“The arrogant cannot stand in Your presence. You hate all evildoers.”
“God hates all evildoers.” So… God hates people?
Recently, I have noticed a few preachers picking up on this verse. (At a church I visited, also, youtube Mark Driscoll, David Platt) There are a certain breed of preachers who like to say really unloving things, and then pat themselves on the back because they’re “not afraid of the hard issues”, or worse, they’re not afraid of offending people. What better way to prove you’re “not afraid of what people think” than to undermine the fundamental Christian belief that God so loved the “whole world”? What better way to prove you’re not a people pleasing, wishy washy, nice guy who just wants Jesus to be nice to everybody than to drop this bomb on your congregation? 🙂
A Little Exegesis:
I want to appropriate this scripture (among others) and its language of “hate” so that we can appreciate the spiritual depth of this Psalm, while showing how radically unbiblical and theologically detrimental it is for us to take this text at face value.
In today’s radically individualistic society the word “hate” is defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary as “to feel intense or passionate dislike for (someone)”. It is first and foremost marked by feeling, and is irreconcilable with altruistic actions, such as giving your only begotten son to die on their behalf. Further, it is not necessarily marked by social exclusion– we may even hate the parents we continue to live with or our spouse we sleep with, because hatred is first and foremost individual and psychological, or introspective.
But the Bible was not written in an individualistic society. In the highly collectivistic society of the Bible writers (which were not introspective like us and were extremely group-oriented) love and hate were not psychological or emotional terms. In Psalm 5, hatred concerns group attachment. Historical sociologist Bruce Malina describes their concept of hatred like this: “Hate would have meant ‘disattachment,’ ‘nonattachment,’ or ‘indifference’…. there may or may not be feelings of repulsion.” To hate someone was to expel them from your in-group, such as your family or village. If you hated your spouse, that could only mean you divorced her. Being a member of an in-group was absolutely essential to survival in this world. To be hated by it, that is, to be excluded or disattached, would have been detrimental. So hatred was still very serious, but it is inappropriate to say that God has feelings of intense or passionate dislike for evildoers, and that is precisely what you do if you interpret this text literally.
A nice parallel these preachers may not like to retrieve for this conversation is Luke 14:26. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” Here, these same preachers generally scrub the literal meaning of this text and often say that “Jesus was exaggerating” and what he meant was that you should love God so much that your love for your family should almost look like hatred. But Jesus’ language is actually trying to communicate exactly what Psalm 5:6 is: one must be willing to disattach or be indifferent to their family, which was not only their abundant source of fellowship and joy, but one’s fundamental hope of economic survival in that world. It took enormous faith to depart from your only hope for happiness and survival!
A Little Theology:
God disattaches God’s self from evildoers. God cannot be in association with evil works of oppression and violence against those whom God loves (which is everybody 😉 and so God expels such evildoers from God’s relationship. I think this is what the Psalmist is getting at, and I think it is an immensely liberating and fearful message. God is light and in Him there is no darkness. All the painful and evil things you see in this world, they are not from God. God has no fellowship with such evil and the people asserting such evil. God is not causing anyone to sin, or planning terrible things to happen, or puppeteering people to do awful things… God has hated, God has disattached God’s self, from evildoers.
I thank God for inspiring Psalm 5:6. But I’m not willing to even come close to compromising John 3:16 for a random line from a poem in the Old Testament. God loved the whole world. And that includes evildoers.
God ain’t no hater.