Of course it is the burning question of our day. It is the question all Christians seek to answer. It is undoubtedly the mystery of life which the world that finds the Christian gospel incomprehensible  is begging the church to clear up.

Who does God hate?

Fortunately for everyone, last week Franklin Graham came to the rescue and provided a clear and succinct answer to this burning question. According to Mr. Graham apparently,

“God hates cowards.”

The cowards God particularly hates are those who

“know the truth but refuse to speak it.”

Sadly, the truth about which Mr. Graham is so concerned is not the one his famous evangelist father Billy declared to all the world that “God so loved the world.” The “truth” the junior Mr. Graham targets is that

“We have a responsibility to speak on the moral issues. Abortion, homosexuality, these are moral issues. This is a free country, you can do what you want to do but I want you to know it’s a sin against God. This is a sin.”


The biblical basis to which Graham appeals for his teaching is Revelation 21:8 in which the writer announces,

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.

One word yanked out of context is enough for Mr. Graham to launch a tirade against those who disagree with him,or rather, those who agree with him but resist the temptation to demand the world heed their view.

There is nothing in the text Graham cites about hatred. God is not said to hate anyone here.

The writer in chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation is seeking to encourage Christians who are living in a context of mounting persecution to have bold confidence in the work of Christ. He offers a beautiful vision of the union with God to which Christ opens the way. In that context, the writer points out that when our lives are controlled by fear we will suffer. There is nothing in the text about anyone being responsible to identify and point out other peoples’ sins.

The hatred part is Franklin Graham’s invention and he understands that his righteous pronouncements may not be popular. But he is not afraid. He is willing to pay the price.

“Could we get our heads chopped off? We could, maybe one day. So what? Chop it off!”

Graham’s comments were made in Washington at the 2014 Watchmen on the Wall National Briefing where he was receiving the 2014 Watchmen Award. In presenting the award, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins

commended Graham for his actions in the public sphere.

“Franklin is not the pastor of a church, but in a real sense he is a pastor to America’s pastors,” said Perkins before presenting Graham with the 2014 Watchman Award.

“And in that role, he has sounded the alarm and raised the righteous standard as have few other leaders in our time.”

It is not that easy to proof text God’s hatred for anyone, particularly in the New Testament. The most commonly cited text to back up God’s hatred in the New Testament is Romans 9:13, which turns out actually to be a quote from the Old Testament.

As it is written,
‘I have loved Jacob,
but I have hated Esau.’

If you read the quote in its context in Malachi, it appears that the prophet is reflecting upon the fact that our choices and actions have consequences. When we choose to live out of alignment with the way God has designed life to operate, we suffer; we experience life as separation.

The metaphor Hebrew writers used to describe this experience of suffering and separation as a consequence of sin, was “hatred”. The choices we make shape our experience of God. When I live a self-centered life, I experience God as a God of hatred. This is not an objective statement about the nature of God who is clearly described in I John 4:8 where the writers says,

God is love.

The metaphor of hatred points to my subjective experience of God. When I choose hatred, I experience hatred. When I choose love, I experience love. The concept of hatred throughout the Bible is a dramatic and poetic way of stating that we should not

be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. (Galatians 6:7)

As normally understood in the lexicon of human emotions, hatred is almost certainly not an accurate description of the nature of the God who is revealed in the compassionate sacrificial life of Jesus.

Mr. Graham can have his God who hates “cowards”. I choose the God who, while continuing to love me with deep compassion, gives me the freedom to choose the life I live and to experience the consequences of my choices even when they cause suffering in my life and in the world.

God hates cowards
God hates cowards