Love has long been held up as a far superior trait than hatred, and it isn’t hard to see why. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8). In a discussion of the three supreme traits of faith, hope, and love, Paul affirmed that “the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
Just as much as love is celebrated, hatred is often the object of God’s disapproval. “Hatred stirs up strife” (Prov. 10:12). “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).
While the above passages obviously express truth, those are not the only passages that address love and hatred. Actually, love is sometimes condemned and hatred praised. So when is love bad and hatred good?
Love is bad when you love the wrong things.“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16). “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43). “He who loves transgression loves strife” (Prov. 17:19).
Hatred is good when it mirrors God’s hatred.“I hate and despise falsehood, But I love Your law” (Psa. 119:163). “From Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way” (Psa. 119:104). “Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the gate” (Amos 5:15). “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). “Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies” (Psa. 139:21-22). “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil” (Prov. 8:13).
Both love and hatred derive their moral significance from their objects. Jesus set the perfect example in that he “loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (Heb. 1:9). Let us follow his lead.