Does God Instruct us to Love and Hate?

Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”

The question is whether God instructs us to love and hate. Or in other words, can we express ‘love’ whilst also expressing ‘hatred’? This depends on the context in which we ask the question. If we are all in heaven where there is no sin, then clearly hate doesn’t even come onto the scene. However we are not in heaven. We are living in a sin-crippled world. Therefore the answer is a resounding YES! God instructs us to both love and hate – love what God commands and instructs in the Bible and hate any rebellion against that, namely sin. We cannot love others if we don’t hate the sin that is crippling their lives, not to mention our own! Just a quick distinction here – we are to always love others as God has loved us – that is treasuring the person but hating the sin. We must be careful to not focus our hatred on the person as opposed to the sin that is stopping them enjoying a more open relationship with God.

Romans 12:3-21 goes a long way to explaining how Christians are to behave and serve one another in the church. It starts off by highlighting that we are to serve humbly, thinking of ourselves with sober judgment. The spiritual gifts we exercise are not a result of our ‘holiness’ or ‘good efforts’ but by God’s grace alone. That being the case, people are not allowed to think highly of themselves no matter what roles they may have in the church. It’s God who receives all credit and glory… as He always should!

Then we come to verse 9, which if we peel away the layers, is a profound collection of words! “Let love be genuine”. In other words, don’t be hypocritical in how we love others. Jesus hated this. He often accused the Pharisees of being hypocrites or “white-washed tombs” because they were experts in pointing out the faults of others in order to elevate themselves in their self-proclaimed “honour” system. If they could shut the mouth of others, they automatically elevated themselves in society. No wonder they didn’t like Jesus. Their mouths were the ones that were slammed shut when they tried to challenge Him!

Then Paul continues with what it is to love… “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”. Biblical, godly love is two things. Holding fast to what God declares right in the Bible and abhorring what goes against that, or in other words, hating evil. To love what God loves, to live how God wants us to live, is to HATE sin. If we don’t hate sin, then we can’t love. You cannot love both God’s righteousness and sin/evil – that’s what’s mutually exclusive. We cannot live for ourselves and this world and also live for God. They are opposed to each other.

So in our families and churches let’s strive to do two things:

1) Let our love be genuine and not hypocritical. Let’s focus first on ourselves before nitpicking others. In doing so we will be in a better position to graciously and humbly lead others back onto the right path rather than slamming them over the head with a legalistic rod or feeding our own pride and self -righteousness. How much more would marriages thrive, let alone divorce rates drop, if married couples took the approach of looking at themselves before nitpicking their spouse. When we realise and acknowledge how much we struggle with sin and how much we need God’s grace and mercy in our own lives, we will more likely deal with others with an attitude of wanting to see them reconciled and restored with God, not elevating our own status or self worth. If not, then we don’t truly understand the Gospel message, let alone realise how sinfully depraved we are!

2) But that doesn’t mean that we don’t protect ourselves and the church from sin. Sin is not to be taken lightly. God says to abhor evil. To hate it! Sin must not be allowed to fester in the church. A church culture that strives to expose sin with the attitude of reconciliation and restoration is crucial to a healthy and unified church. This doesn’t mean we need to necessarily tell every one of our struggles; however we should share our struggles with those people we trust so that we can receive the help we all need to turn from our sinful desires and embrace what God provides us in His righteousness. However, we mustn’t forget change takes time. We all struggle with sin. To deny this is to deceive ourselves. So we mustn’t let shame or guilt lead us to giving up. Rather, we need to take God’s gracious hand, walking the path of restoration with Him.

This tension is challenging. The church will at times sway too much towards accepting sinful practices under the disguise of ‘tolerance’ to being too legalistic and ungracious. We need to balance both love and truth. Without both, change will not happen, and Christ will not be glorified in our lives and the church.

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