Lovers and Haters
We may assume that love is good and hate is bad, that God would want us to always love and that He would want us to always shun hating. But is this true? Actually, God is a hater and a lover and He wants us also to be haters and lovers! Maybe it is shocking to realize that some who hates will go to heaven while some who love will go to hell! It all depends on what we love and what we hate.
Our greatest obligation in life is to love God! A scribe asked Jesus, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” The Lord answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one Lord; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:28-30). Do we love like that? Loving God with this breadth, depth and intensity must always be our greatest desire and greatest goal! We definitely must be lovers if we hope to go to heaven!
We must also have a passionate love for Jesus our Lord. Christ declared, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). Christ could say this because of who He is and He knew that only with this intensity of love can we claim to know Him and belong to Him. Paul knew this and wrote, “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22a). Do we love like this?
A chief characterization of our life in the family of God must be love for other brothers and sisters. Jesus even said that this is the chief mark of our discipleship. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). There is a direct connection between love for God and love for other believers. As John wrote, “The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (John 4:20b). Paul was able to say, “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Colossians 3:14). The many facets of love are mentioned in the great “love chapter” (1 Corinthians 13:1-8). We know that only lovers of God will be received by Him in heaven, and this same love for others is also necessary for our own salvation!
So important is this principle of love that Christ, the Author of love, insists that we even love our enemies! He said, “Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28). He goes on to say that if we love our enemies, we “will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (v. 35). This matter of love is surely a chief characteristic of our life, an indispensible element of one who would be received into heaven! And yet this degree of love is often entirely overlooked in our superficial and cruel age.
We must also love other worthy objects. For instance, the psalmist wrote, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). He expresses this sentiment in other verses of this psalm, such as v. 127: “I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold” (cf. vv. 47, 48). What else? The psalmist, in referring to the coming Messiah, said, “You have loved righteousness” (Hebrews 1:9a). Do you and I have such a regard for God that we love what He loves, such as righteousness or right-doing?
But not only are we to love, we are also to hate! Generally hatred is looked on as a work of the flesh that will keep one out of the kingdom of God—and indeed it is (cf. Galatians 5:20-21). If anyone hates his brother, he is a murderer and does not have eternal life in him (1 John 3:15). Further, the one who hates his brother is in darkness (1 John 2:9, 11). We can’t hate our brother and love God at the same time (1 John 4:20). Unbelievers are hateful and also hate one another (Titus 3:3). All of this is true, but there are times and circumstances that demand our hatred!
We absolutely must be haters of what God hates! In the last quoted verse above, the full quotation says, “You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness!” (Hebrews 1:9a). If Jesus “loved” righteousness and “hated” lawlessness, if we would be like Him, we must also hate what he hated (and hates), namely, lawlessness! In other words, we should have a deep hatred of law-breaking, transgression of God’s will, unrighteousness, and sin of all kinds. This is why we read, “Hate evil, you who love the LORD” (Psalm 97:10a).
Scripture says more about this matter of hatred. The psalmist wrote, “I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104b; cf. v. 128). Not only this, but the same writer said, “I hate and despise falsehood, but I love Your law” (v. 163). Solomon speaks of this hatred of wrongdoing also: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate” (Proverbs 8:13). David wrote, “I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me” (Psalm 101:3).
We might also be rightly surprised about another fact. Scripture goes so far as to speak of hatred of those who commit sin: “Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?” (Psalm 139:21-22). This suggests that “this loyalty to God goes so far as to own God’s attitudes” (ESV Study Bible at Psalm 139:21-22). This is reflected in Psalm 5:5b, where the psalmist prays to God, “You hate all who do iniquity.” Note also, “I hate those who regard vain idols, but I trust in the LORD” (Psalm 31:6). The ESV Study Bible notes, in regard to “I hate” here: “A strong term, stressing the decisive way in which the faithful reject all sympathy with the wicked. It is possible for God to ‘hate’ those who oppose him (5:5; 11:5), and at the same time to be ‘good’ (or kind) to all (145:9); therefore, it must be desirable for the faithful to do the same” (at notes for Psalm 31:6).
Other passages would include Psalm 119:113: “I hate those who are double-minded, but I love Your law.” Again, we read, “The strong terms hate and love refer not so much to irrational emotions as to deliberate rejection and adherence” (ESV Study Bible at Psalm 119:113). David writes, “I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked” (Psalm 26:5). It does seem like an inconsistency here, but it would seem that the Word of God counsels us to both “hate” the evildoer as well as “love” everyone, including our enemies.
Love and Hate
As you can imagine, there are many other Biblical passages that could be added to the ones we have already examined. We’ve seen that we are to love God, love Christ, love our brothers in the faith, and love all people, including our enemies. We are to love righteousness, truth, and God’s Word. On the other hand, we are to hate all evil, falsehood, unrighteousness, sin, and those who practice these negative attitudes. We don’t hate anyone out of spite, cruelty, maliciousness, or wickedness, but we so identify with God and His character that we respond as he does to both sin and righteousness, both holy people and ungodly people!
Let us have the attitude of Christ Jesus, for He loved and He hated. He hated what God hated and loved what God loved. How can we do less?