In Matthew 5:43-48, Christ instructs us to love our neighbor and in Psalm 139:19-24 instructs us to hate those who hate God. Seeing the Bible is inerrant and infallible, how do we reconcile the message in these passages?
“Do not, O Lord, I hate those that hate thee?”
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies.”
These two texts found in Psalm 139:19-24 and Matthew 5:43-48 respectively, are two texts that have caused much controversy in their interpretation of the text. As Christians we must look at the infallibility of Scripture and look to the Bible for true meaning of these texts. Our duty is to live according to Scripture, and in order to do so we must live according to God’s commands like the texts of Psalm 139 and Matthew 5. With these two passages in mind we have to look at our faith and our calling in life which is found in Matthew 22:37, “Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”
In order to interpret the messages of these texts it is important to look at them separately. First of all, Matthew 5:43-48 speaks about God’s command to us to love our enemies.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
This passage is such a reassuring text to Christians today that our work with the wicked here on this earth is meaningful. God commands us to “Love our enemies, bless them that curse you and do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.” This can be hard for the Christian because every day is a battle against the world and we have to constantly defend ourselves against those who hate us. The world hates us and wants nothing to do with God and it is very hard to show love to them. But our command is to love our enemies and show compassion for them. God has created all creation and this includes man and our command is to love them. A great example of why we show love is shown in Luke 23:42-43 when the sinner on the cross says to Jesus, “remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.”
Jesus replies, “Verily I say unto thee, today thou shalt be with me in paradise.”
What a blessed reassurance of salvation for the man on the cross as Jesus directly tells him that he will go to heaven. This is why as Christians we are to show compassion to all men. People can live unrepentant their whole lives, but God can work in their hearts the forgiveness of sins even on their death bed. By loving our enemies we are a witness to them of the love of God and his power over creation. It is important to be examples and followers of God demonstrating love, compassion, and constant prayer so others will see Christ in us. We are to love our neighbor because it shows our Christ-like obedience to God our Father.
God gives us these commands to love our enemies for several reasons. First of all that we may be like God our Father, as we read in verse 45, “that ye may be…the children of your father.” Secondly, if we only show love to our neighbors and not our enemies, we are not following this command. This love for our enemy can take on many implications.
In verse 44 this doctrine comes to light “…bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you….” Although we live in a world where the wicked hate the righteous, God commands us to love them. We have to show love to our enemies and do good to them while hating the sin that they are living in. This can be such a hard struggle for Christians because even though the wicked are living an unrepentant life and want nothing to do with God we may not hate them, but we have to hate their sin. This also means that we may not make friends with the world because God commands us to be in the world, but not of the world. We must look to our savior who gives us the strength to do this and live it out in an upright heart. Our faith is a work of God and our works are not of ourselves but are a result of God’s compassion for his people. By faith we will experience this wonder of God as he works it in our hearts.
The other text of discussion comes from Psalm 139: 19-24:
Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
The psalmist here talks about how God will slay the wicked because of their evil works. Every human being is responsible for their own actions here on this earth and God will judge us according to our works. The wicked have continual hatred for God’s people and they “speak against thee wickedly” and they “take thy name in vain.” Matthew Henry writes, “Those that profane the sacred forms of swearing or praying by using them in an inappropriate manner take God’s name in vain, and thereby show themselves enemies to him.” These actions lead to God’s hatred for the wicked and his wrath in sending them into eternal damnation. This is not to be taken lightly, because for eternity the wicked will experience God’s wrath forever and their evil deeds can never be taken back.
The evidence can be seen from this as the psalmist writes, “depart from me ye bloody men.” God wants nothing to do with the wicked as they depart into hell. His hatred for them is a cruel and damnable punishment and we as Christians are supposed to hate them that hate God. The psalmist answers this by saying, “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee…I hate them with a perfect hatred.” So as Christians we do hate the wicked because they hate God. But we do not hate the world by judging them, it is not our duty to judge the world and hate those whom we think are “of the world.” God is the only judge as Asaph writes in Psalm 75:7: “God is the judge: he putteth down one: and putteth up another” and not sinful man as Matthew writes “judge not, that ye be not judged.” Then, how are we to hate those if we cannot judge? God commands us through this psalm to hate with a perfect hatred. We do not hate man and what God has created here on this earth. We hate the sin of man which man has created. God is not the author of sin because if he was we are to hate something he created. We have to honor all of God’s creation and sin is not part of it.
Hatred then becomes a spiritual aspect for Christian. In Psalm 139:22, “I hate them with a perfect hatred” which means I hate the work of those that reject God’s sovereignty. As Christians it is our duty to hate those who hate God and hate their evil deeds they commit. Through the eyes of Christ we hate those who hate God but it is not our duty to judge those who are of God and those who are of the world. This is why we have to pray continually for those who do wrong to us and persecute us. Our work here on this earth is a work through the Spirit in our hearts. We have to hate the workers of iniquity and the work they commit from day to day. When sinners live in an unrepentant lifestyle we have to hate their sin that they are living in. We may not make friends with those who do not show love for God and his creation. This is why Christ commands us to live in the world but not of the world. This doctrine explains a clear definition of why we have to hate the sin of the wicked, but show compassion to our enemies.
This doctrine is a complex doctrine that can be a struggle in understanding. As we read in Matthew 5 our command comes from God to love our enemies. This has to be the work of the Christian every day we live. We have to live in a conscious effort to show love to our enemies and have mercy upon them. This can only be done with constant prayer and faith in God that he will direct our paths in an upright manner. Then as we read in Psalm 139 we have to hate those who hate God which means that we have to hate the work of those that continually live in sin and show no repentance for their actions. Their work is a damnable work and we are not to associate ourselves as friends with them but rather pray for them that God will turn their hearts and follow him.
With these two passages in mind we look at our faith and our calling in life which is found in Matthew 22:37, “Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all they mind.”