When Love Leads to Hate

February 16, 2018 • Life for Leaders

Let those who love the LORD hate evil,
for he guards the lives of his faithful ones
and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalms 97:10


When I was young, my parents taught me that it was wrong to hate. In fact, I was prohibited even from using the word “hate.” If I said, “I hate peas,” I’d be sure to receive a word of rebuke from my mom or dad. Hating was not permitted in our family (even though, between you and me, I did hate peas.)

I’m not quite sure how my parents, Bible-loving Christians, dealt with Psalm 97. Perhaps, like many others believers, they picked and chose from the Psalms those passages that fit personal preferences. Yet, I do wonder what they thought when they came to Psalm 97:10: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.”

Fingers gripping a chain link fence.What’s surprising about this verse is not just its unsettling use of “hate.” The context is equally or even more unnerving: “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” Love and hate in one short sentence of one verse! Moreover, we’re not talking about any kind of love here, but rather love for God. This verse teaches us that if we love God we should also hate.

Of course, verse 10 doesn’t endorse hatred in general. It doesn’t even excuse my hatred of peas. 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 that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Something to Think About:

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?

Something to Do:

Reflect on things you hate, if there are any. What does your hatred tell you about yourself? Would love for God increase or decrease your hatred?


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 way, 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 righteously.

Help me, though, not to hate the ones who perpetrate evil. May I love them, 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. There is no evil in you. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary:
Above All Gods



6 thoughts on “When Love Leads to Hate

  1. Tortoise says:

    I loved your angle on hating evil, but still loving those who perpetrate evil. Sometimes, it is very easy to mix up the two, especially as the crime gets more heinous, as with the school shooting in Florida.
    However, I think we must also acknowledge our own tendency to become the very perpetrators of evil due to the evil within (in other words, to love evil ourselves). My take on this is that we must discipline ourselves that we hate the evil within and strive for goodness that comes from God in ourselves if we truly love God.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this very timely word from the Word! Recently my great grandson experienced a bullying at his school. A guy twice his size picked him up bodily and body slammed him on the hall floor. I wanted to go body slam him!! I’m sure that will be understood by any grandmother reading this. But, right away, I heard the Holy Spirit say that this kid really needed my prayers. His name is Jaden! Will you join me in praying for Jaden that he will get what he needs and not what he deserves!!! That way, he may not grow up and shoot up the rest of his school!! Blessings!

  3. Richard McCleery says:

    As I read this particular devotion, I was struck by the fact that the author did not delve beyond the comma in that quote from Psalms. Reading what follows explains in my view why it is ok to hate evil, because in essence God has our back. So I read the overall Psalm as encouragement to confront evil in the world because we can be assured of God’s support in those lonely and often dangerous times when we need to speak or act in the face of evil.

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