The Hateful Heart

It’s intriguing to note how often the word hate lands in the biblical text. Most of the references deal with what God hates (evil, falsehood, robbery, iniquity, wickedness, and even divorce). The Bible gets specific in Proverbs 6: 16-19 as, “Six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.”

In addition, there are several passages that speak about what we are to hate as God’s people, summarized simply as evil. We’re reminded as well that it is blessed to be hated for loving God, and in turn we are admonished to do good toward all who hate us. In other words, join God in hating all the things that He hates (see above) and learn to turn the other cheek toward all who hate you for loving God and godliness.

But what about a God-fearing person who hates another God-fearing person? That’s when it gets confusing. It’s one thing to have a hateful heart as a non-believer, or to receive the hatred of a non-believer, but what about a hateful heart that exists within and among God’s family? How can hate toward another Christian ever be justified?

“Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him,” writes John in 1 John 2: 9-11.

Whenever I hear a Christian describe a hateful heart toward another in the family of God I hear inner torment and unresolved anger. There’s a blockage in the heart that stubbornly refuses to let any light shine on the hate that resides within. It’s considered easier to carry around animosity, malice, and spite than to deal openly, honestly, and lovingly toward those we may hate. But, since the truth always sets us free, a hateful heart can indeed be healed by the presence and power of God. When confronted by the initiating love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a hateful heart can be melted away and replaced instead with mercy, grace, and joy.

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4: 19-21). Does any shed of hate reside in your heart today toward God or one of God’s people? Rid yourself of the weight that burdens your heart and instead find freedom to love as one who’s been loved by God in order to love another.