I John 4:20-21 ESV
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”
Love Others, Don’t Hate
We can’t love God and hate our fellow humans, or more specifically those within the family of God. For love and hate do not coexist unless we are speaking of loving the things of God and hating evil. We are to hate evil. We are just not to hate people, even people who practice evil, and even if that evil they are committing is against us. But loving them in no way is giving approval to their evil, for love is opposed to what is evil.
So, if we love with this kind of love we prefer what God prefers. And he prefers what is holy, righteous, godly, morally pure, honest, faithful, and obedient to him and to his word. We choose his choices. And he chooses for us to die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. We prefer to live through Christ, to have Christ live his life through us, and for us to actively be doing his will by his power and in his strength and wisdom.
But Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
This passage of Scripture is often a point of contention for some people because it appears to be instructing us to hate. Yet, the word “hate” can have a wide range of meaning depending upon the context, such as Jesus used this word to contrast our love for him with our love of family. In this case, the word means to “love less,” meaning unless we love our family members less than we love Jesus, then we can’t be his disciples.
But when this passage in 1 John talks of us saying that we love God but we hate our fellow humans (or fellow Christians), the hate this is talking about is not “loving less,” for Jesus already approved us to love other humans less than we love him. So, here we must look at what else this word means, and it means to detest, mistreat, do evil against, treat with cruelty, and sin against, especially with evil intent to cause that other person harm.
So, in this case, hate is the opposite of love. And since love has to do with preferring what God prefers, which is what is morally pure, honest, faithful, and kind, etc., if we hate others we do willful and deliberate harm to them. So we lie to, cheat, slander, steal from, betray, commit adultery against, get even with and otherwise do evil against them, as well as we will not forgive, and we will hold on to resentment and bitterness, which will do us harm.
Confusing Love and Hate
But sometimes people think they are loving, or they try to convince themselves that they are loving when they are really hating. So, how does that happen? It happens when they confuse lust for love and fleshly passions for love. They think that if someone does something that makes them feel good that it must be love and that if someone does something that makes them uncomfortable or offended, that it must be hate.
But how something makes us feel is based in our emotions and our feelings, and feelings can be deceiving, and fleeting, and fluctuating. Just because it feels good doesn’t mean it is good or that it is good for us. Sin is pleasurable or people would not be drawn to it. Sugar tastes really good, but it is not good for us. Lots of things that look good, taste good, and feel good are not good. They are bad for us, and they are wrong for us.
But now Satan has lied to the people, and he has turned darkness for light and light for darkness, and he has turned evil into something good and good into something evil. And so he has convinced many professers of faith in Jesus that it is wrong to repent of their sins, to obey the Lord, and to submit to him as Lord, and that it is right to continue living in their sins and to do evil against others, for at least then they aren’t doing works for salvation.
So, he has also convinced them if someone is teaching against sin and is calling for people to repent of their sins and to obey the Lord that they must be trying to earn their own salvation, and so they are to reject their words, and to consider that they are not being loving and kind. But if someone tells them what their itching ears wants to hear and does not judge them for their sin, then they are to regard that person as being loving and kind.
But the most loving thing that we can do for people is to tell them the truth of what God’s word teaches, i.e. the whole counsel of God, i.e. what Jesus taught and what the apostles taught (in context). It is loving to lead them to forsake their sins and to follow Jesus in obedience to his ways and to lead them to being rescued from their addiction to sin and to now walk in freedom from the chains of sin that bind them.
And the most hateful thing we can do for people is to lie to them and to tell them that their sins are forgiven and that they are on their way to heaven, and that nothing can take that away from them, no matter how much or how often they sin from that point forward. For that is a lie from hell that is giving them a false hope of eternal life with God, but it does not rescue them from their slavery to sin, so in reality they are still bound for hell.
Calling it Love When it is Hate
Because so many people professing faith in Jesus have bought into the lies, and they are rejecting the truth, they are convincing themselves that some things are love that are hate, such as adulterous relationships (affairs), such as porn addiction, even such things as incest or homosexual relationships. They convince themselves that because it feels good that it must be good, and so they choose to ignore God’s commandments and they do evil.
Or, if they are choosing to cheat on their spouses via porn or via an adulterous affair or lusting after others or via self-gratification, etc., they convince themselves that what they are doing is just meeting their needs or that it is just recreation or entertainment or that somehow they deserve it or that “love” is what is driving what they are doing and that it isn’t really personal against their spouses, but it is very personal, I guarantee you!
Or, all the while that they are cheating on their spouses and lying about it and hiding it from them, if they do other things for their spouses such as help with things around the house, then they expect their spouses to see that as love. And so they convince themselves that if they do some kind and helpful things that they are loving their spouses all the while they are hating them for they are cheating on them and lying to them about it.
So, the bottom line in all of this is not only that we should love others and not hate them, and that we should not claim to love God while we are hating other humans, but that we need to define what love is and what hate is, and we need to be honest with ourselves regarding what is love and what is hate and then own up to where we are hating and calling it love, and to where we need to repent, and to turn, and to now obey our Lord.
[Matt 7:21-23; Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:21-23; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rev. 2-3; Rev 18:1-6; Rev 21:8, 27; Rev 22:14-15]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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