When I grew up, four-letter words were those bad words that would get a kid in trouble and which a polite and civilized adult would avoid saying most of the time. We now live in a world where hate is considered more of a four-letter word than any expletive that would have gotten a kid’s mouth washed out with soap. As far as many in our society is concerned, hate is the ultimate sin.
How does God’s word speak of hate? Does God tell Christians, above all, not to hate anything at any time in any way?
Consider the words of personified wisdom in Proverbs 8. Tell me if you feel something counter-cultural.
The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
Notice that godly wisdom declares to us that the fear of the Lord—the beginning of knowledge in Proverbs 1:7—is also the hatred of evil. God’s word is clear, and it has always been clear, that the people of God are to hate evil. Hate, therefore, is actually part of what it means to love righteousness.
There, of course, is a difference in being a person full of hate, of anger, of cruelty, and of malice. That is not what God calls his people to be or to do. We are not to be nasty, violent, militaristic and conquering people. We are to be kind, gracious, loving, gentle, poor in spirit, peacemakers, and all the rest. We are to model the grace and love of Jesus.
The problem is when we allow society to tell us that all things that sound like hate, anger, or condemnation are wrong. The problem is when we allow our society to tell us that any speech that condemns sin as sin is somehow more sinful than the sin condemned. If we give in to that kind of talk, we will miss what the Proverb here says is the fear of the Lord.
To love God includes hating evil. To love God is to hate sin. We cannot get around that. God hates evil. God hates sin. God hates the things he calls abominations. And we have no right as a people, or as a society, or as local churches, or as denominations to say that God is wrong for hating what God says is evil.
Think about some of the things that have made the headlines in the past year or so. We have seen mass shootings at concerts and school buildings. We have seen terrorists do incredible violence in the world. We have seen people attacked simply for the color of their skin. We have heard the gut-wrenching testimonies of young girls who were sexually abused by a doctor they trusted. If we remove hate from our vocabulary, if we remove hate from our religion, we have no proper word to express how the righteous should feel toward these things. We hate what has been done. We hate the sin. And we dare to call the sin evil, because evil is what it is.
At this point, most would amen the thought. But now we have to go further. You see, god has not limited the definition of evil to the things that our society agrees is evil. Yes, all those things I mentioned in the previous paragraph are evil. But so too is it evil when a husband watches porn, when a wife walks out of her home and into the arms of another man, when a person shakes his fist at God and declares God to be either not there or not righteous. Evil is that which opposes the holiness of God. Evil is that which God declares to be evil. Thus, evil is the sin in my heart and life. And evil is the sin that you commit. We must recognize that the beginning of wisdom, the fear of the Lord, is to know God and to thus hate that which opposes God.
What would it look like in your life if you stopped excusing your sin with a flippant, “Nobody’s perfect,” and instead asked God to help you hate it? How would it be different if the people of God were willing to hate evil enough to call it evil, even if that caused our churches to shrink some or our standing in our communities to be weakened? How would our world change if we were honest enough to call evil something hateful instead of using softened terms to make sin socially acceptable?
No, dear friends, hate is not evil. No, do not be a hateful, cruel, prejudiced person. Do not be nasty. Treat others with love and respect as people created in the image of God. But do not shrink back from what the word of God says. God says he hates evil. God says that hating evil is the fear of the Lord. And so you and I are to love God and hate evil. And you and I must know that evil is that which opposes the Lord. We do not enact personal judgments—the Lord has told us that he is the one who will judge. But we do rightly, honestly hate that which God says is evil.