Is “Love Hates” an Oxymoron?

Love Hates

Love Hates

“Hater” has become a pejorative and term of derision hurled at people who view marriage between a man and a woman as the only God-sanctioned form of marriage; as a sacred covenant relationship.  It is used in a way that is essentially synonymous with “bigot.”  This is unfortunate and is just another common example of hypoctitical intolerance on the part of people who claim to be all in favor of tolerance.  They are confident that there are no absolutes with the exception that they are absolutely right in their judgments on things.  OK already, enough of my rant.  Anyway, the following is a thoughtful article by Carol Forseth dealing with the use of the word “hate” in the Bible.  RMF

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Carol Forseth

Carol Forseth

Carol Forseth is a writer and a teacher of writing. She currently teaches at Pikes Peak Community College in Colorado Springs.

Love Hates

Rob Bell says Love Wins. Bob Goff says Love Does. Joel Manby says Love Works. I say “love hates.” God himself, who is love (1 John 4:16) hates, even with a passion, and teaches us what to hate. God hates what harms the people he loves.

What Does Love Hate?

God is love, but many writers of scripture tell us what God hates. God’s most notable hate list, the seven abominations, is found in Proverbs 6:16-19: God hates “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” 

The Old Testament emphasizes that God hates violence, evil and wickedness: “The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion” (Psalm 11:5); “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing” (Isaiah 61:8); ” ‘Do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord” (Zechariah 8:17).

God also hates idols (Deuteronomy 16:22). He is a jealous God, and wants our whole-hearted devotion. There are obvious parallels between what God hates and the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) which show us how to love him and the people that he loves.

What Does God Tell Us to Hate?

God tells us what he hates, but he also tells us what we should hate. In the Old Testament, we read, “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15). In the New Testament, we see it again: “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). It’s pretty clear; hate evil, love good. Regrettably, an extensive discussion of the meaning of good and evil is beyond the scope of this article; however, we can say that evil harms people, so we hate evil in order to love people.

However, Jesus used the word “hate” in a way that is not so simple. He told the crowds, “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). But, “anyone who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Is Scripture inconsistent? Most scholars would agree that Jesus’ statement in Luke, as well as a similar idea expressed in Matthew 10:37, is hyperbole, a figure of speech.

As Larry Osborne and Chris Brown used to say, as they preached through the Gospel of Luke at North Coast Church, this type of statement was Jesus’ way of “thinning the herd.” In fact, Jesus sought fervent followers; he wanted to spit the lukewarm Laodiceans out of his mouth (Revelation 3:16). Jesus called his people to be passionate in loving him and each other. The opposite of love is indifference, not hatred. It’s inconsistent to say, “Love doesn’t care.” It is consistent to say, “Love hates.” In a ferocious, mama-bear way, love confronts and opposes what threatens what it most loves.

To Hate With Love

As we exercise passionate love and hatred, we must be guided by the Spirit. Godly hate is expressed through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. In contrast, ungodly hate is expressed through violence, abuse, fits of rage, disrespect, impatience and selfish ambition, and other unloving qualities mentioned in Scripture.

When we engage in ungodly behaviors such as these in our passion to “hate what is evil,” we end up hating the people God loves. Love hates appropriately, not unbecomingly. It’s better that we love people by hating these behaviors in ourselves. First John is filled with instruction to love one another (3:11, 3:23, 4:7, 4:12, 4:21), to love not just with words, but with actions (3:18), and to live in love (4:16). Godly hatred is not the Fred Phelps variety of hatred. God does not hate people. He loves people and hates what hurts them. Ecclesiastes 3:8 reminds us that there is “a time to love and a time to hate.” Let us hate what love hates passionately, righteously and with our whole hearts.

About ronfurg

Former naval officer, federal investigator, forensic scientist, senior executive service member and pastor. In retirement serves as volunteer and life group leader at New Life Christian Church ( Devoted to beautiful wife, kids and grandkids. Looking forward to the time when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
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