Love and Hate

When, in 21st century American English, speak about love and hate, we’re often referring to temporal emotions expressed, words spoken, tones, attitudes, etc. Then we bring God and the Bible into it and try to discern or judge whether these emotions are Biblically appropriate. We do the same thing with joy versus happiness.

But when the Bible speaks of Love and Hate and Joy, it’s not speaking of a temporal emotion. It’s speaking of a choice.

The Bible speaks a lot about hate and a lot about love. The Bible speaks of things that God hates and people that God hates. God hates evil and we’re to hate evil. “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” says the writer of Proverbs. God hated Esau.

To hate someone is to count him as an enemy and to treat him as an enemy. But the Bible still says to love your enemy. In the Bible, hatred is not an emotion primarily, but rather a covenant action. Those who treat God as an enemy will find God treating them the same way. Since they are His enemies, and He “hates” them, He will destroy them.

When the Bible speaks of God’s loving someone, it means He has chosen to favor them; when it speaks of God’s hating someone, it means He has chosen not to favor them.

“These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19)
“All their wickedness is in Gilgal, for there I hated them. Because of the evil of their deeds I will drive them from My house”  Hosea 9:15
“‘Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor, and do not love a false oath, for all these are things that I hate,’ says the Lord.”  Zechariah 8:17

It’s important to balance John’s declaration that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) with Hebrews’ assertion that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). A fire can be both comforting and destructive. It all depends on how you approach it and where you stand in relation to it. In this sense, it’s fair to say that love and hate are really two sides of the same coin: you can’t “love” a specific quality or attribute without “hating” its opposite.

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