I was recently asked the question by a dear reader about loving God while being hateful toward an individual…
“Jeff, do you think it’s possible for someone who genuinely loves God and accepts that Jesus is the way, truth, and light to continue to feel hatred for anyone else? If so, how? Loving Jesus and hating others are incompatible. You can’t experience them both at the same time, in my opinion. [This] means that during instances where someone hates another, he’s forgotten that he loves Jesus.”
Background on Hate and the Love of God
First, a short back study on underlying theology… We are all sinners, saved or not. Those who are born-again are in the process of sanctification until they die. Hate, greed, lust, pride, etc (Mark 7:22) are all part of our life on this gray earth. One sin is no worse than any other (from an eternal perspective), with the exception of the unpardonable sin (refusing to accept God’s grace).
Second, “hate” is a very strong word with a wide range of emotions and behaviors associated with it. It can range from a desire to simply avoid something at one extreme, to wanting to kill someone at the other. Webster defines hate as “extreme dislike”.
Third, the Bible offers a number of verses that address the term “hate” including,
1 John 4:20 – If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
1 John 3:15 – Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
I believe these two verses are addressing the “extreme dislike” as defined by Webster, above.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit can, and does, cohabitate in a sinful heart. We remain sinners after we are saved.
Being Hateful Toward Individuals While Loving God
In my view, there are levels of hate and love, though in opposition to each other, that are not totally “incompatible”. They can reside within the same sinner simultaneously. There is a reason why Scripture can say that “love covers over a multitude of sins” (Peter 4:8) in the life of the believer and that “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4.8). As believers, we live in constant tension between exhibiting bad behavior (ex. forms of hate) and righteous behavior based on our relationship with God.
For mankind, there can be a range of hate, just as there is of love. In its extreme, it would be difficult to see God’s love, either vertically (toward Him) or horizontally (toward other “neighbors”), when one is consumed by hate (Luke 10:27). Hate, like other sins, “grieves the Holy Spirit” (Eph. 4:30) and, in the extreme, can “quench the Spirit” (1 Thes. 5:19), perhaps for a time.
Psalm 37:8 – Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm.
James 1:19-20 – So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
My view is that the love of God (vertical) and hatred toward an individual(s) (horizontal) can coexist within limits and degrees. However, if one truly hates the world and everyone in it, it’s hard to see that person as “saved” with the Holy Spirit residing within them. If one is mad at someone for a time I think it can damage, but does not destroy, our relationship with God.
Jesus was mad at the money changers in the temple in Matt. 21:12, expressed his anger with the faithless in Mark 3:5 and said he came to bring a Sword not peace in Matt. 10:34.
Finally, there is no question that the horizontal relationships we have (both good and bad) directly impact the vertical relationship we have with a living God. But, I think, there are degrees similar to the rest of life’s gray areas. One day we will live in a world where there is no anger, no hatred, no sin, just a perfect relationship with a loving God.
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