Thursday, June 21, 2012

Drawing the Line

Today we contemplate Psalm 139.21-22:

Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.

And now the psalmist steers us into very tricky—yet very familiar—territory. His honesty confronts us with similar emotions we often wrestle with regarding evildoers and the unrighteous. Hate is a word that all followers of Christ hate, as we are commanded to love without condition. So we question the validity of the hatred the psalmist expresses here. We need to do a little digging to ascertain exactly what he means. Here, he couples two words: hate and loathe. He uses “hate” to indicate he detests the attitudes of those who disregard God’s ways, while his loathing confesses grief summoned by their behaviors. He draws a clean line between his adversaries and their actions, reserving his hatred for what they do, while resisting every urge to hate them for who they are. “I hate them with perfect hatred,” he says, confining his hatred within the boundaries of despicable sorrows they cause. His is a tightly controlled anguish akin to Christ’s prayer on the cross: “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23.34) Drawing the line between hateful actions and those who commit them is never easy; the boundaries are seldom clear. Yet we must make that distinction if we are to love our neighbors without reservation while also despising ungodliness we encounter. Remember: acceptance is not to be mistaken for indulgence, nor should tolerance be misconstrued as permission. And in the end, as Jesus showed us, our disgust with unrighteousness should trigger a spirit of compassion and forgiveness no matter what.

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