God Hates...

Question
I have always wondered why so many preachers are hateful to homosexuals. How can so many people claim to be from the Lord and hate other people? How can the KKK claim to be sent from God and hate blacks? How can religious groups curse people for having abortions when they themselves are hating the person getting the abortion? 1 John 4:20 (NIV) states, "If anyone says, I love God, yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." Does this mean that all these people are liars, or merely confused? Why are so many people concerned about keeping God's laws, when they forget about the one simple thing that comes first: being Christlike?
Answer
It's true, we often tend to be hypocritical. Many of us are self-righteous, many of us are angry, many of us are hurt, and all of us are downright sinful. That's why the grace of God and the work of Jesus Christ are so important. If we had to rely on our own merits to make it to heaven, we'd all end up in hell. We have God's Word which teaches us right and wrong, and exhorts us to love even our enemies. Sadly, what we often do is find of list of "rights" that match our peresonal biases, and then hate everyone who does not line up with those "rights."

At the same time, we do need to recognize that the Bible doesn't say it's always a sin to be angry, and many times anger manifests itself in the same was as hatred. Even Jesus was furious with the moneychangers in the temple (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:!5-17; John 2:14-16) -- so furious that he single-handedly drove them from the grounds. His righteous indignation for God's holiness was manifested in anger. Similarly, Paul taught that there is a place for anger (Eph. 4:26). Anger in and of itself, of course, does not indicate hatred of those with whom one is angry (the example of a parent's anger with her child comes to mind).

Then, too, sometimes even hatred is acceptable. For example, David wrote in the Psalms about hating evildoers of various sorts (Pss. 31:6; 119:113). Perhaps the most remarkable passage he wrote to this effect was Psalm 139:19-24:
"O that Thou wouldst slay the wicked, O God; Depart me, therefore, men of bloodshed. For they speak against Thee wickedly, And Thine enemies take Thy name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate Thee, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against Thee? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way."
After professing his utmost hatred, David was so confident of his righteousness in this regard that he was willing for God to examine his innermost thoughts and motivations. Now, almost never does our own hatred reach this purity, but every once in a while when we are righteously angry our hatred may come close. Never, never, never, however, is our hatred anywhere near righteous when we hate someone for something that is not a serious sin. For these reasons, it is important that we carefully guard ourselves to make sure our emotions are appropriate. If we hope to accomplish this, we need to know what the Bible's standards are.

When it comes to loving others, the Bible has what we might call a double standard. We have a higher obligation to love other Christians than we do to love unbelievers (Gal. 6:10). John's statements in John 13:34-35 and 1 John 4:20 are of this type. John 13:34-35 states this fact explicitly ("one another"), while in 1 John he was speaking in the context of loving the other Christians ("brother"; see also 1 John 3:10-16; 4:4-8; compare Matt. 12:50; Mark 3:35). In the first century, "the brethren" or "the brothers" was the most common way of referring to those in the church (see for example John 21:23; Acts 1:15,16; 9:30; 10:23; 15:36; Rom. 16:14; 1 Cor. 8:12; 16:11,12,20; Gal. 1:2; Eph. 6:23; Phil. 1:14; 3 John 5,10). As we can see from David's attitude in the Psalms, hating unbelievers is not always a sin. The warning John issued was that those who do not love their fellow Christians are not true believesr. Nevertheless, we are still obligated to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44); we just have no warning that failing to do so indicates that we are unsaved.

When we come to specific examples in which Christians hate other people, we have to be very careful to assess the situations thoughtfully. The sin of abortion is a very different matter from the perfectly godly quality of being black.

To hate those who have abortions is, in many people's minds, to hate "men of bloodshed" (Ps. 139:19). According to Proverbs 6:16-19, God himself hates those who shed innocent blood -- they are an abomination to him. Now, I have to admit, while I myself hate abortion, I do not generally hate those who get abortions because I don't think they believe it is murder. I think they are pitifully foolish, and that God will punish them for evilly murdering their children unless they repent. Still, rather than hate them, I am angry, and torn in frustration over their blindness to the horror they have committed. But I think there are some who believe that abortion is the taking of a human life, and who have or perform abortions despite this fact. In these cases, hatred seems to me to be an appropriate response.

Hating people for being black is absolutely ludicrous and unbiblical, and necessarily entails the sin of hating fellow believers. On the grounds of John's statements and others (compare James' related teaching in James 2:1-26), I emphatically doubt the salvation of anyone who is so prejudiced.

Homosexuality, while a sin and an abomination to God (Lev. 18:22), is usually not the kind of sin that deserves Christian hatred. Those homosexuals who molest children inspire my ire, but then so do heterosexuals who do the same thing. I know quite a few people who live actively homosexual lifestyles -- and none of them deserve to be hated by Christians. In fact, some of them are quite dear to me. Further, there is no question in my mind that there are sincere, God-loving Christians who are plagued by homosexual feelings, and who engage in homosexual acts. Some will object, "But Paul wrote that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11). That's true, but he did not mean that people who fail to conquer sin in this life will not inherit the kingdom. As he wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:11, believers have been washed, sanctified and justified. They may continue to sin, but their indentities before God are hidden in Christ. Even though they continue to sin, they are no longer counted as sinners but as righteous. "Such were some of you" does not mean "you don't do those things anymore" -- the verse also condemns fornication, and Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for using prositutes in this passage. Rather, it means "you no longer stand on your own sinful merits before God." His point was that these sins are things for which Christ had to die, and that we ought to be the kind of people who seek to please God.

As a final caveat, in all cases wherein we think it may be justifiable to hate someone, we must wrestle with the fact that while we are permitted hatred in some cases, we are in all cases called to love. This is not the kind of tension we can resolve easily. There is no easy, pat answer to this apparent paradox. We must hold these ideas in tension, and seek to emulate our Lord's example. As hard as it may seem, we cannot simply decide never to hate, and we cannot simply decide to hate whenever we feel or think it is justified. Christians need to be reflective, thinking people. We have to assess each situation on its own merits, to hold ourselves accountable to Scripture, to pray, to ask for wisdom, and to gain good counsel. Even then we are bound to err much of the time, so when we sin we need to be willing to ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged and from God.

Related Links:

Same-Sex Love?
Antinomianism and Homosexuality?
Is Passive Homosexuality Permitted in Scripture? - 1 Corinthians 6:9
The Queen James Bible?
No Cake for You?
Homosexuality and the Centurion's Servant?
Practicing Homosexuals Can Go to Heaven?
Homosexuality or Inhospitality? - Genesis 19:5
Was David a Homosexual? - 1 Samuel 18:1-4
Isaiah and Homosexuals? - Isaiah 56:3

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.