Sunday, October 17, 2010

The God who Hates

No one but the most liberal believer would suggest that God does not hate.  He hates sin.  (To be sure we might venture some disagreements about what constitutes the sin He hates but we all generally agree He hates some sin.)  He hates evil.  He hates death.  He hates what has stolen His creation from Him.  He hates those who are complicit in this rebellion and its agents of corruption.  Lutheran talk of grace does not deny that God hates... but the real question here is whether this hate of evil is the highest of God's attributes or whether this hate has been overcome by His mercy.

Clearly many Muslims see a God only as a God who hates.  He hates the infidel.  He hates immorality.  This God who hates is worshiped with hate -- hate directed to those outside, to the transgressors who do wrong.  The highest revelation of this God is in His justice and the highest calling of mankind is to manifest this justice (hard and brutal though it be).  So the adulterer is stoned, the thief has his hand chopped off, and the seeker of heaven straps a bomb to his body to reduce the number of infidels in the world.

But there are also a fair number of Christians who delight in the hating God.  Think of those Baptists from Kansas who picket the funerals of service men and women with their placards about the God who hates America because He hates the gays.  Strict Calvinists see this hating God in the predestination of some to eternal destruction seemingly without explanation or cause.  It is God's way.  He hates some and loves others.  There are certainly fewer strict Calvinists in this day and age -- at least fewer than there were -- but the question of evil and a world so filled with evil stirs Christians to demand justice from God and for Him to follow through on His hate and dispatch the evil summarily and quickly.

Some have tried to bridge the divide between the God who hates and the God who loves by directing the hate to the sin but the love to the sinner.  It is a well intentioned argument but not entirely faithful to the Scripture.  Take a read at the Psalms and see if the prayer is not that God will vindicate the righteous at the expense of the evil, turn the full force of His wrath upon them, and allow them no mercy.

What then are we to do?  The God who hates is also the God who loves -- but not as some out of control schizophrenic God who one day is all nicey nice and the other day pops off the handle at a moment's notice.  No, the point for us is whether God's hate of the sin, the sinner, and the encourager of sin is what predominates or whether it is God's love that visits the wrath upon His own Son, who credits the guilty with His righteousness, who forgives the clearly unworthy and undeserving, and saves those who have no right to expect such beneficial treatment.

Why is it we have to have just one -- the hating God and a people who beg on His justice toward those whom they believe deserve it (never themselves) or the loving God who shrugs His shoulders at sin and figures it's not such a big deal anyway?  The God who hates sin and evil, sinners and wrong, is the same God who loves even sinners and forgives their wrongs by hanging it upon the One who alone is innocent.  This is a messy statement that begs to be cleaned up with reason and explanation but it cannot be.  It is messy and confusing apart from faith and even in faith we trust in what we cannot see or understand and only in what He has promised and accomplished already in Christ.

The cross is the ultimate symbol of this paradox -- the God who hates sin and evil enough to punish it with the full force of His wrath but the God who loves us sinners so much that the One who suffers is the innocent flesh and blood of His one and only Son.  Law and Gospel are not some neat little way of explaining the unexplainable but the faithful witness to Scripture.  We dare not demand His justice if we hope for His mercy and we dare not confuse His mercy with a lack of concern for the wrong.  It is a tension, to be sure, but the tension in which we see God for who He is, through what He has done, and the creative tension in which mercy works.  The Church's proclamation dare not slight either but must also make sure that we state unequivocally and clear that mercy is His final Word in Christ... at least until the day of salvation comes to its close and the day of judgment precludes any change of heart from His people or His verdict.  We come on Sunday morning to hear of this God whose every ounce of being demands that He condemn and punish and whose unlimited grace and mercy bore the burden of our salvation that we might stand before Him forgiven in Christ, covered with the righteousness of Christ, and fully and finally free in Christ.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

There is confusion in this because are sinful beings. We cannot have or understand righteous anger or hatred, for our anger and hatred almost immediately becomes self serving and self righteous. We view God's hate in terms of our own.

We are incapable of hating yet having compassion. This is because sin has laid its axe to the root of our compassion.

ErnestO said...

"The God who Lives"

I've got to tell you that the transition in my life came when I went beyond just believing as an intellectual thing and took time to surrender to God and invited Jesus to invade me. That's what I do in prayer. I became a Christian in prayer, asking Jesus to come into my life in stillness and quietude. I surrendered to a Presence that just came in and took possession of me and it can happen to you if you'll ask for that to happen.

When the Spirit of God invades you there's a consequence that you don't anticipate. It's this: that you find yourself very sensitive to Jesus' suffering in other people. People become sacramental.

That's what St. Francis of Assisi tried to tell us. People are viewed as kind of vehicles through whom Jesus comes to us, so that when we look into their eyes we have this eerie awareness that Jesus is staring back at us. That's what it means to be a Christian, to be filled with God and to be sensitive to Jesus, waiting to be loved in needy people.
— The Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo
30 Good Minutes - Chicago Sunday Evening Club

Anonymous said...

I've been pondering your meanerings for a couple of months now and I'm here to say that your thoughts help me to be a better pastor. I am impressed with your ability to flesh out complex thoughts.

Thanks and Blessings!

Muzzy said...

So very well said. Thank you for taking the time to write this to us.