“Hate” is one of those words that have attached to it something vile – something you never want to be guilty of because of the way it ultimately translates to something cruel and violent. That being the case, it makes sense for a “good” Christian to resolve not to “hate” anyone or anything. After all, it says in the Bible not to “hate,” right?
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Lev 19:17-19)
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 Jn 3:15)
If that was the sum total of all that Scripture had to say about “hate,” it would be a slam dunk.
But There’s More
But that’s not all the Bible has to say. As a matter of fact, the Bible seemingly encourages hatred in some ways. For example, King David says this in Psalm 139:
They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies. (Ps 139: 20-22)
This is a man after God’s own heart and he’s writing this as one who’s inspired by the Holy Spirit.
And there’s more:
God hates certain things. He hates hypocrisy and lies:
16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord. (Zec 8:16-17)
He hates idolaters:
“Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious.” (Hos 9:15)
“Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary” elaborates on this by saying…
God hates religiosity (Isa 1:14 ; Amos 5:21), hypocrisy and lies (Zec 8:17), wrongdoing (Isa 61:8); divorce (Mal 2:16), violence (Mal 2:16), idolatrous practices (Hosea 9:15), and the way the prophets are treated ( Jer 44:4 ). The theology underlying God’s hatred rests upon two essential qualities of God: holiness and justice. As a divine being with standards, God hates anything that despises, detests, or disregards those standards.
It then goes on to say that God’s people are to mirror God’s attitude towards evil…
We are to hate evildoers (Psalm 26:5), idolaters (Psalm 31:6), the false way (Psalm 119:104), falsehood (Psalm 119:163 ), and anything that is evil (Psalm 97:10; Prov 8:13; Amos 5:15).
So How Does This Work?
So, how does this work? On one hand, we’re not supposed to “hate,” but then it looks as though there are times where hatred is more than justified and even directed towards people by God Himself.
How do you make sense of all this?
The bottom line is whether you’re fighting evil or you’re doing evil.
In 1 John 3:15, the context revolves around the way in which Cain killed his brother. Cain hated Abel – not because Abel was doing anything wrong. Cain despised his brother because he was jealous and unwilling to admit the fact that his sacrifices were leftovers and not his best effort. He was selfish, greedy and willing to give full vent to his hatred by murdering his own kin.
That’s the hatred that God’s referring to when he says, “You’re not to hate your brother.” In that moment you are doing evil.
But when you are fighting evil, there is such a thing as a “righteous hatred” in that you are aggressively opposing those things that represent injustice, false teaching, lies and anything that is truly wicked. That’s what David is referring to in Psalm 139 and that kind of disdain is more than justified.
Hell is Not a Filing Cabinet
You’ve got remember that hell isn’t a filing cabinet in that it’s not a furnace for records and paperwork. There are people in hell (Heb 9:27; Rev 20:12-15). Their actions are not divorced from who they are and, apart from their having accepted the arrangement that God engineered by symbolically punishing the sin of all mankind through the death and resurrection of His Son, they are going to suffer the punishment for everything that God was otherwise willing to forgive.
In other words, sin is serious.
And part of what makes it so reprehensible is the way it corrodes a person’s perspective to the point where even when they know they’re driving on the wrong side of the road, they could care less. Those individuals tend to hurt both themselves and others through their example as well as their words. They are the evildoers referenced by David in Psalm 26:5. and they’re the rattlesnake and the spider referred to by Billy Graham (see above textbox).
What About Loving Your Enemy?
But what about loving your enemy?
While there is a logical way to reconcile what would otherwise be something contradictory, as far as the kind of hatred that’s condemned in Scripture and the “righteous hatred” that David talks about in the Psalms, there’s still what appears to be a disconnect in that situation where I’m pointing a gun at an aggressor, yet I’m simultaneously offering him a grilled cheese sandwich…?
Where’s the logic in that that?
There’s a difference between loving your enemy and enabling them. You are to extend every Christian charity to your enemy. Scripture is loaded with such admonitions. But Scripture is also clear on defending that which is right (Jer 22:3) and includes several examples of God not just tolerating the use of deadly force, but empowering it.
A person can qualify as your enemy without being a threat to you, your home or your family. In those instances, resisting the temptation to be argumentative or worse is noble, but God’s command requires you to go beyond civility and engage them with genuine kindness and love.
Love your enemy…
But should that same person step over that line that separates a belligerent person from a dangerous individual, you’re now interacting with them in the context of justice and a holy obligation to stand up for what is right. In other words, your disposition must now be based on, not just one verse, but the whole of God’s Word. From that perspective you have both a reasonable and Biblical basis for stopping them even if it means the use of deadly force.
When you hear someone say, “I don’t hate anything or anybody,” you’re not necessarily hearing a noble sentiment in that, given the toxicity of sin and the way it destroys both in this life and the next, to not hate sin and those who promote it is to champion a casual regard for the very thing that God despises.
There is such a thing as a “righteous hatred,” but it’s the fact that it’s “righteous” that makes it appropriate. By being “righteous,” it’s based on a person’s godlessness and not a mere misstep. In addition, it’s exercised in the context of championing what is genuinely right and not a selfish agenda.
David says in Psalm 26:5:
I abhor the assembly of evildoers and refuse to sit with the wicked. (Ps 26:5)
That is the bottom line. We despise evildoers and we do abhor the wicked. Not because they “get on our nerves,” but because they are agents of eternal destruction and genuine enemies of God.
That is a “righteous hatred.”