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ReVision

What about Hate?

All our affections are valid, and we need to nurture them all.

Keep Your Heart (4)

You who love the LORD, hate evil! Psalm 97.10

Affections and healthy faith
As Jonathan Edwards explained them, affections are of two kinds: those that incline us toward someone or something, and those which lead us to turn away. Edwards further explained that both kinds of affections are necessary for healthy Christian faith. Keeping our heart with all diligence involves understanding, engaging, focusing, and nurturing those affections that incline us toward something or someone – such as love. Likewise, we must understand, engage, focus, and nurture those affections that cause us to draw back from something or someone – affections such as hate.

That may strike some of us as strange, if not dangerous. Shouldn’t we avoid hate at all costs, in all its kinds?

In Edwards’ understanding of the affections, hate is not a “four-letter word.” It is a perfectly valid and useful affection which, when properly understood and engaged, and focused with the right intensity, can, with other similar affections, help us to know a greater measure of true and lively faith in God. We can grow stronger in our soul when the hate we are meant to express is rightly expressed.

We need to explore this a bit further, especially since, in our day, it is not fashionable, or, at least, not considered to be part of our Christian calling, to harbor affections such as hate, anger, sorrow, and the like. These come, as we know, but certain kinds of contemporary Christian teaching, not understanding these affections as God intends, try to deny, gloss over, discourage, or eradicate them, preferring instead to concentrate on more “positive” affections such as love, compassion, tolerance, and joy.

This is why we seldom hear about any place for hate or fear or dread or sorrow in the preaching and teaching of the church, but only happiness, peace, joy, and love.

But such a view misunderstands the nature of affections. Moreover, when affections such as hate are not properly understood, engaged, focused, and nurtured, we become vulnerable to the misapplication of these and other affections in ways that can rob us of a strong soul and a vigorous and fervent life of following Jesus Christ.

Hate evil
Our text commands the believer who loves the Lord to hate evil. Does it seem strange to think of love and hate as working together to accomplish God’s will? It did not to the psalmist.

We all know what hate feels like – a combination of loathing, disgust, anger, and a desire either to destroy the object of our hatred or be removed from as far as possible. That seems like a proper sort of inclination toward sin, don’t you agree? Think where we’d be today if Adam and Eve had hated sin rather than fallen through the temptation of wanting to be like God into sin’s throes and woes!

Edwards explained, perhaps following the logic of our text, that we can only learn to hate – only learn those affections that cause us to draw back from something – as we cultivate and practice those affections that incline us to draw near. He explained, “From a vigorous, affectionate, and fervent love to God, will necessarily arise other religious affections; hence will arise an intense hatred and a fear of sin; a dread of God’s displeasure; gratitude to God for his goodness; complacence and joy in God when he is graciously and sensibly present; grief when he is absent; a joyful hope when a future enjoyment of God is expected; and fervent zeal for the divine glory.”

It would be safe to say, in the light of this, that we cannot love God and sin at the same time. Indeed, we cannot be said truly to love God so long as we refuse to hate sin or continue to delight in it.

In the same way, indifference to things we are supposed to love, or a lackadaisical or cavalier attitude toward such discipleship duties as spiritual disciplines, worship, and the pursuit of holiness, will make space in our soul for us to begin loving such things as spiritual indolence and a kind of status quo “good-enough-for-me” Christianity.

Getting it right
We must love the things we are supposed to love and hate the thing we are commanded to hate; rejoice in the presence of that which elicits holy joy and weep before that which brings holy sorrow; and press with fervor to attain the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, fleeing everything which inclines us to lethargy, an unguarded heart, or sin.

Negative affections are as powerful as the strongest positive affections, but they can only function in our hearts as God intends as we take the time to understand, engage, focus, and nurture them in line with the teaching of God’s Word. This is an important part of the discipline of keeping our hearts, so that whatever flows from them will be holy and righteous and good, bringing the heart of Jesus to bear on the hearts and lives of those to whom He sends us.

In strong souls, hate, anger, fear, resentment, indignation, jealousy, and more have their proper place. As we cultivate the positive affections, especially love for God and neighbors, we will understand better the role these negative affections must play in our walk with and work for the Lord. But to dismiss them all as “not Christian” is to cripple the heart, weaken the soul, and compromise the life of faith.

It’s clear that understanding, engaging, focusing, and nurturing religious affections is going to require much more of us than most of us have perhaps been willing thus far to invest. But the stakes – a strong soul and a vigorous and lively faith – are high; we must not fail to rise to the challenge.

For reflection
1.  Explain how hate – and disgust, anger, revulsion, and so forth – can be a proper affection for a Christian. Give an example of a proper use of such affections.

2.  How could you tell if hate was beginning to go awry in your heart?

3.  How can Christians help one another develop proper affections?

Next steps – Preparation: What do you hate? Do you hate what you should? Everything you should? Spend some time in prayer over these questions. Listen as the Lord guides you to begin making better use of this powerful affection.

T. M. Moore

Your soul in the Kingdom of God
All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here.

Jesus has conveyed us into the Kingdom of God. It is in the context of seeking the Kingdom that we can grow strong souls. Our book, The Kingdom Turn, can help you understand and begin making yourself more at home in the Kingdom of God. Order your free copy by clicking here.

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore

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