Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? Psalm 139:21 NRSV
One of the toys that my seven year old was given at the church fall festival was this "slap on" band with the words Jesus Loves Me printed on it. When I saw it I had to laugh. Yeah, Jesus loves you so much that I'm gonna slap you with it! Yesterday my son was playing with it and we laughed again about it and then he said, "Jesus hates me!" I immediately corrected him. I can not imagine Jesus hating anyone. Even from the cross, he forgave his enemies. I don't see any hatred in his self-sacrifice. His love for me is essential for the atonement, I believe.
But here is the Psalmist saying that he/she hates those who hate God. The psalmist loathes those who rise up against God. This is in such a juxtaposition to Jesus asking us to love our neighbor - even those we greatly dislike - and pray for our enemies. What do we do with this verse?
One of the hot topics recently is so-called atheists protesting and bringing cases against those who pray in Jesus' name. I don't even want to get into the issue of why someone who doesn't believe in God or gods would protest against anyone who is praying (as in, wouldn't it just be meaningless words to them?). However, I am thinking maybe the psalmist has these folks in mind. Should we hate these people? Loathe them?
I think such people have never really been loved by someone who believes in God, never felt the love of Christ in their heart and who only receive loathing and hatred. Perhaps if we didn't hate them, didn't loathe them but showed them love instead we would be following God's will.
I am struggling with these verses of this Psalm. I hope that you will too!
God, sometimes scripture makes us uncomfortable. Help us, Lord! Show us your will and your way at all times and in all places. Thank you for your love for us. In Jesus' name. Amen.