Last week I wrote what turned out to be a passion-invoking post about feminism. I carefully weighed and ultimately chose to use the word “hate” as my emotion and conviction of choice and received much feedback that hate, in and of itself, was not very Christian, and also that feminism in its purest form is a good thing. I want to respond to the conversation about hate first, and feminism secondly.
Are Christians allowed to hate?
We have been told by Jesus Himself that the first two commandments by which we are to live, on which all of the others are founded are:
1. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matt 22.37)
2. To love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22.39)
Then we have unfathomably difficult passages and commands of the New Covenant (commands of Jesus Himself, and the apostles), to love our enemies, love those who are persecuting us, caring for those who would take advantage of us and keep us in slavery or kill us.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
– Rom 12.18
So where does hatred fit in with all of this? If we Christians are to be known by our love, does that mean that we should not and may not hate (John 13.35)?
There are a few layers to this question. First of all, let us consider God’s love. Perhaps the most well known verse in all of the Bible is John 3.16:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
We also know that God is love:
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
– 1 John 4.7-8
But God is not only love. He is also a jealous God, a consuming fire, a just God (Ex 20.5, Deut 4.24, 2 Thess 1.6). So we must look at all of His attributes and not divorce them from one another. Does God hate? Most people would concede that God does indeed hate sin:
There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.
– Prov 6.16-19
But we also learn that God punishes the sinner and hates all who do iniquity:
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness;
No evil dwells with You.
The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
You destroy those who speak falsehood;
The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit.
– Ps 5.4-6
God not only hates the sin, but the sinner. How then can anyone be saved, for we all sin? If we continue reading after that most famous of verses, John 3.16, we see revealed some of the depths to this mystery:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
– John 3.16-21
God has a unique perspective on humanity. He exists outside of time and can see all of history in its completion. He also sovereignly ordains salvation. And in this passage we see that the one who believes in Jesus Christ for salvation is not judged. He is covered in the blood of Jesus, and God no longer sees his iniquity. Yes, he is a sinner, but his debt has been paid, his punishment served. The one who does not believe has already been judged. The one who does not believe is hated. God has chosen, before the foundation of the world, who would be saved, who would believe and those are the ones whom He loves.
We even learn, in an extremely difficult passage to grasp, this truth by name: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” (Rom 9.13).
We, however are not God. And thus a second layer is added to this issue. No Christian has the omniscience to look out at all of humanity and know whom it is that God has chosen: those who will believe. And often times it does not make sense to us those who come to faith and those who do not. Have you ever known someone and thought, “This person would be a dynamic Christian!”? I have. And I watched one such person die separated from God.
Would you ever have thought Osama Bin Laden would (or could) be saved? Saul of Tarsus was vehemently persecuting the Church, hunting down Christians, arresting them, having them stoned, beaten and murdered. And yet he became the 13th and final apostle. He wrote most of the New Testament and ultimately gave his life for the sake of the Gospel.
Since we do not have the luxury of God’s knowledge and the future recipients of His electing grace, since we are not God, we do not have the privilege of hating people. We do, however, rightly hate the things that God hates: all unrighteousness and all things that would distract us from God. While we love all those whom we meet, with the hope that we might be able to share with them the Truth of the Gospel and see them come to saving faith, even those who are performing heinous acts that we hate.
Hate the sin, love the sinner.
This ultimately brings us full circle to the simple question, “what is love?”. Our culture – on the surface – equates love with tolerance, acceptance and approval. Unfortunately, that is not the Biblical definition of love. Biblical love sees us in a perilous situation – walking a path of death and destruction – and jumps in and saves us. If a person is walking down the street texting and steps off a curb in front of a bus, would the loving thing be to push him out of the way or to let him continue down his dangerous path which will momentarily end his life?
Our culture does grasp this idea, slightly, and is exemplified in TV shoes like “Intervention”. When someone is hurting himself, love educates him. Love also, at times, allows him to fall and learn the hard way, but love does not mean accepting sinful and wrong decisions and habits.
So, are Christians allowed to hate? We are compelled to study the Scriptures and learn the heart of God, and allow God to develop within us His heart. This includes hating the things that He hates. God hates a lying tongue, therefore we should hate a lying tongue – both in ourselves and in others (both believers and non believers). God hates hands that shed innocent blood and one who sows strife amongst the brethren. We should hate the same. We must, however, declare the Truth of God in a loving way, because we are not provided the knowledge of those whom God hates, and therefore we must seek to share with all who are acting unlovely the Truth of the Gospel.