Does God Actually Love Everyone?
When teaching children, you will find that the questions they ask are often difficult to answer. I remember one time when a kid asked me how many words are in the Bible. I found that hard, especially since different versions have different word choices. Eventually, I found a bookmark with the answer to that question for the King James Version. Although there are questions you may think are ridiculous, like that one, there are also questions that leave you digging through Scripture for days. One such question is: How can God say He loves all people when the Bible says that He hates Esau?
This is certainly not a question you can answer right off the bat. It takes time and research to answer questions such as this, and you don’t always have that time when you’re in a Good News Club® (GNC™) or Sunday school. Don’t be afraid of such questions, however; or feel pressured to answer immediately. Let the child know that you will take time to do the research, and then be sure to do it.
The Bible clearly states that God loves everyone, so why does it say that God hates Esau (Malachi 1:3)? And why did Jesus say, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)? It may seem like God is contradicting Himself, but He’s not. So why does God use the word “hate”?
The word “hate,” used in Malachi 1:3, was often used in Hebrew as a way to show preference. For example, if a person preferred manna over quail, he would say that he hates quail and loves manna. Therefore, when God said that He loved Jacob but hated Esau, it was a sign of preference. God wanted Jacob to be the forefather of the Children of Israel, not Esau. That was God’s special plan for Jacob and His chosen people.
The same goes for Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26. The Greek word used for hate here was often used as an idiom for “prefer” or “love less.” When Jesus said you must hate your relatives and even your own life, He was talking about preference. He commands that we love Him more than everyone else in our lives, including our own lives. If we don’t love Him more than everything or everyone else, we can’t be His disciples.
God doesn’t hate people in our understanding of the word, and He doesn’t want you to either. His will is for you to love Him above anything or anyone else, even life itself.
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