When “Love” is Hate and “Hate” is Love

When “Love” is Hate and “Hate” is Love

“Hate” and “hate group” are terms getting thrown around a lot recently. For example, many news outlets have been reporting on the “Hate Map” published by the Southern Poverty Law Center. As of 2021, there are 733 groups labeled as “hate groups” in the US. This includes groups like the KKK. But this also includes anti-abortion, pro-family, politically conservative groups, such as Liberty Counsel in Orlando, groups who deny being violent or motivated by hate. Also included are groups who preach the gospel to homosexuals, and groups who caution against hormonal or surgical procedures for children experiencing gender dysphoria.

Media outlets and internet giants tend to blindly support the SPLC and its labels. As a result, SPLC has gained tremendous political and financial power. For example, Apple has a button on iTunes allowing users to instantly donate to SPLC, “to stand up to those who hate” and further its mission to “monitor extremist and hate groups and alert law enforcement to their activities.”

Make no mistake, most Christian churches across the religious spectrum could be labeled a “hate group” under the SPLC definition. Indeed, Peter (anti-woman, 1 Peter 3:5), Paul (anti-gay, 1 Cor. 6:9- 11), might be called haters. Jesus (anti-Muslim, John 8:24) might find His YouTube and Twitter accounts suspended. It’s sadly ironic that, just as first-century Roman Christians were persecuted as “atheists,” twenty-first century American Christians will be persecuted as “haters.”

But enough of the political backdrop, which I simply wanted to use to introduce this subject of how we define love and hate. It is possible to say something nice, pleasant, non-challenging, and affirming, and be filled with hatred, either desiring purposefully to harm, or unwittingly. And it is possible to say something stern, upsetting, challenging, and demanding change, and be motivated by love. I want to prove that here.

You Can Be Nice and Be Hateful

The fruit of the spirit is kindness and goodness ... but not all kindness is good, and not all goodness is kind. If I watched my kid steal a Snickers and spoke kindly to him, this would not be good. If I saw a person about to rappel off an unsecured line, grabbing him by the harness and yanking him forcefully away from the edge would not be initially perceived as kind (especially if he scuffed his knees) but it most certainly would be a great good.

Much modern dialogue is pleasant but evil. Society says is “you must affirm my desires and celebrate my choices or you are a hater.” Logical sense understands that there do exist situations demanding challenge. There is such a thing as loving rebuke.

In Genesis 3:1-7, Satan spoke extremely kind words to Eve, but ruined her. He was a hater of the worst kind—a liar and murderer (John 8:44). Much smooth speech ends in victimhood and sadness (Prov. 1:10-19, 5:1-14, 7:21-27).

These are, of course, examples of intentionally harmful pleasant speech. But there are just as many examples of well-intended person-affirming speech that is in fact harmful. If my child stepped on a rusty nail and I didn’t force her to get a painful tetanus shot (as she cried and begged) and she died of lockjaw, I caused her greater harm because I refused to inflict a tiny harm. Sometimes the best thing is to cause temporary pain to provide eternal blessing. Withholding rebuke is not having your 

friends’ interests in mind. In 1 Samuel 2:29, Eli heard his boys were taking sacrifices and sleeping around but said little (2:22-25) and did nothing. He avoided confrontation and affirmed their desires, but he didn’t really love them, because the outcome was horrid (3:11-13, 4:10-18). Kids, if you suspect your parents hate you because they make and enforce rules, understand that it is by this they express love (Hebrews 12:11)!

You Can be Stern and Be Loving

Because someone stands for Biblical values does not mean he is a hater. Indeed, when most Christians speak out against sin, they are not motivated by hate, but rather by love. In her book Hate: Why We Should Resist it with Free Speech not Censorship, in a chapter called “The Problem of Hate and Religion,” the author Nadine Strossen points out that it is very subjective to define stern speech as hate speech. “One person’s hated speech is another person’s cherished speech, conveying ideas that he considers valuable, and in some cases even loving” (p. 80). She points to the case of Tyler Harper, a California teen who wore a shirt to school quoting Romans 1:27 and accused of hate. “Many Christians believe that only be accepting Christian tenets can people secure eternal salvation and avoid damnation. Couldn’t it be seen as compassionate and caring, even loving, to proselytize?”

Start to finish, the Bible is a story of God’s love. God is capable of wrath but is defined as love (1 John 4:8, Matt. 5:44-45). God created mankind, but sin ruins God’s relationship with man (Rom. 6:23). God took it upon Himself, at the cost of a great sacrifice, to provide the path of salvation, so that mankind may live eternally with Him. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). But God is not 1- D. He is capable of anger toward sin (Prov. 6:16, Rev. 2:6). He judges those who descend into immorality (Gen. 18:20, 2 Thess. 1:8, 2 Pet. 3:7). God knows what sin does to us, how it deforms us and isolates us.

God says, “You who love the Lord, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10). The reason that Christians speak out against sin is because we believe it destroys the soul, that it prevents a person from living eternally with God in Heaven. Like a family member pleading with a loved one to stop participating in habits that are destroying his life, we beg on behalf of Christ, “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

“Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). Because I love you, I say that you should not move in with your girlfriend. Because I love you, I insist that marriage is defined as one man, one woman, for life. Because I love you, I discourage you from following the ethics of the Koran. I hope you can see that God is not self-affirming but sin-condemning and soul-saving. He doesn’t want you to be happy at the expense of your soul; He wants you to be fulfilled eternally, with what you were designed for, fellowship with God.