A thought exercise, prompted by my homegirl who asked me what I thought about passages that speak about God “hating” things.
If I love—wholeheartedly love—justice, I will detest injustice.
I don’t believe God hates particular people or lives. And I don’t believe it’s good enough to say that God hates sin, because too many “religious folk” love to collapse sin with sinner and use this discussion to castigate folk and justify why they hate folk. And that, that I cannot stand. I cannot stand when folk use God to justify the ill stuff they was gone do, feel, or say anyway…
But I—with a stammering tongue and as one who knows I know not the mind of God—I believe God does detest relationships that harm and kill. What God hates is wrong relationship. And wrong relationships are coercive, deceitful, harmful, and death-dealing.
We love, hate, and live in a world that increasingly enjoys imprecision with words and deals in subterfuge and double-speak. This imprecision and subterfuge allows for the justification and cover-up of a multitude of evils. And so there are times when we must really get into a word, and admit what words are. Words, at their best, seek to point to/limp after realties and relationships that surround us, real or perceived.
So, I think we must be careful with the word “hate.” “Hate” simply means something that is intolerable to the point that it arouses anger, frustration, and sharp words—i.e. passion. “Hate” is a word of passion. So when we say that God “hates” and/ or “loves,” we are saying that passion is found in God. Again, we must qualify. Because “passion” today is completely devoid of the complexity it used to connote, especially in philosophical and theological circles. In contemporary times, “passion” routinely connotes “strong emotions,” “lust and sexual desire,” or “strong enthusiasm.” But before all of that watering down, “passion” means that we can be affected by something external to us. Passion is what we call the phenomenon of the having the potential to be affected by what goes on around us. It moves us; it pleasures us; it harms us and makes us sad or mad. In other words, to say that God love and hates is to say that God is affected by what goes on in the world because God is in relationship to the world. And though God is in relationship to the world, there are things about God that ain’t synonymous with the world. But when we say that God is love; we are saying that the very character of God in God’s self is a challenging, awe-inspiring embrace, affirmation, and empowerment. But God’s love is not just passion; it is compassion. Jesus’ passion displays this concretely.
Jesus’s passion shows that God loves us and that God detests the idolatrous relationships and forces that (unjustly) harm and murder life.
God’s love, whenever it incarnates, is a compassionate and just love that reveals what we love and hate, and therefore, brings salvation and condemnation. And once we understand that passion is found in God, and that God’s love is compassionate and just, we are able to understand a bit better the idea that God “hates.”
There are, at least, two kinds of “hate.” There is hate that is informed by wisdom, knowledge, compassion and the desire for right relationship (justice). And there is a hate born of fear, greed, ignorance, and domination. The first is a “positive” hate that can struggle against, say, the injustices of lynching and slavery. The second is a “negative” hate which can participate in the acts of lynching and slavery.
Because I believe that God is compassionate and just, I believe God utterly despises—hates—lynching and slavery. But I do not believe that God revolves around hate.
The point is subtle but it must be made. I love God and my neighbors as best as I can. My worship tries to be about a God of love. And because I worship God, I hate things that fracture God’s love. But I don’t worship the hate. I don’t seek to serve the hate. The hate is the passion I feel as a consequence of me loving God. By way of analogy—cuz I ain’t God—“hate” is a human approximation of what God sometimes feels as a consequence of loving a broken world that is routinely filled with wrong relationship. But hate does not run God. God’s love is the source and quality of God’s power, and God’s hatred is complemented and surpassed by God’s love.
But, if you love something enough… you gone hate something.
I believe that God can feel hate but I do not believe in a God who acts or behaves hatefully.
Jesus said, we gone have to choose. Can’t serve two things at once.
Dylan said, you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
On our level, love and hate are simply expressions of what we truly worship. They are expressions of what truly hope for, trust in, and love.
I write these reflections with shaking hands and will probably edit this multiple times over the course of my life—I am just a man, after all. But if I might put this forward, in God, love and hate become something both mundane and extraordinary. We find that two pieces of matter cannot exist in the same space. In God, we find out what holiness truly is. There are some things that cannot truly inhabit the same space when God’s love is fully present. When fear, greed, and domination seek to be in the full presence of God and God’s love… these forces cannot—should not—be, and are therefore “detested” and hated.
Faith, Hope, and Love
© 2020 MJ Sales
I love this Pastor! It made me reflect on the teachings of my own faith traditions as it relates to God, love, and hate. In the Qur’an the word baghda translates as hate. It is only used five times in the whole book. In each instance it refers to a feeling of loathsomeness that people feel towards one another. What’s interesting about these usages in context, too, is that they are mentioned as sort of a curse. In several verses it mentions that some people will have this hatred in their heart until the day of resurrection. May God save us from being amongst the people of hatred and May he make us from amongst the lovers!
In the Qur’an Instead of using the word hate to refer to what incites God’s wrath and anger the phrase “and God does not love ____” is used. This refrain appears throughout the book in reference to people who perform certain deeds or practice certain behaviors: the profligate, the arrogant boasters, the mischief-makers, the treacherous, the oppressors etc. The parallel refrain “And God loves___” … is also used. God loves the doers of Good, the repentant ones, those who purify themselves, the righteous, those who put their trust in Him. In other words, God is teaching us the types of deeds, habits, and dispositions that he loves and those that he does not. It’s an interesting pedagogy that centers love rather than hate.
This is not to say that God doesn’t “baghda.” In other sacred texts from my tradition God is described as hating both things and people. One example is a recorded saying of God’s Prophet: “The most beloved of places to God are the houses of worship and the most hated of places are the marketplaces.” In another recorded saying, a scene is described, a divine discourse happening in the heavenly court with respect to who God loves and hates on earth. When God loves one of his servants he tells angel Jibril (Gabriel). Angel Jibril loves that person then tells all the other angels who then love that person, then the inhabitants of the earth also fall in love with that person. When God hates one of His servants an identical discourse takes place which results in the people of heaven and earth hating that person. May we be among those who God has put love for in the hearts of the angels and the inhabitants of earth!
I think the point you make in your blog post applies to my tradition as well. The “hatred” of God is unlike any of our affections. At best, ours are approximations. Our ways are not God’s ways, as it’s put by the Prophet Isaiah. His hate is motivated by those beautiful attributes you listed. The goal of God’s hatred, then, if I may be so bold, is ultimately in service of Love, redemption, and justice. And surely Allah knows best.
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Whew! Yes indeed. And I learned so much from you… as I always do lol. I will meditate on these things, but I’m in agreement, re: “The goal of God’s hatred… is ultimately in service of Love, redemption, and justice…” Thank you, my brother for these valuable insights. And may Peace be with you and yours!!!