“The internet has always bred hate,” says Vox writer Chavie Lieber. There’s no denying that the ease and anonymity of our connectivity make for an efficient circulator of poison.

But we can’t blame the Internet; it has no soul. Behind the faceless trolls and pot-stirring comments are real human beings with a sickness that derives a counterfeit importance from inciting anger. No, the problem isn’t with the Internet. The problem is with us.

Having made that assertion, permit me to put in a good word for hate. Not for the trolling brand of hate, but for genuine, well targeted hate.

Someone close to me—someone whose opinions I value and respect—is a pretty good hater. He rages at injustice; explodes over life’s endless supply of stupid; stews and fumes over rank incompetence in his coworkers. People in power are a particular target for his rancor. He is especially exercised over heedless indifference among religious leaders, government officials, and bureaucrats. He does not suffer fools gladly.

Complicating all this personal Sturm und Drang is an inner war between his agnosticism and his anger at God. He’s brilliant, so he’s well aware of the contradiction there. But he needs someone to blame for all this hate in the world. And it causes him to hate.

I don’t judge him. In fact, I can put myself alongside him in many of those categories—save for the agnosticism and the intensity of his reactions. But he’s hating the right things. Why should so many people willfully make things worse than they need to be? Where is God in all of this? Why doesn’t He do something to stop the hate?

Such anger is reminiscent of Elie Weisel, who gave us a prisoner’s view of Hitler’s death camps. Weisel evolved from disappointment in God to outright anger at Him. In Legends, he puts these words in the mouth of his mentor Pinhas, who has seen too much: “Until now I’ve accepted everything, without bitterness, without reservation. I have told myself: ‘God knows what he is doing.’ I have submitted to his will. Now I have had enough, I have reached my limit.”

Weisel understandably reached his limit too. For a while—a long while, actually—he could only see God as cruel. Why did God seem to hate the victims and do nothing to stop the perpetrators? Is He indifferent to justice?

We say that God is love, but we tend to say it flippantly. Genocide has a way of distilling such platitudes out of us. Dare we say that God is love? If so, why doesn’t He stop the hate?

A search of the Scriptures reveals something surprising. God hates. Here are a few examples:

Moses reminded the Israelites, “You must not worship the Lord your God the way the other nations worship their gods, for they perform for their gods every detestable act that the Lord hates” (Deuteronomy 12:31). These pagan practices included child sacrifice. Moses also said that God hates the “sacred pillars” that foreign nations worshiped (16:22). Such pillars were phallic symbols used in fertility rites. It’s not difficult to understand God’s hatred here. He is obviously directing it at hateful acts.

But hate is also a surprising theme of the Psalms, where we learn that God hates certain people too. David writes of the Lord, “You hate all who do evil” (5:5). And again, “[God] hates those who love violence” (11:5). David even allies himself with God’s hate. “I hate those who worship worthless idols” (31:6). So David asserts that God hates certain people, and then admits that he hates them too.

So, we’re supposed to hate certain people, right? Not surprisingly, we learn something new from the life and words of Jesus, who gave us a different paradigm. Perhaps most striking are His words in the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43–45). Clearly, Christ is introducing something new.

But Jesus’s radical view grows out of the Old Testament law too. We see the principle put forth in places like Exodus 23:5, where God instructed: “If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.”

This directive was not specific to donkeys and enemies of Israelites; it extends to all situations. Instead of celebrating our enemy’s misfortune, we can let it be our opportunity to convey God’s healing. When your enemy needs help, lend a hand! In this way, we work with Him to reach out to the haters among us and invite them to join the kingdom of light and love.

God has to hate evil. It’s in His character. It’s also in His character to extend His offer of peace to those who practice evil—which at the heart of the matter is all of us. That’s precisely why Jesus died on the cross. He took His Father’s hatred of evil entirely on Himself. We need only reach out and accept His offer of forgiveness.

Don’t be a hater of your fellow human beings. Instead, hate what God hates: violence, injustice, self-righteousness, pride. Trolling. By hating the right stuff, we reflect God’s heart of love. In response to the conduit of hate that the Internet can be, we become conveyors of God’s grace.

—Tim Gustafson



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