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