Love and Hate

There are generally four Greek words used for "love", only two of which are used in the New Testament.  One is "phileo", which is a word denoting affection - the type of natural affection we might have for a dear friend or a member of our family.  The second word is "agape" which refers to a deliberate act of the mind and will, which overcomes our natural inclinations, is beyond affection, and has a sacrificial quality about it.

John 21:15-17  is an interesting example of the usage of these two words for love:

15   So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16   He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17   He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, Lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.(John 21)

In the above conversation between Jesus and Peter, the original Greek words used for love can be seen by moving the mouse pointer over the words "love" or "lovest".  Please add a comment below if you have an idea as to what Jesus was saying to Peter.

Hate is another thing altogether. In the Bible it too comes in two different forms - in one usage it is an evil characteristic, but in another sense, not quite so evil.  I suppose a simple definition would be "hate is the absence of love."

In the extreme sense, hate is usually displayed by an active, evident sense of aggression, but in the Bible hate can go further than that.   Leviticus 19:17 laid down the principle:

"thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart:"

One was not even supposed to harbour hate secretly in one's heart!  This Old Testament principle therefore preceded the New Testament commandment shown below:

"He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.  But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes."(1 John 2: 9-11)

A very extreme use of the word "hate" is in Luke 14:

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."(Luke14:26)

How could Jesus possibly encourage us to hate our own family?  Another passage is Romans 9:13 when God says:

"Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." 

What does it mean?  Does God hate people?

Using a reliable dictionary of New Testament words, in this case Vine's, we find that the word which is translated "hate" can bear the meaning of "relative preference for one thing over another". So, in the case of the quotation from Luke's Gospel above, the point is being made that we should choose to be a disciple of Christ over and above the claims our family may have upon us, or that we should disregard our own life relative to the claims Christ has upon us.

Similarly, in the passage about Jacob and Esau, who were twin brothers, God in His foreknowledge knew that Jacob would be obedient to him, whereas He could foresee that Esau would be "a profane person" (Hebrews 12:16). Therefore, God showed a preference for Jacob over Esau.

In all these matters we are invited to be like God - Matthew 5:32-48, where Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy'   But I say unto you, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?  Do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.' "   (Matthew 5:43-48)

The only way to find out more about how we should lead our lives and how we should love God and each other is to read His word, the Bible.   We have a Free Bible reading course which we hope will help you in your reading and understanding of the Bible.

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