One of the fundamental transformations that takes place in the hearts and minds of disciples of Jesus Christ is that they learn to love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. While it may be easy and even common for us to reflect on and talk about loving the things God loves, we don’t always take into account the things God hates. Much less do we meditate on hating the same things. The maturing disciple learns to both love and hate, but only in the fashion and image of God’s loves and hatreds.
“Abhor what it evil; hold fast to what is good.”
If we are sensitive to it, Scripture is full of descriptions of God hating evil and injustice and loving righteousness. Psalm 45:7 describes God’s faithful people and ultimately the Messiah by saying, “you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” The very character of Jesus Christ is marked by God’s love and God’s hatred. Jesus taught the things God loves, touched the people God loves, lead the life God loves, and taught his disciples to continue in the same way of life. But by the same token, Jesus had some uncomfortable things to say about the behaviors and ideologies God hates, and the hypocrites that perpetuated them.
To abhor, or to hate, is to see the vice or evil in a thing, a behavior, or an idea. To love (or as Paul puts it, “hold fast to”) is to associate with, to promote as good and valuable, and to even sacrifice for something or someone.
How do we learn what we ought to love and hate? The loves and hatred of God. Learning what God loves becomes our moral compass – it is our matter-of-fact command to love. A disciple is willing to surrender their fleshly loves and hatreds and let them be transformed by God’s point of view on the matter. Every disciple comes to God with a set of loves and hatreds given to them by the world, and all of them must be surrendered. And as the disciple is surrendered and submitted, their obedience to command becomes the very pulse of their desires. Our loves become transformed so that we willingly and naturally love the way God loves and we righteously hate what God hates.
In becoming these kinds of disciples, a distinction becomes clear: God loves people and hates the things that destroy them. Scripture says that I was an enemy of God in my sin, but God loved this sinner so much that he entered flesh, lived among us, died on the cross because of my sin, and rose again for my life. The transforming disciple learns to view humans – even our enemies – in the same way. Our enemies cease to become targets for our cursing and wrath, and become potential recipients of the grace and forgiveness of God.
In this we see that the love of God necessarily includes the hatred of sin – otherwise the cross of Christ is a superfluous act of torture and death. Sin is a destroyer and needs to be destroyed. Sin is hated by God and ought to be hated by his disciples so much so that they are ready to sacrifice themselves for the love of sinners. Only in this way can the disciple of Jesus Christ learn to love what he loves.