Hate is a universal emotion. To make sure we’re working from the same dictionary, hate is defined as “intense or passionate dislike (of someone).” Hating is part of the human experience.
If you are a Christian, that becomes a problem. We aren’t “supposed to” hate. But we do. And so we don’t know what to do.
I’ve found that many Christians get stuck in not knowing what to do with hate because of a syllogism. A syllogism is a train of thought that “proves” an outcome. It has a premise, an observation and a conclusion that serves like a logical “proof” of your premise. The syllogism around hate goes like this:
- Christians rise above intense feelings of dislike. Christians don’t hate.
- I, from time to time, have intense feelings of dislike (Okay, let me be really honest, HATE) for someone.
- Therefore, I must either not BE a Christian or if I am, I must not be a very good one.
And there you are, stuck in hate with no way out. You are left feeling like you have to choose between hating or being a “good” Christian. It’s binary.
2 RESPONSES THAT DON’T WORK
When it comes to what we DO with our hate, we so often get stuck in a binary response. (Binary: Two. Either/or. One OR the other. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t). Binaries usually only make the situation worse, burrowing me deeper into hate.
#1 I ACT on my hate (physically or verbally), spinning violence into the world. Workplace shootings, child abuse, spousal abuse, car bombings are all results of this response. The person doing it, I guarantee you, thinks this is the ONLY way to resolve the issue. They are in the grip of their hate and self-righteously think they are justified in their violence.
#2 I stuff it, shoving the hate inside like garbage, where it rots me from the inside out. The result is seething bitterness, and often, disease. Their body cannot handle the dis-ease, and so tries to expel the pain.
THE THIRD WAY (that leads to a fourth).
The Psalms are broken into categories: Lament, Praise, Thanksgiving, and, maybe most helpfully, Cursing. Psalms 5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40, 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139 & 143 (that’s 19 out of 150 if you’re keeping track at home. 13%) are Psalms where I curse my enemies.
Full-stop. THAT is in the BIBLE???
And therein is the third way. Instead of acting on or stuffing my intense feelings, I take my strongest emotions to the God who made me and loves me. This is psychologically brilliant. I am freed from a) acting on it and b) holding it inside. I can let it out. I give my hate–in it’s true, ugly dimensions into God’s care. And I leave it there.
THE FOURTH WAY
Jesus takes hate one step further. He read and quoted the Psalms (the Psalms are quoted by Jesus more than any other Old Testament book), so he knew their dimensions and emotional range. He had enemies. Enemies who dogged him. Tried to trap him. Make him look bad. Hated him. And eventually killed him. He had good reason to hate.
He read and quoted the Psalms (the Psalms are quoted by Jesus more than any other Old Testament book), so he knew their dimensions and emotional range. He had enemies. Enemies who dogged him. Tried to trap him. Make him look bad. Hated him. And eventually killed him. He had good reason to hate.
There’s an ugly reality to uncover out at this point. Without Jesus’ teaching on and fulfilment of the Psalms, we would be left with the religious impulse to sanction our hate (and violence) in the name of God. People do it all the time. “See, the BIBLE SAYS we’re to curse our enemies. This means God is on our side and hates the same people we do.” This lie has kept societies, cultures, nations, families, states, cities and churches stuck in the cycle of hate for years.
Jesus tells the truth about the religious lie. Hate leads to retribution. It’s an endless cycle. Love leads to restoration. It alone heals the hate.
Take your hate to God, yes. But after you give him your hate, go on with him to love. As Jesus so famously said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus is the fulfillment of the cursing Psalms. I give my hate to God, and in doing so it is transformed in the furnace of God’s enemy-oriented love into love for my enemy.
As in all things in the Bible, Jesus is the fulfilment of what we don’t understand, including the cursing Psalms. I give my hate to God, and in doing so it is transformed in the furnace of God’s enemy-oriented love into love for my enemy.
I preached a message* about this subject and offered this as a prayer for when you hate: “I hate him, but you love him. Here, you hold my hate and hand me your love.”
*You can find it here, in our series called “Texting God.” The title is ‘Praying When You Hate’.