Did you know that there are verses in the Bible that say that God hated Esau? (Malachi 1:3, Romans 9:13) I have read the verses over and over in my lifetime but never gave them much thought.
One day, a man in our church preached about it. He challenged me and compelled me to come to terms with the meaning of those passages. He and I arrived at different conclusions, but nonetheless, I am indebted to him for forcing me to look into this topic.
You see, it’s NOT okay to read the Bible, soak up the parts that sound good to us, and let the rest fall to the ground. (Which is, unfortunately, what most people do. They create their own god – based on the parts of the Bible that they like.)
The painful truth is, if the verses about God hating anyone were true, then He was not the God that I’d always believed Him to be. Or, so I thought.
I went home from that church service unable to sleep or do anything other than think about what I’d been forced to read. I stayed up late that night and got up early the next day, insistent on getting to the heart of the matter. I would not rest until I had the answers in my hand. I turned to just about every reference book I owned, searched the web, looked up every possible related passage in the Bible, wrote pages of notes. I WOULD have resolution, and I would have it soon.
Here is a note that I wrote to myself in the margin of one of those pages:
“How can we fit those verses into the same Bible? How can He be the same God? We know He is, by the many proofs we have seen (Feast days, OT points to Christ). If it doesn’t seem to fit, there must be a misunderstanding of some kind.”
You see, in the quest for truth, one thing is absolutely necessary: that we learn to be honest with ourselves.
At first, I went looking for excuses. I thought that perhaps it was okay to hate people who were doomed anyway – I rationalized by wondering if it was because they deserved the penalty for their sins. But that didn’t make sense to me because I knew that God did not desire for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Also, I deserve the penalty for my sin, but God doesn’t hate me. In addition, David said that he himself hated people with a perfect hatred. Was David righteous enough to hate an imperfect perfect person? No.
Next, I thought to myself – perhaps the meaning of “hate” has changed since 1611. For the next page or so of notes, I based all of my research on this idea. After all, we know that English words like “conversation” (lifestyle), “knew” (had sex with), “let” (hinder), “meat” (food), “quick” (living), “quit” (keep on), and “suffer” (allow) have all changed in meaning since 1611.
This argument was close enough, and I finally got some sleep.
Skip forward to today.
For the past 18 months or so, I have been studying Hebrew. And lately, I have learned a few things about their language and the way they see the world: Hate is not what I thought it was. Neither is love.
Try to fully define either of those words for yourself, and what do you get? Paragraphs of explanations and examples. They are called abstract ideas for a reason. And if you compare your perception of these nouns to anyone else’s, there will be inconsistencies, contradictions, arguments. I have discovered that the Western way of thinking is wholly to blame for this. The reason we don’t understand things such as faith, love, or hate is because we are looking at them through a Western lens.
The Word of God was penned by people who understood the reality of these terms. The Eastern mindset is concrete. In order to love someone, you have to do it, not feel it. And that makes sense, doesn’t it? If you don’t do it, then you don’t really feel it either. A mother who fails to feed her starving baby does not love that baby, no matter how she thinks she feels about him. Hate and many other abstract words function the same way.
When God spoke of hating Esau, He wasn’t telling us how He felt about them. He was telling us that He actively worked against them. He brought judgment down upon them. Not because He wanted to destroy them, but because His righteousness demands that all sin must be paid for.
In reality, He desired to save them, just as He desires to save everyone. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
If you persist in rejecting the Messiah’s substitutional sacrifice in your behalf, then you will necessarily pay for your own sins, which will prevent you from inheriting eternal life. (The wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23)
So that’s the biblical definition of hate. Then what is love? The Almighty God loves us by doing what is best for us. God’s entire Law hinges on love. In it, He tells us how to live a healthy and successful life. The Law is love. The Law is life. After informing us of the best way to live, He allows us to choose whether we want to walk in the ways of life or abandon it.
If there is sin in our lives, then the Law prescribes correction. It’s not always pleasant, and it’s not always what we would choose for ourselves, but it is always best. If you are a parent that loves your child, then surely you have corrected him. Parenthood is the perfect object lesson. There’s a reason He calls Himself our Father.
So how do we even begin to love Him in return? I have one word for you, and that is obedience. Look it up. Read your whole Bible this year, and when you have finished it, tell me if I’m wrong. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” John 14:15
The following is a story about a lawyer who was trying to trick Jesus into tripping over His words. I believe that He wanted Jesus to belittle some of God’s words (making them less important in comparison to others). Here’s how the story goes:
“Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40
How did Jesus score? Did He pass the test? Yes, He did. His answer was rhetorical. All of God’s words are equally important. So Jesus said to love Him and love people. In doing these two things, you will walk in all of God’s commandments because:
Love for God = obedience
Love for your neighbor = lawful behavior toward mankind
Jesus’ response to the lawyer points out the weight of the whole Law. He had the same response for satan: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that procedeeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4 – not just some words, but all of them.
Time for a few more abstract terms:
Forgiveness. Have you ever wondered how to forgive someone? It’s not in how you feel about them. It’s how you behave toward them. It’s what you say behind their back; it’s how you treat them to their face.
What is faith? Behaving like you believe. That’s it. Faith manifests itself in action. It is the evidence of things not seen. If there’s no action, there’s no faith. James 2:18 is rhetorical: “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” Read the whole chapter to get the big picture.
One more really controversial topic; I will say as little as possible while still making myself clear: homosexuality itself is concrete. If you aren’t sleeping with members of the same sex, then you aren’t a homosexual. If you sleep with a member of the same sex, and then stop again, then you aren’t a homosexual. In fact, we really shouldn’t be using the adjective homosexual to define a person at all. There is homosexuality – that is the noun, the act. For Christians to call another human being a homosexual is for Christianity to buy into the belief that we are born that way and have no say in the matter.
Perhaps you stole a candy bar from the gas station 30 years ago. Do you refer to yourself as a thief for the rest of your life? Perhaps you know the combination to the safe at work. You daydream about making off with the money and retiring to a tropical island. Do you refer to yourself as a thief because of your temptation? No. Thievery is what you do – how you behave. It is an action.
What about a recovering sugar-addict? You may dream about ice cream, donuts, and candy bars all day long. Yet you care more about your health, so you deny yourself sugar. (IMHO, this is the same reason that God told us not to commit homosexuality – because it’s not healthy, and he wanted us to know that it isn’t good for us.) Do you label yourself a sugar addict forever, or do your actions define who you really are?
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t refrain from thinking homosexual thoughts. We should also refrain from fantasizing about burglary, extra-marital sex, vengeance, any number of things. Thoughts lead to action. However, I am worried about all of the kids and teens and even adults out there who are going to start labeling themselves as homosexuals just because an impure thought crossed their mind. We don’t label ourselves fornicators and adulterers at the slightest temptation. Why would we do the same for homosexuality? I’m afraid that these people will buy into the idea that they are “homosexuals” and that their belief will lead to behavior. What do you think?
Again, I know I’ve touched on some highly controversial topics here. I would venture to say that many Christians and many homosexuals will be offended by some of the things I’ve said here today. However, I do want to hear from you. My mind is forever adapting to new information, so I encourage any feedback you may have for me. Let’s just give our best effort to respect each other and keep things civil.