In Part 1 of this post, we looked at the matter of love, and explored where it comes from and what it is in its most essential elements. We will now take a similar look at its opposite, hate.
The Origins of Hate
The first question we will ask, then, is, “Where does hate come from?” Now, hold onto your seat, because I think I may just shock you with my answer! I believe that “hate” is actually an “unexpected child” of a “virtuous mother”. I believe that “hate” is, unwittingly, yet as a matter of course, actually generated by “LOVE”! Yes, I did just say that! I further believe that “hate” increases and decreases proportionally with the measure of “love” that exists.
We generally think of “hate” as an inherently bad and evil attitude or emotion, but if that were universally so, then God, Who is infinitely holy, would not hate anything. But Scripture says things such as, “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.” (Isaiah 61:8), and of the Messiah, “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.” (Psalm 45:7). It also exhorts, “Let those who love the LORD hate evil.” (Psalm 97:10), and, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).
Here we see that there are things that God hates and that He also exhorts those who love Him and sincerely love others to hate as well, namely wickedness and evil. In all of these Scriptures, “hate” follows immediately after “love” as a natural negative attitude to the opposite of what is loved. As such, this form of “hate” constitutes a double negative which is in keeping with God’s positive attributes of goodness and righteousness. It is the love of what is good and righteous that, as a matter of course, generates hate for wickedness and evil, which are the opposite of that which is loved. I would sum it up this way:
We “hate” that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates what we “love”!
So, why does God “hate wrongdoing and robbery”? Because “wrongdoing and robbery” oppose, threaten, and violate “justice” which He loves. Why are we to “hate evil”? Because “evil” opposes, threatens, and violates sincere love for God and others and our ability to “cling to what is good”.
That being said, however, “hate” is not usually holy, pure, and righteous, as in God, but is more often evil, impure, and unrighteous when found in and among men. The reason for this is that mankind is fallen and, first and foremost, the focus of what people love has become twisted and misdirected as a result of that fall. Instead of loving God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves, they love themselves primarily, and they love the things of this world that provide them with selfish, self-centered value, pleasure, and benefit.
As a secondary result, what people “hate” has also become twisted and misdirected. We all tend to hate that which opposes, threatens, and/or violates our self-love and its carnal and worldly pursuits and satisfactions. Because the sinful, fallen nature of both man and the world system are at enmity with God, humanity ends up hating and opposing God and that which is in keeping with His holiness and righteousness. Thus, much of our hate becomes fallen, misdirected, evil, impure, and unrighteous.
Hate, in and of itself, therefore, is not inherently good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, pure or impure, but it can fall within the entire range of the moral spectrum depending upon its source, motivation, focus, and manifestation.
“Hate” can also be morally neutral. In Part 1 I gave an example of how someone might say, “I love pizza.” But if that person were served pizza with anchovies on it, they might say, “Eww, I hate anchovies on pizza.” Now, those anchovies elicit a mild expression of “hate” because they in fact threaten something the person loves, i.e. the taste of the pizza without anchovies on it. This manner of “hate” is merely a matter of personal preference and doesn’t carry any moral weight with it, either positive or negative. Even with something as innocuous as this, though, a sense of “hate” still arises from something opposing, threatening, and/or violating that which is “loved”.
To more thoroughly grasp this primary aspect of the “love”-“hate” relationship, I encourage you to try a simple thought experiment: Think of at least five things that you would say you “hate”, and then see if you can trace each one back to something that you “love” being opposed, threatened, or violated. (Here are some things that are on my list off the top of my head: alarm clocks, privacy policies, the separated liquid in the mustard bottle, getting old, and…come to think of it, anchovies on my pizza! 😉 )
The fundamental truth to be grasped is that the root of that which we hate, whether morally positive, negative, or neutral, is something that we love being opposed, threatened, and/or violated. According to Scripture, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), but it doesn’t automatically cast out hate. In fact, it first generates it.
So we see that love comes from God and, subsequently, hate is birthed from love when love is rivaled and challenged. “Hate”, therefore, is the “unexpected child” of the “virtuous mother” called “Love”!
Now that we’ve explored the origins of hate, the next question we need to ask is, what actually is hate?
The primary Hebrew word translated “hate” in the Old Testament is “sane” (pronounced, “saw-nay”). Interestingly, the Hebrew language began as a pictographic language with the Hebrew letters symbolizing certain objects that, when combined, gave meanings to Hebrew root words. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible explains the following concerning the Hebrew word, “sane”: “The pictograph is a picture of a thorn, then is a picture of seed.” This symbolism is rich in meaning and worth exploring further.
- The “thorn”
The first symbol is that of the “thorn”. We understand from Scripture that thorns were a result of the curse because of the entrance of sin through Adam and Eve’s transgression. God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18). If we consider what sin is, in its essence it represents a rival “love” to the love of/for God. Prior to the entrance of sin (rival–love) into creation, all that God had made and loved was harmonious, unopposed, unthreatened, and unviolated in its pristine perfection. Since hate only finds its origin when what is loved is rivaled and challenged, hate did not exist in this original state. Once the rival–love of pride (self-love) entered into Lucifer’s heart and was then passed onto mankind through the temptation of Adam and Eve to independent self-interest (self-love), the conditions for hate were ushered into creation. Once multiple, rival-loves existed, multiple rival-hates spontaneously generated as well.
According to Old Testament scholarship, the Hebrew concept of “hate” (“sane”) holds as its primary meanings the ideas of rejection and separation. This helps us better understand what God meant, for instance, when He said, “Jacob I have loved; But Esau I have hated (sane)” (Malachi 1:2-3), He was expressing that He accepted Jacob and brought him into the blessings of His love, but He rejected Esau and separated him from those blessings. Whereas love is a “drawing/unifying effect” (as was expressed in Part 1), hate is a “rejecting/separating effect”.
The consequences and effects of sin (rival-love) entering into creation were, likewise, rejection and separation. Lucifer was rejected and cast out of heaven; Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, and separated from God’s presence and the “tree of life”. As a result of Adam’s choosing of sin and disobedience, the ground was cursed by God and part of that curse was that the ground would produce “thorns” (Genesis 3:17-18).
If we consider this aspect of the curse closely, we see just how fitting a symbol for both rejection and separation the thorn is. In fact, these two effects are a thorn’s primary functions. By its threatening nature, a thorn minimizes the positive desirableness of the plant, creating rejection, and it also increases the negative consequence of invasive contact, creating separation. Like hate, a thorn is a defensive mechanism that protects against that which opposes, threatens, and violates what it “loves”, i.e. the plant. Like the curse, a thorn is a negative dynamic that threatens and inflicts severe consequences for trespasses and transgressions against it. Thus, a thorn is a fitting symbol for both rejection and separation as well as hate and the curse.
In the ancient Hebrew language, “hate” (“sane”) is represented in the first instance by a thorn because inherent to the nature of hate is rejection and separation.
Before we move on to the next symbol, we should note that as Jesus, in triumphant love, took upon Himself the sin of mankind and the curse of that sin, He bore all of the hatred of God for all that opposes, threatens, and violates what God loves. In addition, He took on Himself all of the sinful hatred of mankind towards God and his fellow man. It is, therefore, by Divine providence and purpose that as He hung on the cross, rejected by man and separated from God, bearing the full consequence of Divine and human hate upon His own head, that He bore on His brow a crown of thorns!
- The “seed”
The second symbol in the pictograph of “hate” (“sane”) is “seed”. “Hate” not only embodies characteristics of the “thorn”, it also embodies characteristics of “seed.” We’ve probably all heard it said of some person or group that “they sow the seeds of hate.” Hate is compared to seed because when it is sown in the hearts and minds of men, it takes root, sprouts, grows, bears fruit (after its kind), multiplies, and spreads.
When evil seeds of “hate” germinate in the hearts and minds of fallen men and women, they send out a root called “bitterness”. This in turn feeds the sprout called “unforgiveness”, which grows into the thorny plant called “malice”. This further produces seed-bearing fruit which sows anew the seeds of “hate”, starting the cycle all over again and spreading this malicious, thorny plant far and wide. Given time, the briar patch of “hate” grows exponentially beyond what was originally sown.
This is why God says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15) Or as the Message translation paraphrases the end of this verse, “A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.“ As we’ve seen, bitter roots grow from the seeds of hate.
As these seeds of hate grow and spread, both within the individual they were sown in and beyond them into relationships and larger social groups, their thorny growth further has the power to choke out any good seed that is planted. Jesus expressed this in the Parable of the Sower concerning the seed that was sown among thorns. “Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” (Matthew 13:7) The “seeds of hate” not only multiply hate, but choke the good “plants” of love and truth. This shows the power of hate as both a seed and a thorn.
In conclusion, as with the symbol of the thorn, the symbol and reality of the “seed” is also bound up with and consummated in Christ. The battle of the ages is, in reality, a “seed” battle. After the serpent deceived Eve, and Adam partook with her of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the Lord God cursed the serpent and declared, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” (Genesis 3:15).
Jesus, the “Seed” of the woman, the “Seed” of Abraham (Galatians 3:16), was born in “the likeness of sinful flesh” (Romans 8:3). On the cross, “God made Him who had no sin, to be sin for us,” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and so He embodied the fallen “DNA” of the cursed “seed”. This He brought into death and buried in the ground, never to rise again. In resurrection, the “DNA” of the Seed of Promise came forth out of the earth, in the “garden”, ascended and “reseeded” the earth through His indwelling Spirit. In the fullness of times, He will fully purify His “Garden” of all “rival-loves”, and their attendant curses of rejection and separation, and hate and hatred will forever be banished. Thus, the Divine “Seed of Love” will ultimately triumph over the Luciferic/serpentine “seed(s) of hate” that were sown so long ago.
We have seen how “hate”, the opposite of “love”, is generated when “love” is opposed, threatened, and/or violated. We’ve further seen that “hate”, in and of itself, is not morally polarized, but only takes on a moral dynamic when its source, means, and ends are taken into account. Lastly, we’ve also seen that “hate” embodies the twin characteristics of a thorn and a seed.
In the final part of this post, we will look further at the “love”-“hate” relationship, make some practical applications in our own lives and in the larger social context, and see how we can bring these two powerful forces in line with God’s heart, mind, and will. Please stay tuned!