We hear a lot about love these days. One of the more popular hashtags on social media is #lovewins. Love is proposed as the solution to all the world’s ills and hate as the world’s ultimate problem.
If we could all just love more, we could create a heaven on earth, right? Love is supposedly the answer to terrorism, to abuse, to poverty, to climate change, to inequality, etc. All we need is love!
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not just for some
But for everyone
–Hal David and Burt Bacharach, 1965
Is that true, though? Does the world have a shortage of love and an overabundance of hate? Is that the problem? I would like to submit that the problem with the world today isn’t hate but is love or to be more precise corrupted love.
You may want to read:
- Why Hate the Sin and Love the Sinner Is Dangerous Theology
- Should I Separate From Sinners?
- The Wisdom In Giving Your Friends Room To Sin
Genuine Love Vs. Corrupted Love
Most of us try to teach our kids not to hate. We’re right to do so when we’re talking about the kind of hate often experienced in this world: hatred of people different than us, hatred returned for hatred and hatred of anyone or anything that gets in the way of what we want. This hatred is the epitome of pride, and pride is a sin against God and neighbor.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden (Genesis 3:6), they chose to put something above their Creator. They picked a piece of fruit, and the wisdom Satan promised that it would give them, over their relationship with God and the proper worship due Him. Disobedience is rebellious pride. In going their way, Adam and Eve declared themselves to be their gods. It was pride that wreaked havoc in the garden.
At that moment, sin took root in their very being. No longer did they love God supremely or each other selflessly, and this pride and sin nature would be passed on to their children and their children’s children (Romans 5:12) so that the world would be populated by people born sinners, prideful, and in rebellion against God (Romans 3:23).
It isn’t long in the story before this pride, this hardness of heart toward God, turns into hatred of neighbor: one of Adam and Eve’s sons viciously murders his brother (Genesis 4:1-8). Cain’s murder of Abel didn’t begin with hate; it ended there; it started with Cain’s corrupted love of himself above God.
We are told in Romans 12:9 that sincere or genuine love is a combination of abhorring (hating) what is evil and holding fast to what is good. Hate is an essential part of genuine love, but when love is corrupted, so is hate. The answer to the world’s problems, then, isn’t the annihilation of hate, but the redemption of love.
Your Love Defines Your Hate
It isn’t what we hate that defines what we love, but the opposite: what we love defines what we hate. If we love wrongly, we will hate wrongly. The truth is, if you do not hate anything, you do not love anything. In a fallen world, there are evils that love demands we hate!
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor
Attempting to rid the world of hate can lead to gross injustice. I remember hearing the story of a man who refused to acknowledge good and evil and, therefore, refused to hate or reject any behavior, even the rape of a child. This problem is the indifference Elie Wiesel was speaking of. It is an indifference that allows for the flourishing of evil.
We do God an injustice when we use the fact of His love to mean that there is nothing He hates or is against. The truth is that God hates unrighteousness as much as He loves righteousness, and thank goodness that He does! Could I believe God loved children if He didn’t hate child abuse or that He loved the poor if He didn’t hate it when they were taken advantage of?
God is a righteous judge and a God who feels indignation every day. – Psalm 7:11
I have told my kids they are not allowed to use the word hate flippantly out of unrighteous anger, pride, or selfishness, but at the same time, I am teaching them that there are things they must hate because there are things God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19).
I don’t want to train my kids to go through life without hate, I want to train them there is a time to hate (Ecclesiastes 3:8), and that hate must be defined by what God loves. God hates sin, wickedness, and evil because He loves righteousness, truth, and goodness!
When Scripture tells us “God is love” (1 John 4:8), what it is ultimately telling us is that love has a definition and that definition isn’t determined by you or I. Every command to love in the Bible, is a command to live up to this definition. Because God is love, our love should be a reflection of His character and righteousness.
We see this in the Old Testament. God calls His people, the Israelites, to live set apart from other nations. He calls them to live in genuine love reflecting His character and righteousness and gives them the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). Unfortunately, they fail to keep them.
The law pointed God’s people to the genuine love they were to have toward God and each other and the sin they were to hate and reject, but the law couldn’t fix the corrupted love that ruled their hearts.
In the New Testament, when Jesus is asked which commandment is the greatest, He sums up all the commandments in an overarching call to love God supremely and your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). Here is the problem, because we are sinners, we are incapable of living up to this call as much as the Israelites were incapable of perfectly keeping the Ten Commandments.
We do not love with genuine love perfectly hating what is evil and holding fast to what is good. We do not love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind or our neighbors as ourselves. That is not to say that we are incapable of any love at all, but it is to say that our love is always corrupted at some level by sin. It always falls short of perfect sincerity.
Genuine Love Produces Righteous Hate
From Racist To Hating Racism
Years ago, I listened to the testimony of a man who had grown up with racist hatred in his heart. Being prideful, he lived with a hard heart toward God and his fellow image bearer. He began attending a church at the encouragement of his wife where he realized his need of a Savior and placed his faith in Jesus.
It didn’t take long before God began addressing the prideful hatred he had toward people of different ethnicities, some of whom he was now attending church with each Sunday. He came under great conviction and confessed his sin to God and then confessed it to some of those members of the church. He asked for their forgiveness, and they were faithful to give it and to embrace him.
As God began to unravel the corrupted love this man had been ruled by and replaced it with genuine love, what the man hated changed. He went from being a racist hating his neighbors to being a Christ-follower hating racism. As he began to love God and what God loves, he began to hate what God hates.
From Pro-Abortion To Pro-Life Counselor
I have a friend who was a staunch feminist. She embraced the feminist ideology in every way, including the devaluing of human life in the womb. As a young adult, she experienced multiple abortions. She described herself at this time as angry, hurting, and the god of her own life, but something unexpected happened: she came to know Jesus as her Savior.
God gave her a new heart, and as she grew in love of Him, she began to see the preborn child differently. What she loved changed, and because what she loved changed, so did what she hated. She confessed her abortions and received God’s forgiveness and healing. These days, she devotes much of her time to helping women in crisis pregnancies and with abortions in their past, sharing the love of Jesus with them.
These are just two examples of a new heart and genuine love in Christ redefining hate so that it becomes a force for good as opposed to a force for evil. You may be thinking, “Well, I’m not a racist, and I haven’t had an abortion, so I’m not that bad.” In Matthew 5, Jesus reminds us that sin doesn’t encompass only the actions that could be committed but includes what goes on in the secret recesses of our hearts and minds.
We may never commit the act of murder, but how many of us get through life without unrighteous anger (Matthew 5:21-22)? We may never commit the act of adultery, but how many of us get through life without lust (Matthew 5:27-28)? To commit murder or adultery is a failure to love with genuine love, but it isn’t enough to avoid these acts, there is a purity of heart that must exist as well. This reality is true of all sin.
Every sin, every act of violence, and the worst of human history didn’t begin with hate, they ended with hate, but they began with corrupted love. Our fallen, prideful hearts distort what we love and hate so that we celebrate evil and reject righteousness. When we set our lives by this broken compass, we destroy each other and ourselves.
Jesus Is the Answer
This problem is why the answer to sin, suffering, and evil can’t merely be love, but must be redemption. Our need isn’t for more love; our need is for genuine love. First, to receive the genuine love of God in Christ Jesus and, then, to reciprocate that genuine love back to God and out to our neighbors. We need new hearts that hold fast to what is good and abhor what is evil.
There is only one hope for redemption, and that is the gospel or the good news of the finished work of Jesus Christ. But, the gospel is two-fold. It isn’t just that Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), but that Jesus came to destroy sin (1 John 3:4-10).
It isn’t just that God so loved the world (John 3:16), but that He so hated sin and suffering and death (Revelation 21:4). The gospel isn’t only an act of divine love but also of divine justice (Romans 3:23-26).
It is when we come to faith in Christ Jesus’ finished work on our behalf that we are given a new heart, a heart of flesh for our heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26-27), and the process of reorienting our heart toward genuine love begins.
Another word for this process is sanctification. The entire life of a Christian is to be a life of genuine love, even love of enemies, but this isn’t a love we get to define in whatever way we want. It’s love defined by the God who is love. As we begin to love righteousness, we will begin to hate righteously.
Love won the moment “It is finished” passed from the lips of our Lord and Savior as He took his last breath on the cross. The empty tomb stands in victory over sin and death and the corrupted love that rules the human heart. It isn’t #lovewins; it’s #JesusWon! And it is this message the world so desperately needs!