Is It Always Wrong to Hate?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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You who love the LORD, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked.

Psalms 97:10

When I was young, my parents taught me that it is wrong to hate. In fact, I was prohibited from using the word "hate." If I said, "I hate peas" or "I hate Chester," I'd be sure to receive a word of rebuke from my mom or dad. Hating was not permitted in our family.

I'm not quite sure how my parents, as Bible-loving Christians, dealt with Psalm 97. Perhaps, like many others, they picked and chose from the Psalms those passages that fit with their personal preferences. Yet, I do wonder what they thought when they came to Psalm 97:10: "Let those who love the LORD hate evil." The King James Version reads, "Ye that love the LORD, hate evil."

What's surprising about this verse is not just its unsettling use of "hate." The context is equally or even more unnerving: "You who love the LORD, hate evil!" Love and hate in one short phrase of one verse! Moreover, we're not talking about any kind of love here, but rather love for God. This verse seems to suggest that if we love God we should also hate.

Of course, verse 10 doesn't endorse hatred in general. Rather, it commends one very specific kind of hatred, the hatred of evil. We are to hate that which by its very nature offends and dishonors God. We are to hate that which opposes the goodness that remains in our fallen world. We are to hate that which oppresses, enslaves, tortures, and terrorizes. Indeed, we are to hate hatred of many sorts, the hatred that focuses on people.

Psalm 97 does not tell us to hate people, even evil people. We hate the evil that they do. We hate the evil forces that motivate them. We hate the destructive results of their evil deeds. But we must restrain our natural instinct to move from hating evil to hating the people who do it. These, our enemies, if you wish, are to be loved, not hated. As Jesus said, "You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies!" (Matt. 5:43-44).

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you think it's possible to hate evil but not to hate those who do evil? Do you hate evil? Are there certain expressions of evil that are particularly loathsome to you? Why?

PRAYER: Gracious God, it seems a little strange to pray in light of Psalm 97:10. But, in faithfulness to your Word, I do pray that you will help me to love you more (that's the good part) and hate evil (that's the strange part).

As I pray this, I realize my own tendency to call evil that which I don't happen to like. Keep me from such shallowness and arrogance. Give me discernment to know what is truly evil so that I might hate it.

Help me, though, not to hate the ones who perpetrate evil. May I love them, even as you have taught me. May I have a heart of compassion for those who are caught in the grip of evil. May I pray for their freedom and hope for their redemption.

All praise be to you, O God, because you are good, truly and wholly good. Amen.


Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry

This article is part of The High Calling series, Visual and Creative Arts as Ministry. At The High Calling, we believe that art creates a space where people may encounter God, opening a door for transformation. Have you felt it? It’s the way the light ripples across water; it’s the way a good story names something within you; it’s the music you dream in the middle of the night that haunts you in the day. God uses beauty to touch us in the deepest places. As image-bearers of the one true God, we are also co-creators with him, made to impact our culture and each other through the art we bring to life. Does this resonate with you? If so, consider sharing these stories via email, Facebook, Twitter, or through your other social media and friendship networks.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.