Roger Severino

Why You Should Cultivate Both Love and Hate

In 1 John 4, the Apostle John tells us two different times that “God is love” (vv. 8 and 16). What a wonderful message! How glorious to realize that the God of the universe is motivated by love and is the origin of love. In fact, we learn that “we love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Love does not originate within us, but we have the ability and privilege to receive God’s love and reflect it onto the lives of others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. In fact, we are commanded to demonstrate this love to others, and without this demonstration, John tells us that the love of God is not within us and that we do not truly love God (see 1 John 4:20-21). If we claim to love God but hate our brother, we are a liar! Strong words.

Though God is love, it would not be right to say that “love is God.” We live in a society where love is often portrayed as weak and sentimental, or worse, as lustful and self-serving. We dare not attach those attributes to God. We live in a culture where we are encouraged to tolerate and affirm all things, which is a dangerous imposter of love. It’s been said that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. If I show absolutely no care or concern for someone, I clearly demonstrate that I do not love this person. True love, however, must contain an element of hate. What does that mean?

Romans 12:9 says “Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good.”[1] Pure love that is not hypocritical will hate evil and cling to the good. If I love my children, I will hate whatever conspires to destroy them or wish them harm. If I stand idly by and show no concern when destruction comes their way, I have shown that I do not really love them.

Ok, if you are a parent, that scenario is probably easy to grasp. But do we take this principle to other parts of our lives? If I love my spouse and my marriage, am I cultivating a hate for whatever may compromise or destroy our relationship? If so, that is a loving choice and act. If my ego is stroked by the admiration and praise of people, is it appropriate to nurture a hatred for the sin of arrogance and self-promotion? I believe so.

God is love. We are commanded to love God and to love others. In fact, if we do not demonstrate love for others, our love of God is called into question according to 1 John 4. So, let us cultivate biblical, God-honoring love in our relationships.

But…don’t forget to cultivate hate as well. Detest the evil. Cling to the good. That is the only way to have the weighty love described in Scripture, one that is sacrificial and strong, and not the sentimental imposter that robs us of the real thing.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Ro 12:9.

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