Donald Trump recently announced that he loves Mexicans. In context, he was doubling down on his previous controversial comments about illegal immigrants. I respect the distinction and I recognize the hope he places in the power of the word “love.”
When marriage was redefined by the Supreme Court, President Obama pronounced that we all finally realized that “love is love.” National opinion remains divided over whether love won or lost, but everyone is apparently still for love.
Preachers and celebrities alike claim to love “love.” All politicians claim to “love” America, including those who blame her for nearly every global ill and want her fundamentally transformed. Viagra advertisers also get much mileage from this flexible L-word that can pass as both a verb and a noun.
As overworked as the word “love” is, one aspect gets little respect– an aspect about love that is tied to God Himsaelf. Long ago, a Hebrew Psalmist wrote: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” (Psalm 97:10). Centuries later, Jesus revealed a good reason for hating evil, saying, “Because of the increase in wickedness, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12). Wickedness is a threat to love.
The opposite of love is not hate, but evil. In fact, hate directed against authentic evil is a huge component of godly love.
Does it make you uncomfortable to hear words like love and hate used like this in the same sentence? If so, avoid the prophet Amos. He wrote: “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. (Amos 5:15). The apostle Paul agreed: “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9). We are told in the book of Proverbs (6:16-19) that God Himself, the Author of love, hates six things; then seven are listed just for good measure:
- Haughty eyes,
- A lying tongue,
- Hands that shed innocent blood,
- A heart that devises wicked plans,
- Feet that run rapidly to evil,
- A false witness who utters lies,
- One who spreads strife among brothers.
Over two millennia later, it’s time for love to get tough again.
But where do we begin? Racism? Corruption? Crime? Terrorism? Media dishonesty? Abortion? Political chicanery? Sex trafficking? Homosexuality? The national debt? Adultery? Gossip? Child abuse? Drug abuse? Grammar glitches?
All those evils deserve fierce opposition (please let me know of any grammar gaffes), but they are not where a Christian begins. We begin by hating the evil in ourselves. It’s called repentance and it is the soil from which real love grows. Jesus’ preaching message is summed up as, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17). When He sent out His disciples, “They went out and preached that people should repent.” (Mark 6:12). Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32). He laid it on the line: “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:5). When sin breaks your heart, Jesus is able to get inside.
Real evil can be hard to recognize in ourselves, especially when covered by appealing words like “love.” It uses attractive bait and collects countless victims before they recognize it. That’s because instead of hating evil on the front end, most people just hate it’s bitter results. Jesus challenges us to hate our own evil before it bears rotten fruit in our lives. Even after it does, the offer to repent still stands!
Hating sin and loving sinners is exactly what God does with us. Once we repent and die with Jesus in our water grave (baptism), He raises us up fully forgiven and renewed under the grace of God. Then, we can gracefully stand up to many of the evils of our time. Just remember, we have no call to hate or harm people. The battle is against evil, not its victims. Our weapons of choice are the sword of the Spirit, the shield of faith, the belt of truth, the helmet of salvation and the breastplate of righteousness. Loving God and hating evil is like loving life and hating cancer.
Hating evil is a powerful way to love God as well as real people who need less evil in their lives. Okay, that’s everyone, including me.