By Pastor Glenn Pease
A truck had run off the road and crashed into a tree forcing the engine back into the cab. The driver was trapped in the twisted wreckage. The doors were crushed and bent out of shape, and he had his feet caught between the clutch and the brake pedal. To make matters worse, a fire started in the cab. Concerned people on the scene began to panic, for it was obvious that the driver would burn to death before the fire engine could arrive.
Then a man by the name of Charles Jones appeared, and he took hold of the doors and began to pull. His muscles so expanded that they literally tore his shirt sleeves. People could not believe it when the door began to give way. Jones reached inside and bare-handedly bent the brake and clutch pedals out of the way, and freed the man's legs. He snuffed out the fire with his hands, and then crawled inside the cab, and with his back against the top lifted the roof so other spectators could pull the driver to safety.
We have all heard stories of how mothers have lifted cars, and done other superhuman things to rescue their children, because they are motivated by love, but this man was a stranger. There was no relationship to the driver. If he was a brother, or son, or even a good friend, we could see how love would motivate one to such a feat of strength. But this was not the case. What then was the motivation that enabled this stranger to do such a powerful act of love? It was hate. Charles Jones was later interviewed, and was asked why and how he was able to accomplish such a Herculean feat. He simply replied, "I hate fire." He had good reason for his deep hatred, for a few months earlier he had to stand by and watch helplessly as his little daughter burned to death. His intense hatred for this enemy gave him enormous strength to fight it. His hate led him to a great act of love.
On the other hand, love can lead to hate. Most of the stories of hatred you read about are directly connected with love. Just recently I read of a man who shot his wife and her two brothers because she was leaving him. The statistics show that most murders in our country happen in families. People are most likely to kill those whom they love, or once loved. Love is the cause of so many acts of hate.
What a paradox, that these two strong and opposite emotions can so often be linked together. Paul in verse 9 puts them side by side, and urges Christians to feel them both in the same breath. He says love must be sincere, and then demands that we hate what is evil. Paul was not the founder of this paradoxical partnership of love and hate. The unity of these two emotions runs all through the Bible. I counted 27 verses in the Bible where love and hate are in the same verse together. We remember the old song, Love and Marriage that says they go together like a horse and carriage, but it is equally Biblical to say, love and hate go together. Listen to a partial reading of how the Bible links these two emotions in partnership.
Psalm 45:7 "You love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
Psalm97:10 "Let those who love the Lord hate evil for he guards the lives of his faithful ones."
Eccles. 3:8 "There is a time to love and a time to hate."
Isa. 61:8 "For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity." The love-hate partnership begins in the very nature of God. God could not be sincere in his love if he did not hate that which destroys love. To be God like and Christlike is to combine in our being, love and hate.
Rev. 2:6 Jesus says, "...You have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate."
You cannot be a good Christian, and a truly loving Christian, if you do not feel hate for that which is the enemy of love. There are many more texts we could read but the point is established: Hatred is a legitimate emotion in the Christian life. In fact, it is a vital emotion if we are to be balanced. This is, however, one of those dangerous truths that can lead to disaster if it is not understood. These paradoxical partners can still be bitter enemies. There is still the major distinction to be made between the hatred of evil, which is good, and the evil of hatred, which is bad.
Hatred is still a deadly foe, and an emotion that has to be kept in check, or it can lead us to become very unChristlike, and totally out of God's will. I John 4:20 says, "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." Hate destroys relationships of both God and man. Prov. 8:36 has wisdom say, "All who hate me love death." Hate for what is good is love for what is evil, and when these two emotions are reversed from the way God intended them to function, they are destructive of all that is of value in life.
The traditional, and normal, concept of love and hate being opposites and enemies is valid and true. It is just that it is not the whole truth about love and hate. There is more,and we must understand the more, or we will not be in control, and use these emotions the way God intends. The area where we are weak is in this area of understanding the paradoxical partnership of love and hate. Emotional health depends on our growth in this area. To be what God expects us to be, we need to understand the reality of what is called
ambivalence. This word stands for that psychological experience in which opposing emotions, such as love and hate, joy and sorrow, or desire and fear, exist at the same time within the same person. Paul is urging Christians to be ambivalent by telling them to feel love and hate at the same time. It is a cliché among Christians that we are to love the sinner and hate the sin. It is very hard to separate the two, and so we really are feeling both emotions at the same time toward the same individual. This is ambivalence. This leads to much emotional turmoil in the person who does not see this mixture as legitimate.
In marriage, for example, it is a common cause for the breakdown of relationships. Many mates have no understanding of the paradoxical partnership of love and hate. They are locked into a narrow view of reality that says, I cannot love that which I hate, or vice versa. They discover that they feel hate toward their mate for a variety of things, and thus they conclude, love has flown the coop. I lost my love. Because of this false psychology that says, love and hate cannot dwell together, they let their hate boot their love out. It happens all the time that people who really love each other get divorced just because they hate aspects of each other.
Children run away, and mates shoot each other, and all sorts of tragic behavior takes place because people do not understand it can be valid to have hate for people you love. Almost every child hates their parents at some point in life. Sometimes they verbalize it, and are not as subtle as little Bryan. Little Bryan had just been punished, and he sat in silence at lunch. Finally he looked up and said, "God can do anything He wants to can't He?" "Yes dear," his mother replied, "God can do anything." Bryan looked up again and said, "God doesn't have parents does He?" God doesn't have parents, but He does have children, and that relationship also leads to ambivalence. God knows the mixed emotions of love and hate.
Way back in the fourth century St. Augustine described the divine ambivalence. He wrote, "Wherefore in a wonderful and divine manner, He both hated us and loved us at the same time. He hated us, as being different from what He had made us; but as our iniquity had not entirely destroyed His work in us, He could at the same time in every one of us hate what we had done, and loved what proceeded from Himself." The cross becomes the central focus of the divine ambivalence. The cross is where God's wrath and judgment were poured out, and Jesus bore the hatred of God for man's sin. Yet the cross is where the love of God is brightest, for there He gave His Son, and the Son gave His life to atone for sin, and make it possible for all men to be forgiven, redeemed, and reconciled to Him in love.
Never again, and no where else do we see the paradoxical partnership of love and hate working together on so grand a scale. If God did not hate sin, there would be no cross, and if God did not love the sinner, there would be no cross. The cross is a love-hate symbol of the divine ambivalence. So what does this mean for our emotional system? It means we need to accept our own ambivalence, and not flea from it, or seek to suppress it, as if it made us abnormal. Accept ambivalence as part of what it means to be made in the image of God, with the capacity to both love and hate.
If mates could see it is okay to hate those we love, they would not let their hate destroy their love. Love makes its highest investments in a mate. Love is a commitment of trust. When that trust is violated, or rejected, it is one of life's sharpest pains. It hurts for someone you love to be unloving, and that hurt, if persistent, leads to hate. It does not mean you cease to love the one you hate, for if you didn't love them it would not hurt, and you wouldn't hate them. The more you love the more you hurt when love is rejected, and so you can hate most those you love most.
Christians, for example, almost never hate atheists. Most Christian hatred is directed toward other Christians in the family of God, because they are hurt by other Christians, and not unbelievers. You do not expect an unbeliever to be loving, and so you can handle their rejection. But when another Christian rejects your love it is a hurt that can lead to hate. This explains why the worse wars are civil wars. They are battles of people who are close, and should be loving. Family conflicts are the most dangerous of all, because they are between people who love each other, and thus, they generate the hottest hostility.
The dangers of the love-hate ambivalence can be controlled by awareness of what is happening, and an understanding of the why. We need to see these two opposites can be partners, and not feel the stress of a civil war when we have them both together. We need to see that love and hate have more in common than we realize. They are both hot emotions, and you can be a flame with love, or a flame with hatred. Both are called passions that make the blood boil. Water can't quench the fire of love sang Solomon, and the burning fire of hatred can quickly turn relationships to ashes.
Both of these are intense emotions that tend to want to dominate the whole personality, and push out all other interests. Love and hate both long to consume the object of their passion. They are so different, so much alike, because they both are based on the same value system. Paul says to hate what is evil, and to cling to what is good. The Greek word for cling is the same root Paul used in Eph. 5:31 where we read, "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined unto his wife." To cling to, or cleave to the good is to love the good, and want to be one with it, as we in love long to be one with our mate. Jesus used the same word as Paul uses here in Matt. 19:6. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife." The words cleave, and cling to, and adhere to, runs all through the Bible to refer to the strong desires to love others and God.
If we are to cleave to, and strongly love others and God, and the good, the true, and the beautiful, it follows, as night follows the day, we must hate what destroys these values. You must hate what is false, and what ruins relationships between yourself and others. If the world we live in is a world of good and evil, then a healthy and realistic emotional system must experience both love and hate. If you love anything, you must hate something, and if you hate anything, it is because you love something. You cannot have the one without the other.
Life is a mixture of good and evil, therefore, the balanced life is one of mixed emotions. Ambivalence is not neurotic, but it is normal. It is the mixture of opposites that gives life balance. The reason you can eat a dessert even after you can't eat another bite of the food you have been eating is because it is different. Your body can take on a little more because of the variety, but any more of the same is intolerable. The balanced Christian life is one where there is no fear of any emotion because there is an awareness that variety gives life balance. Some hate is needed in a loving life to give balance. Just as recipes call for opposites to create a dish pleasing to the palate, so the recipe for the mature Christian life calls for opposites to be pleasing to God. The salt and the sugar go into the dish as partners. The sweet and the sour do also, and so love and hate are the paradoxical partners that make the Christian life a tasty treat to God.
We all know, however, that too much of a good thing can really ruin the whole dish. Proportion is the key. You cannot just drop a package of pepper in a dish that calls for a spoon full. Ingredients have to be measured to be compatible partners in making a good dish. So it is with love and hate, and all other emotions of life. God is love, but also has hate. Love is the dominant character of God's being. Hate is only a part of his personality that enables him to be realistic in relating to a fallen world. John 3:16 could have said, "God so hated the sin of the world that He poured out His wrath on His Son that man might escape it, and be saved." That would be true, but that is not the way the good news is communicated. It says, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." Love is the dominate motive of God's will. His hate is always secondary, and under the control of His love. When we can combine these paradoxical partners in this same way, we will have the balance necessary for mature Christian living.
Note that Paul in verse 9 surrounds the legitimate hate of the believer with the dominate love. Love keeps hate in bounds. It is okay to hate as long as you cling to what is good. You must refuse to let hate rob you of your key values that you love. If hate makes you lose the values you are to cling to, it becomes an evil, and not a partner of love. It is okay to hate all kinds of things about those whom you love, just as long as you go on loving them for their values. It is all right to hate the fact that your mate was so conditioned by their upbringing that they cannot express affection the way you desire. There are all kinds of defects in all of us that are hateful, because they fall so far short of the ideal. Feeling negative about this is realistic, but it becomes a destructive evil when we do not promote love as the senior partner in this pair of paradoxical partners.
The Bible makes it clear that every human being is worthy of love, no matter how far they fall short. It is a Christian obligation to see that even our enemies have value, and are to be objects of love. It is the task of love to see all that is truly hateful, and yet find a way to make love the dominate motivation. Edwin Markham put it so well in his poem.
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout,
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that took him in.
You can hate who you will, for what you will, and be in the center of God's will if you have a sincere love that strives always to cling to, and cleave to what is good in that person. You cannot be healthy without hate, but you cannot be happy unless your hate is always an assistant to love. Let hate dominate, and you will be a sick and sad person. It is not enough to love flowers to be a good gardener. You must also hate weeds. But pity the poor gardener who becomes so obsessed with fighting weeds that he no longer has any time to enjoy flowers. This is what happens to those who allow hate to become the senior partner, and dominate their life.
In the healthy personality, the love-hate partnership operates with a proper balance in relationship to oneself. We all hate our own defects, weaknesses, and sins. We get disgusted with ourselves often, but we also quickly forgive ourselves, and press on, because our self-love dominates over our self-depreciation. When we make an error on the road that causes the other guy to curse and shout, we feel a sense of guilt for our mistake, but it does not last long because we are so understanding of our humanness. We quickly forgive ourselves, and get on with living. We take a great step upward in maturity when we can do this same thing with others. Love is the senior partner in this paradoxical partnership when we can soon get hate calmed down so that love can make the key decision on how we will respond to the folly of others.
The two key steps to developing a healthy emotional life are, (1) Accept ambivalence- it is okay, and even God like to have mixed emotions. (2) Advance love-to the level of senior partner. In other words, love is to be the leader over all other emotions. It is vitally important then that love be real, genuine, and sincere. Love is the leader and it must be authentic. Love is the key to all the other emotions doing what they ought to do. That is why Paul begins this passage with the demand that love must be sincere. We all know that anything of great value tends to be counterfeited, and love is the highest value in the world of emotions, and so man has developed many ways to fake it.
Mark Twain dedicated one of his books to John Smith. It was not because he had any affection for a man by that name, but because he discovered it was the most popular name in the country, and if everyone by that name bought his book, he would have a decent profit. Deception in love is common because people really believe all is fair in love and war. A French restaurant has come up with a gimmick that enables a man to appear very loving and generous. When he and his partner come in, both are given a menu, but his has the real prices. Her menu has highly inflated prices, so that when he orders, she is struck dumb by his elaborate generosity for her. Not knowing it is not genuine generosity she will supposedly be deeply grateful to him for what she feels is sincere love. The world is full of this sort of thing, and the Christian is not beyond playing the same game.
Love is the first fruit of the Spirit, and the highest Christian virtue, but faking it is not legitimate. In fact, if you get good at faking it, you may never develop the real thing. Nothing leads to superficiality in relationships faster than those that are based on flowery language alone. The Christian needs to watch this in relationship to God, and not build up a vocabulary of high sounding praise which does not represent his heart. God knows when love is mere lip service. He has had all of history to experience the insincere. It does not take long for a mate or a friend to also learn that your talk can be cheap. A Chinese proverb says, "Never praise a woman too highly. If you stop, she'll think you don't love her anymore; if you keep it up she'll think she's too good for you."
Sincere love seeks to learn the need of the other person, and meet that need. You don't go by proverbs or other people's advice, or faking it for effect. You find the need and you meet it. If your mate does not like a lot of flattery you cut it out. If they crave more, you give more, because you chose to love and satisfy that need. Sincere love is like the love of Christ. He saw man's deepest need and He met it. Jesus said that the Good Samaritan was an ideal example of loving your neighbor. He saw the need and he met it. It is sincere love that will keep legitimate hate in its place, and prevent illegitimate hate from fulfilling its evil intention.
John and Mary Edwards were driving along the New Jersey Turnpike when they saw a young soldier thumbing a ride. They picked him up, and noticed he was very sad and sullen. Mary began to talk about her son who had also been in the service, and they invited him to come and have lunch with them. They observed a change of attitude, and he began to relax. He told of his homesickness and frustration with army life. He began to smile. When they reached his destination, John pressed a folded ten dollar bill into his hand, and a slip with their address saying, when you get out of the army, come see me and I'll give you a job. The young man had tears in his eyes as he mumbled his thanks. Two weeks later the Edwards received a letter from him. He told of how bitter and resentful he was that day they met. He was AWOL from the army, and was in a spirit of hatred for everyone. He said he had made up his mind to kill the first person who picked him up. You were the first, but you were so good and kind to me I couldn't do it, so when you were not looking I took the bayonet out of my hand, and slide it under the rear seat. You will find it there, and they did.
Sincere love encountered bitter hate, and they were not partners, but fierce foes. Love drove hate from the field and won the battle because it tried sincerely to meet the needs of that young man. They let him know that it is a world where people do care, and there are values worth living for. Love is stronger than hate, and when they are enemies, love is to be so sincere that it will drive hate from the field defeated. But even when they are partners, love must see to it that even though hate adds to the whole picture, it is always to be the case that the ultimate goal is the goal of love.
When hate arises in your feelings, do not fear it, but call on all the forces of love within you to surround it, and contain it, so that it does not move you toward goals displeasing to God. Make sure it moves you to figure out how love can use the energy of hate for its goals. This is the Godlike and Christlike way to use these paradoxical partners.