Three Taverns Church

Comparing God’s Love & Hate

12 Comments

Jesus’ love is renown: Pastors love to preach about it; musicians love to sing about it; Christians love to brag about it.

Jesus’ words on hate are considerably less popular.

In Luke 14:26, Jesus tells the crowds following Him they must hate their lives and their families if they are to be His disciples. The hate between God and the world is discussed thirty-nine other times in the New Testament, yet Christians often ignore these warnings. Is it because they seem inconsistent with the love Jesus so often preached? Or do we ignore these warnings because they are too reminiscent of the “fire and brimstone” churches of generations past? Perhaps we skim past these portions of Scripture because, as a reader noted last night, it’s difficult to understand how Jesus expects us to hate our families but love our neighbors as ourselves.

Let’s start by identifying and analyzing our first assumption: Love is the opposite of hate. Is that true today, and would it have been true in the first century? I’ve heard it said that apathy, not hate, is the opposite of love. Isn’t it better to think that God might hate you than to think He doesn’t care about you? When you hate something you have emotional energy invested in the thing you hate; if you didn’t, you just wouldn’t care. So perhaps hate isn’t the opposite of love, which means it may be possible to both hate and love at the same time. We’ll use the following verse to test this assumption:

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19, NIV)

This verse compares two groups of ideas: 1) The world’s love vs. The world’s hate; 2) Belonging to the world vs. Not belonging to the world. The translation seems to support the notion that love and hate are mutually exclusive, but let’s look at the Greek words for “love” and “hate” just to be sure:

  • “Love” (Greek – “Phileo”): To love, to approve of, to like or sanction; to treat affectionately or kindly; to welcome or befriend
  • “Hate” (Greek – “Miseo”): To hate, pursue with hatred, detest; to be hated, detested

It’s difficult to imagine having “phileo” and “miseo” for the same person. How could you like or approve of someone you also detest? So let’s affirm our first assumption: Love and hate are mutually exclusive. If we cannot hate and love the world at the same time (or vice-versa) then the key to our understanding must come from the second comparison: Belonging to the world vs. Not belonging to the world. It’s clear this comparison is also mutually exclusive. You cannot belong to the world and not belong to the world at the same time.

But if we cannot hate and love at the same time, and if we cannot belong to the world and not belong to the world at the same time, how are we to make sense of the following verses:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26, ESV)

“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” (John 15:19, NIV)

“Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31, ESV)

In the first example Jesus tells us that we have to hate our families if we are to become His disciples. In the second example Jesus tells us that the world hates us because we used to belong to the world but now belong to Him. In the third example Jesus says the greatest things we can do are to love God and love our neighbors.

If we can’t love and hate simultaneously and that we can’t belong to the world and to God simultaneously, it’s easy to understand how we can hate (and be hated by) the world and love God at same time: We belong to God and can love Him, but we don’t belong to the world and are hated by it.

Stay with me now, because things are about to get interesting!

If we can’t love and hate at the same time, and if we can’t belong to God and the world at the same time, and if Jesus tells us to hate our biological families (remember the historical context of the Gospels!), what must we believe about our biological families? They are of the world! Any relationship in Christ supersedes biological relationships (Mark 3:34-35), and while in contemporary times we may be blessed to have biological family members who are also disciples of Christ, that is not always the case now and was rarely the case when the Gospels were written!

“But what about the third example? How can Jesus tell me to hate my family and love my neighbor?” I’m glad you asked! If you’re having trouble reconciling the first two examples with the third example it’s because you’ve made another critical assumption: Your neighbor is someone who lives next door and may or may not belong to the world.

Remember the Parable of the Good Samaritan? It ends like this:

“‘Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’  (The lawyer) said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.'” (Luke 10:36-37, ESV)

A neighbor is not a geographical relationship; it’s a love relationship. You can hate your family and love your neighbor because your neighbor is in the same love relationship with God you are. They are in the world but not of the world just like you and I…even if they’re not Christians!  I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but consider this: If belonging to God’s family means doing the will of the Father, isn’t it possible that there are just as many “Christians” outside the Church as in it?

To me it’s clear:

  1. We cannot love God and the world simultaneously
  2. We cannot love and hate the world simultaneously
  3. A person’s relationship with God, rather than their relationship with me, determines whether I should love or hate them

Do you agree? If so, how will you begin to live differently?

12 thoughts on “Comparing God’s Love & Hate

  1. OK, I’m not quite sold on who I’m to love and why. And this is why.

    “‘You have heard it said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.'” – Matthew 6:43-48.

    So the interpretation we’re discussing says I’m to love only those who have a relationship with God. But I think it’s relatively safe to assume that my true enemies do not likely have a relationship with God, and Jesus tells me to love them and pray for them.

    I’m leaning back towards the notion of love God and love my neighbor, but do not let anything or anyone come before my following Christ.

    Whaddya think?

    • That’s a pretty big assumption to make. Think about someone you consider an enemy; are you sure that person isn’t also trying to do your Father’s will as imperfectly as you are?

    • I think you’re also failing to appreciate the relevance of my passage to the original audiences. Would you mind commenting on that as well?

    • it sounds like you’re assuming that Jesus is words are hyperbole. maybe. the text could also have been added later to benefit late first and early 2nd century Christians. another possibility is that there are two classes of Christians;first the general public, second the disciples of Jesus. i can take a look at all of these possibilities tomorrow. as always, thanks for reading!

  2. I’m with you, fastmov4. We are called to love our enemies, even if they are our family members who do not love God! We are ambassadors for Christ. We are commanded to hate sin, but love the sinner!

    • Hi Mary! Thanks as always for reading and for posting comments. I want to say that I don’t necessarily disagree with you or fastmov4, but I feel like you guys are kind of “copping out” and not adequately addressing Luke 14. How would you reconcile these verses?

      Also, I have to say that unless you have a biblical source for your last sentence, I believe it’s New Age Christian mumbo-jumbo. If God could love the sinner separately from his/her sin, would Jesus have needed to die on the cross? Sin is inherent in humanity; it’s in our DNA. You can’t separate the two. Why else would Paul describe believing Christians as a new creation?

      • RM, I actually heard someone bring up that there are numerous places in the Bible where God is specifically said to hate sin AND sinners (which completely contradicts the whole “love the sinner, hate the sin” that I’d also been brought up to believe). I’ll see if I can find the verses it was referencing.

  3. Pingback: Comparing God’s Love & Hate, Part 2 | rabidmongoose

  4. The three scriptures you reference above have OWNERSHIP” in common. Who do we belong to? Who OWNS us? Our own father, mother, brother , sister, ourselves, the world, or God? We belong to God. He bought us at the cross. We were all in satan’s pawn shop. Jesus walked in and paid for everything and everyone to be redeemed, set free form satan and instead, to live with God, as His adopted sons and daughters.

    Now, we belong to God even if we don’t know it yet. But not all will be willing to leave the pawn shop. Some will resist and stay even though they could have left with Jesus. They refuse God’s adoption. Adoption (to belong to God, who IS LOVE) has to freely be chosen by the potential adoptee because of the very nature of LOVE. Love can never be a forced response. It can only be freely (by choice) given. Chose LOVE. LOVE has already chosen YOU!

    Who owns YOU? Who do you belong to?

  5. On the issue of the word “hate”, as defined in your post: using the word to define the word is a common occurrence rendering little if anything to the actual definition of the word in question. Example: Define “smurf”: (Greek word – “an deft”): to smurf, to pursue with smurfred, detest; to be smurfed, detested. So I’m guessing it means “detest”. Now I need to go to the definition of “detest”. My concordance says for the word “hate”: Greek 3404, miseo, from the prim. misos (hatred); to detest (especially to persecute); by extension to love less:—hate(ful).

    We can go farther with the definition of “detest”. Don’t know what the Greek word is for detest but the Hebrew definition in the Concordance is: Hebrew 8262, shaqats, a prim. root; to be filthy, I.e., (intens.) to loathe, polute:—abhor, make abominable, have in abomination, detest x utterly.

  6. RE: “How can Jesus tell me to hate my family but to love my neighbor?”
    These statements refer to two different scenarios but one does not negate the other. When Jesus is talking about “hating” one’s family, I see Him pointing out that we must not let our family members, ties, and traditions be more influential or above our commitment to following Jesus’ Way, Truth, and life. He knew that His teachings would not be received by the Jewish leaders and community. To be His disciples people were going to have to choose between Jesus’ Way and their traditional and religious family ways. We see this drastic life and death choice having to be made by Muslims who want to become Christians today. They are completely cut off from their families or even killed by their own families. The one who wants to be a follower of Jesus must be willing to walk away from their family past if it is anti-Jesus. They do not have to stop loving the individuals, rather they would love them with Jesus’ love that wishes for none to perish but to have eternal life. That new follower of Christ would begin to pray for their family members salvation in Christ Jesus.

    In the Good Samaritan scenario we are told to love our neighbor. The Good Samaritan was the neighbor that the Jewish leaders hated. He was also the one who showed mercy to the man in need, who was more than likely also a Samaritan. Samaritans were basically hated by the Jews, especially shunned and detested by the Levites and the Pharisees. Those two travelers would not help the man in need because He was not one of their own. Jesus was telling the Jews who were asking, “Who is my neighbor?” that their neighbor was the one they detested (the Good Samaritan) that showed mercy to the one in need. Jesus knew they would not like to be told that they must Love their neighbors who they hated!

    Jesus is telling us to “hate” or cut ourselves off from family including ties and traditions that “OWN” us, that might be stronger than our commitment to Jesus’ ownership and discipleship of us. But that does not excuse us from loving our family members as potential sons and daughters of God. We must love them with God’s mercy. Luke 6: 27-28, 35-36, the words of Jesus are: “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you; and pray for those who spitefully use you….But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. for He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father (God) also is Merciful.” This includes our unbelieving family members! It’s all there in His Word! Who has ears to hear, let him hear!

  7. RE: “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” We do this all the time with our own children. We love our children unconditionally, but we hate their sinful behavior. Father God loves HIS children unconditionally, even when they sin. Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. Paul talks about hating the sin that besets him in Romans. Yes, we ARE a new creation when we receive Jesus into our lives. Our spirit is new but our mind needs to renewed (Romans again) because we still have sinful thinking, attitudes, habits, behaviors. I don’t see the problem myself. Sounds scriptural to me!

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