Friday, May 15, 2009

Hate in the Bible – in the Psalms at Least

When relationships go belly-up one of the first things we see is the emotion of hate right there before us as people seek their inexorable revenge. What starts off perhaps humorously quickly turns into something out of control. Hate is as rich an emotion as love is.

The uninitiated would never associate ‘hate’ and the Bible in the same sentence. But true to life, the Bible contains a lot we’d not expect, including stories of gang rape, murder and even incest. I say this not to discredit the Word of God, but to show the Bible’s relevance to our real life issues in a fallen world. It speaks to us in a world of different ways.

In the New International Version there are approximately 120 references to the word “hate.” I thought that was too much to feature in a short article so I limited my sights to the Psalms, arguably the most emotion-charged book in the Bible.

We know that God loves all people, followers and non-followers alike. Yet Psalm 5:5 says, “The arrogant cannot stand in your [that is, God’s] presence; you hate all who do wrong.” And the other twenty one references in this book of poetry allude to basically the same thing. The psalmist loathes those who either transgress God’s ways or themselves, particularly David who underwent such gross persecution, or God does--at least their behaviour. God’s love can be tested. His grace forgives the worst sinner provided they turn from their evil ways, accepting his salvation.

There are also polarised, stark reminders for believers to hate what God hates i.e. evil (for example, Ps. 97:10). The God-follower is to hate and resist the deeds of the faithless (Ps. 101:3). They’re to watch out for people who flatter themselves so much that they cannot detect their own sin (Ps. 36:2). We’re also to pray that God rescues us from those who hate us (Pss. 69:14 and 35:19).

Probably the most marked of all the psalms on hate is none other than Psalm 119, which seems marked for so many reasons; it certainly has a strong tinge of lament about it. The psalmist hates: ‘every wrong path’ (vss. 104, 128); falsehood (v. 163); and double-minded people (v. 113).

Emotions about God run high on both sides. The God-follower’s hate, however, must emanate around evil attitudes and deeds, not people. We must always be tolerant of the person inside the person. Interestingly, Psalms occasionally skates the thin ice in relation to this, making the book fervently real and relevant for all.

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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