When God hates He is not cringing or recoiling from people in disgust and horror. He is not repulsed or shuddering as if the people are odious to Him or have completely shocked Him. This is not what hate means in the Bible. People who hold up signs have all too often interpreted the Bible through their own prejudices and grid of human hate.
To understand this word hate, we could discuss the academic side of it in terms of etymology or morphology, the context, etc., but what might be most helpful are a few simple pictures on family relationships.
Jacob had two wives: Rachel and Leah. Rachel was the obvious first choice for Jacob, but he was duped into first marrying the older sister with a good personality (Leah) by the girls’ father, Laban. Jacob manned up and did the right thing and married them both (polygamy was allowed back then…go figure!). But we must notice that the text tells us that Jacob “loved Rachel more than Leah.”(Gen. 29:30) It says clearly that he loved Rachel more … it was not that Jacob did not love Leah at all. But he did not love her like he loved Rachel. This is an important point.
Here is where it gets enlightening. The next verse says that “the Lord saw that Leah was hated, and He opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” (Gen. 29:30). In many English translations the word “hated” is translated as “unloved” but that can be misleading. It is not that Jacob did not love Leah (see Gen. 29:30 again) but in comparison to Rachel he loved her less. As a result, he gave more to Rachel than he did to Leah. When dealing with interpersonal relationships, the Bible uses hate to indicate a diminishment of love: to love less. The practical consequence of this truth is that whenever someone is loved less in the matter of obtaining blessings, he gets less. On the other hand, whenever a person is loved more, he is given more.
This is exactly the issue and essence in the case of Jacob and Esau where we read “Jacob I loved, yet Esau I hated” (Rom. 9:13 quoting Mal. 1:2). It is not that God did not love Esau, but as it related to the procurement of blessings involved in being preeminent in Isaac’s line, God loved (by sovereign fiat … divine choice) Jacob more. And He was indifferent toward Esau, loving him less. Hate meant being indifferent to, not repulsed by or disgusted with. The indifference God showed Esau had to do with privileges, responsibility, and blessings.
Now a little insight from Jesus.
Jesus said, “he who hates his life, shall keep it to life eternal.”(John 12:25) And on more than one occasion Jesus had said that if a person wants to follow Him and does not “hate his father, mother, wife, and children, and brother, sister, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”(Lk. 14:26) Obviously, He meant to convey the idea of loving someone less in comparison to loving someone more (cf. Matt. 10:37). A prerequisite for following Jesus is hating your mom and pop, your soul-mate, and your own flesh and blood…yes and even your own life. The only way to make sense of this is to interpret it in light of the Bible itself. Hate in matters of personal relationships meant to love less, or to be indifferent toward someone in regard to service (as in the case of Esau). This is the same idea as saying that if we are living righteously, we cannot serve both God and mammon for “you will either hate the one and love the other” (Matt. 6:24) or vice versa.
Certainly God hates it when we choose evil or reject Him and go our own way. Does He hate it because He is appalled by our choices or does He hate it because He knows we are not going to be happy, content, or end up in a place He can bless. Yes, He hates it because we have chosen death over life. He hates because He is love (1 John 4:8). This is what hate means when it describes God. It does not mean what we assume it means. The way we talk and act conveys a hatred that is not true of God … so take God’s name off of the sign on the picket line…or in your mind and heart.
Our job is to help people love Jesus Christ and others. It is hard to do that with a sign in our hands, isn’t it? Maybe we should put the darn things down!
Maybe we are misrepresenting God.
Maybe we are revealing our own misunderstanding (or lack there of).
Maybe we are giving Jesus Christ a bad name!
Maybe we are acting in ignorance.
Bill Engval has a funny shtick that fits the moment perfectly. When someone does something that reveals his ignorance or stupidity he says, “Here’s your sign!”
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