Love and Hate in the Bible

Scripture Reading

And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Matt. 10:22

Jesus and his Apostles are Hated

In this Bible study on love and hate in the bible, it is always interesting to read how the preaching of Jesus triggers such an emotional reaction in people. If people do not agree with the message from preaching the gospel they could simply disagree, walk away, make a counter argument, or state that they have different beliefs. But this was not the case then and nor is it today. Jesus told his apostles that they would be hated for his name’s sake. Hated, not with simple indifference, or dismissiveness, or disliked, but hated. Here was the Son of God, manifested in the flesh, bringing a message of eternal life and hope to his people, the Jews, and yet, he was hated for it, and so too, were his apostles.

The one verse that comes to mind in contemplating this astonishing reaction of the people was written by the apostle Paul as he wrote to the church in Corinth years later. It was in this letter, where Paul scripted a most compelling introduction by saying, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” [1 Cor. 1:18] Sadly, the cross and its message of redemption from sin and salvation from an eternal place of torment, is foolishness to them that perish. Authors of scripture always tended to place the word “but” in the most profound places and this was indeed one of them; “But unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” What some therefore view as foolishness, others will see as the power of God but this is the tragedy of humanity that will come with eternal consequences for so many people.

What is Hate?

But what does it really mean to hate though and what is the contrast between love and hate in the Bible? Did you know the Bible speaks of something called a perfect hatred, “I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” [Ps. 139:22] This was clearly intended to describe an unequivocal degree, or measure of hatred, upon someone or something where a perfect hatred was more akin to being the pinnacle definition of hate. But what about God? Does God hate?

Interestingly, in the book of Proverbs, Solomon described a declaration from the Lord God in response to this very question, “These six [things] doth the LORD hate: yea, seven [are] an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness [that] speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.” [Prov. 6:16-19] Did you notice what this list represents? It is a list that covers things like arrogance, lies, murder, evil intent, people just looking for trouble, lying even a second time, and people that stir up dissension among others. None of these are character traits that should be found in believers and yet most of us have committed them in some form or another.

Hate in the Old Testament

As we continue to study love and hate in the Bible, it is no surprise that hate is noted early on in the Old Testament. After all, the fall of mankind through sin occurred in the third chapter of the Bible in Gen. 3:6. But it was not until later when the use of the word hate was first recorded, “And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.” [Gen. 27:41] Here is the connection between hatred and murder, albeit with a mixture of envy and resentment combined. This was a similar case with Joseph and his brothers where he could do very little without stirring up the same vengeful passions among his siblings, “And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” [Gen. 37:4] 

Further on in the Old Testament, hatred is recorded again and in this case the hate is in contrast to the immense love that was once there between two people. Sadly, now it is replaced by a hatred that is even stronger than the love, “Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her [was] greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.” [2 Sam. 13:15] King David also wrote of hate in the Psalms by portraying haters of righteous people as ones who will be barren or laid to waste, “Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.” [Ps. 34:21] Hate indeed existed from very early records in the scriptures.

Hate in the New Testament

Let us now look at love and hate in the Bible from the New Testament perspective. Jesus knew full well about hatred from the world and described it to his disciples in this manner. Hatred for them was because they were followers and believers in him and were considered no longer of the world, or rather of the world’s system. This was noted in this passage, “If the world hate you, ye know that [it hated] me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” [John 15:18-19] 

The Jews that hated Jesus though failed to realize that by hating him, they were also hating the Father in heaven. This was despite the fact that Jesus performed miraculous things among the people by forgiving them of their sins, by healing them of every known disease and ailment and even by raising people from the dead. Jesus made this point of mutual hatred very clear in his message to his disciples, “If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father.” [John 15:24]

In the next verse, Jesus then makes this statement to his defense, which is actually a quotation from the book of Psalms, “But [this cometh to pass,] that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause.” [John 15:25] There were many other times when Jesus reminded his disciples that they would suffer persecution and be hated on account of him. During a lengthy message on the tribulation period that was to come, Jesus shared this same illustration of hatred with his disciples, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.” [Matt. 24:9]

What is Love?

With all this reference to hate from the scriptures, no doubt reflective of fallen mankind with the nature of sin, it is now time to consider love as documented in the Bible. It is of interest to note that Jesus used the juxtaposition of love and hate to present examples of living a godly life. In this next passage, Jesus references the premise of loving your neighbor and hating your enemy but like many long standing traditions, he turned it on its head as he shared this message, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” [Matt. 5:43-44]

The contrast of love and hate was also used by Jesus when comparing one who is divided in his devotion and commitment toward God. People often continue to live in a manner that serves both themselves and God but Jesus is quick to clarify the distinction and concern with this approach to faith. In other words, it is futile to think divided loyalty between God and something else in your life is acceptable or beneficial for a life of faith. This is shared from the scriptures,  “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” [Matt. 6:24]

What is most reassuring however is a message from Jesus in that while people may hate you for your faith or beliefs in him, you are still blessed in your walk with him as he shared, “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company,] and shall reproach [you,] and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.” [Luke 6:22] This formed part of his lengthy sermon on the mount where he once again turned many preconceived notions of religion upside down by encouraging people to look further into the messages from the past and search their hearts for the deeper meaning.

The Conquest of Love over Hate

To close off this Bible study on love and hate in the Bible, it was the apostle John who articulated a message most eloquently on the power of love derived from God, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins.” [1 John 4:10] How many of us can love our enemies or people who are at enmity with us before any notion of them turning and loving us in return? Jesus shared this same message in the ever memorable verse from the gospel of John while speaking with a Pharisee named Nicodemus in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] 

In summary of the scriptures, we find that hate has its origin in darkness and darkness has its origin in Satan. There is clearly darkness in our world. One only needs to watch the evening news to see the existence of sin manifested in crimes against humanity, corruption, deception, hatred, murder, etc. It was Jesus who spoke about the condition of humanity so often by contrasting the darkness of this world with the light that he brings into it, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” [John 3:19-21] What a stark contrast for all of us to contemplate for our own faith.

Truly in the end, love conquers hate since love originates from God and is personified in his commandments for us. It is only through his love where we are able to love one another. This is from a sincere, genuine and authentic love as Jesus shared, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” [John 15:12]  Let us therefore go forth into a world often filled with darkness, and bring forth a love from God that reflects the immense love he bestowed upon us while we were at enmity with him in our sins. This is the conquest of love over hate!

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this Bible study on love and hate in the Bible, why do you think people have such a strong reaction to the gospel message?
  2. Do you think the narrative of the world and the media contributes to such a strong reaction from people?
  3. Why do you think the media and movies often portray Christians in such a negative light, often mocking their beliefs?
  4. How would you define hate based on the verses and commentary in this study on love and hate in the Bible?
  5. Can you name two examples of hate from the Old and New Testaments from this study?
  6. In this study, why do you think Jesus strove to take people deeper than the surface on Old Testament teachings?
  7. What is one thing you can do today to bring more of God’s love into the world as a reflection of a believer in Christ?

WORD GUIDE – * (brethren – believing brothers in general) * (slay – to kill) * ( desolate – barren) * (afflicted – to cause trouble) * (propitiation – in place of or appeasement for) * (mammon – money or possessions)

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