“Do I not hate them, O LORD, that hate Thee?” (Psalm 139:21).
This statement by David, as well as scores of others in Scripture, including several significant ones made by Paul, no doubt sounds strange – perhaps even offensive to the ears of many modern believers. The apostle in one instance says: “If any man preach another gospel than ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). The idea of a Christian’s hating not only wickedness but wicked people is largely incompatible with the religious sentimentalism pervasive in modern Western Christianity epitomized in the popular but spurious expression, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”
It is plausible to assume that this sentimentalism can to a certain degree be attributed to the influence of theological liberalism.1 A sentimental attitude toward God’s enemies does not square with Biblical precedent. If we imitate the example of God and His people as revealed in Scripture, our disposition toward the wicked must be much more austere.
This attitude does not refer to mankind in general; it refers to the overtly wicked and vicious individuals whose actions destroy lives and damn souls – that is those who are actively seeking to subvert the kingdom of God.
Our Attitude Toward The Wicked
For example, the martyred saints in heaven petition God with regard to their murderers, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10). I suspect that many Christians today would have responded, “Lord, don’t harm these your wicked enemies; give them time to be saved. Don’t be cruel to them.” The apostle John observed that “much people in heaven” rejoiced at the utter destruction of the vile Babylon (Rev 19:1-3). The utter destruction of an evil society, such as Nazi Germany, or the death of a cruel dictator such as Mao or Saddam Hussein, ought to be an occasion of praise and gladness, as it was for the saints as in recorded in Revelation 19.
Defective view of God. In many cases, one supposes, Christians’ queasiness over the proposal of God’s judgment of the wicked flows from their defective view of God Himself. Because God is a perfectly balanced Being, His attributes are equally ultimate. He is equally a God of kindness and justice, mercy and judgment, love and hate.2 It is not our discretion to conform God to our distorted image; we must accept Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word.
Prayer for Judgment on the Wicked
While Scripture affords clear examples of dedicated believers who remonstrated with God to delay or withdraw impending judgment on His own people (e.g. Abraham for Lot, Moses for Israel), it is equally reticent about any such appeal on behalf of the heathen and the wicked on the part of God’s people. All to the contrary, the obvious and frequent examples display God’s children as actually invoking God’s wrath on the heathen. The imprecatory Psalms3 contain petitions by David and others for God to harm and destroy wicked individuals. These are called imprecatory Psalms because an imprecation is a calling down of God’s curse. Paul’s imprecations recorded in Galatians 1:7-9 and implied in 5:12 parallel the psalmist’s imprecations.
As Revelation 19:2 makes clear, those who rejoice at the demise of God’s enemies are impelled by a desire to uphold the righteous judgment of God. That is, they’re more concerned with God’s justice and righteousness than they are with the welfare of wicked individuals. They are careful not to reverse the order of the first and the second great commandments: loving God with all of one’s heart and then loving one’s neighbor as oneself.
What are the sentimentalists really saying?
What sentimentalists are really saying when they balk at praying for God’s judgment upon evil individuals is that they are uneasy about a cause and effect relationship between sin and judgment. If we hate the evil, vicious results of pornographers, abortionists and cultists, yet we simultaneously shrink from requesting God’s judgment on the perpetrators, we are really saying that we dislike or disfavor a world in which judgment follows sin.
When sentimentalists concede that they yearn for a world in which judgment is the consequence to be delayed until the final judgment, what they are really saying then is that they are willing to sustain all of the evil results of the vile individuals. This would necessarily accompany a desire for God to delay His judgment because of the sentimentalists’ queasiness over God’s judging wicked people. In other words, they prefer homosexuality, dismembered infants, and child molestation to God’s judge homosexuals, abortionists, and child molesters.
The pattern of the Biblical saints is different: the prayers of God’s saints for His judgment on the wicked implore Him to act immediately, without delay (Psalms 79:5,6; Rev. 6:10). They despise the horrid results of evil workers and know that those results will be cut off as soon as the evil workers themselves are cut off.
Judgment as grace. They are aware, as we should be, that judgment is a form of grace, just as grace is a form of judgment. God executed His judgment upon Christ in order that He may extend His grace to us. (2 Cor. 5:21). Similarly, God extends His grace to His people (and mankind in general) when He destroys the wicked, because in destroying the wicked, He is averting their evil works that so plague God’s children and mankind in general.
Isaiah knew the truth of which sentimental Christians are ignorant: “Let favor be shown to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness” (26:10); yet, “when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (26:9). God’s judgment – not His favor – leads the world to righteousness. We should petition God’s judgment on the wicked because judgment is a form of grace.
“Up” With Imprecations4
It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the terrible moral and spiritual plight the Western world is presently suffering is due partially to the sentimental attitude of the Christian Church. They are like citizens in a democracy who castigate the politicians but who neglect to vote. They hate perversion, abortion, and cults, but they are too queasy and sentimental to pray for God to judge perverts, abortionists, and cultists. They suffer from a sort of irrationality that accompanies those who refuse to affirm and perform the whole counsel of God.
Worse, no doubt some of them are reluctant to practice imprecatory praying because they believe that increased evil is a precursor to the Lord’s return. In other words, they enjoy the spread of evil because it indicates that the Lord is coming soon – “Yes, things are pretty bad; but praise God for the increased murder of infants, spread of AIDS, and molestation of children, because that means Jesus’ coming is right around the corner.”
If that attitude seems perverse to you, that’s because it is!
When we hate God’s enemies (not our own [Mt. 5:44]), we demonstrate our love for God (Psalms 139:19-22). When we cry out to God to judge speedily the wicked, we are expressing our hatred for the harmfulness of evil deeds and our desire that they be frustrated (Rev. 6:9-11).
We must be certain that it is God’s enemies, not our own whom we hate (Ps. 139:21,22); and we must be sure our own hearts are clean in the sight of God (vv. 23,24).
If we love God and hate evil, we should hate His enemies and pray that they, and consequently their evil works, be judged.
1 See Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton,IL: Victor Books, 1986), 295,296.
2 Peter Ruckman, “Sovereign Grace Compared With Biblical Salvation,” Lockland Baptist Witness, April 1958, 2.
3 See Psalms 7, 35, 55, 58, 59, 69, 79, 109, 137, 139.
4 Imprecations are defined as: prayerfully uttered curses on God’s enemies. Fortunately, imprecatory prayer is experiencing a revival among Bible-believers; see Bill Hall, “Imprecatory Prayer,” Faith For The Family, March, 1981, 10-14; Editorial [Bob Jones], idem., p.2; Gary North, When Justice Is Aborted, 90-94.
Last evening I became very upset at our Wednesday evening prayer service. I heard our under Pastor question our group of what I once thought as mature Christians as to the weather it is right for Christians to pray imprecatory prayers. He almost immediately answers NO in his opinion. Many in our meeting concurred with his opinion and read the verses from the New Testament to support their position. One even said this type of prayer has no place in a New Testament church. The longer I set there the more upset I become. I later expressed this to my wife who found your website and position on this topic. I had also prayed that God would surface an answer for me. I knew what I had been taught most of my Christian life and this Pastor’s answer bothered me. While I am well aware of God’s Love, Grace and Mercy that he grants to all Mankind, I also know that he hates Sin. All Sin, big and small, God sees no differences in the sizes of the Sins we commit. I have long found it hard not to pray against those that support the murder of children, etc. I don’t want to take up to much space but I do want to thank you. I would like to share this article. I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel so to speak and will point those with a computer to your website. With your permission I will print it off for those that do not have computer access. God cause you to write this article because he knew that I would one day need this answer. Praise God! Glory to his name!
Thank you for this insight! It really touched a chord, and the peace which surpasses understanding that accompanied my own convictions as I read it, are proof positive that this is what I had been searching for on the Internet. God Bless you.
I believe when we judge by the sword we shall die by the sword. It is God who will judge and bring judgement, but we are to always fervently pray that the hearts of the sinners are changed… It mars the face of God when christians sometimes filled with judgementalism or self righteousness pray God’s judgement down on sinners… When we pray it down on sinners, (we too are sinners equally mind you, or let him who is without sin throw the first stone). God’s judgement will be released when we pray for the sinner to REPENT, and he keeps molesting or abusing, and we pray God’s light into the situation, repentance and for things to be exposed AND GET UP FROM OUR PRAYING BOTTOMS AND ALSO GO AND LIVE OUT THE VERY THING WE ARE PRAYING. WHEN CHRISTIANS ARE ASKED HOW MUCH TIME CHRIST SPENT WITH THE POOR, IT IS A LOT, WHEN ASKED HOW OFTEN THEY ARE WITH THE POOR, IT IS ALMOST NONE…. Today I was in a meeting where someone prayed for God to come and kill the molesters. I hate molesters too, but we are people of Mercy. It is God who judges, NOT US, IT IS A VERY VERY DANGEROUS PLACE TO STAND IN we are to cry out for His repentance,and for His turn around / if not exposure in that sinners life (you too are one,be it small or big) . We greatly mar the face of God, and make Him and His POWERFUL GRACE AVAILABLE TO THE WORST OF SINNERS look repulsive to the world when us christians sit there crying God’s judgement on sinners. How DARE WE! It is God who judges my friend… Judgement will come anyway, He says in His word “Vengeance is Mine” it is not ours , it will come but our job is to cry out for that sinners life, for his repentance. What if you were that blind wounded wounding abuser still in deep darkness unable to see the light since all are praying and no one is around to go to him to tell him the GOOD NEWS???? (praying is awesome amazing wonderful, astounding, but prayer without the lifestyle of prayer is empty- PRAYER IS LOVING ON CHRIST- GOING TO THE OUTCAST, AND LONELY, AND POOR, CHRIST LOOKS BACK AT YOU THROUGH THEIR EYES- THAT’S PRAYER TOO – LOVING ON THEM….What sounds like love to you: Someone praying for you to be killed and you lying in a pool of blood, or someone crying out for your heart to be changed, or for you to be caught so atleast you couldnt’ do that stuff anymore… and your heart get’s changed and you find your desperate need for God…We as Children of God better air too much too much to the side of Mercy then too much to the side of Judgement.. It is a very dangerous place to stand in.
And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Should you help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath on you from before the LORD. ~ 2 Chronicles 19:2
Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate you? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them my enemies. ~ Psalm 139:21-2
We are not better than God. The unmerciful Servant in the parable of the unmerciful servant didn’t withhold forgiveness from somebody who committed a violent crime and refused to say sorry. He sinned against someone who owed him a little money and begged for mercy. There’s a big difference. I think there are limits to forgiveness, and it’s a two-way street. If others brag about what they’ve done to us, they’re also shaking a fist in God’s face and qualify for His judgment.
I see no difference between my enemies and God’s own, provided they deliberately hurt me because they hate righteousness and expect to get away with it. Those who viciously hate me for no just cause and hurt me ARE wicked just as much as God’s enemies, they are certainly not God’s people. Whoever does me evil IS God’s enemy because that one is doing the works of satan and is a child of the devil (John 8:44) Psalms 5:6 teaches that God hates the bloody and deceitful man. This type of crime is committed against people, not directly against God. We are one spirit with Christ (see I Cor. 6:17) so it’s only logical that our enemies are His enemies too
I think the most important thing for us to notice is that we have no verses to call judgments on specific people. If a person has ever been mentioned by name in a petition of judgment by someone other than Him, it has been in the Old Testament, and it has been upon a leader of a peoples or someone with authority. The people in Revelation 6:10 speak about all the wicked and not a single person, as we should if we are to pray His wrath upon anyone. I would be careful to petition for wrath on a specific person because maybe, that is not His plan for them. In Job we see many ideas about how He supposedly judges the wicked in life, but this obviously is not always so. We should hate those who hate Him, but we don’t always know who that is. We should never cast judgment upon someone, but we can call for His judgment to be done on the wicked, trusting it into His hands—and even then, be sure to be living a holy life. Intending to petition judgement upon all the wicked of some sort, you might in your stupor judge someone unintentionally.
We also need to be careful that we call upon His wrath and judgment without specification. As mentioned above, “when Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9), so His wrath is blessed. Also, ”God shows His anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.“ (Romans 1:18) and “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.“ （2 Peter 3:9) If we asked for death upon a certain person, how could it be used to turn them towards Him? God may kill someone out of wrath, but He is sovereign and all knowing, probably foreseeing that they will never turn to Him no matter what and that they will only do more damage left here on earth. We need to see wrath as consequences and not death. In the Old Testament, herald after herald were sent to kings and peoples who might oppose Israel. With their rejection of Him, sometimes they were killed, but sometimes plagues were sent, and like-wise even among the people of Israel. God sent His wrath upon His own people time and time again, often leaving them alive so that they might correct their life and be His mighty heralds to the earth.
Lastly, if the Spirit is in you, it will burn against evil, and so will you; but if we are not living humble lives, willing to be persecuted for our Father by the wicked, how can we call upon Him to judge them for “all they have done” against us? Love your enemies, but not His. With all of this said, share Him and His love with all people, and not just His people, for it is the only thing you will not be doing in heaven.
Many years ago, when I was a young man, a woke up one night in a cold sweat at about two in the morning. I had a dreadful feeling that my parents were in mortal danger. I got down on my knees next to my bed and asked my Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ to protect them from all harm. I asked that He touch the heart of their enemy and turn that person away from their evil plan. I also prayed however that if that person was an unsalvageable son on the Devil, intent on killing my parents, that he be struck dead with lightening before he could carry out his evil plan. The next morning, this man was sitting on his horse, in the courtyard of his ranch house, with his family standing around him, when he was stuck by a deadly lightening bolt. It stuck his back and exited through his stomach, expelling his bowels all over the courtyard. His horse, although spooked, was unharmed.
God’s Love and Goodness brought me into His Kingdom. God’s judgements are perfect. I know that God has asked me to pray that people would get a revelation of His Goodness to lead people to repentance and that the spirits and evil that has bound them to be judged. Jesus came to save the world and not condemn it. That said, when He judges evil, those who Love it will experience the judgment that comes along with that. May we pray fervently for the Lost for it is His inheritance to receive all that He died for.