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The Definition of Hatred in the Bible: When Christians Hate

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Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies (KJV, Matthew 5.44). Why then did king David, a servant of God who lived during Old Testament times, state, "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred. I count them mine enemies" (Psalm 139.21-22).

Should it be said that it was acceptable for God's Old Testament servants to hate their enemies, but New Testament Christians, on the other hand, must love those who do them wrong? If so, would this not constitute a major change in the very personality of God who said that he does not change? (KJV, Malachai 3.6)

Christian Hatred in the Scriptures


The posing of such questions surrounding David's statement is a prime example of the grave mistake it is to apply a modern English dictionary definition of a word used in biblical scripture. Proverbs 13.24 says, "He that spareth his rod (chooses not to physically discipline his child) hateth his son, but he that loveth him, chasteneth him betimes (from an early age)". Obviously, the scripture of proverbs is not saying that an irresponsible parent who will not spank or whip his child, literally hates him. Likewise, the scripture is not saying that the parent who does spank or whip his child, necessarily loves him. The words "love" and "hate" are often used in the Bible to indicate the making of a choice of one thing or person over another. They indicate if there are dealings with that thing or person, and if so, what kind of dealings they are.

Another example of such employment of these words is seen in the scripture of Luke 14:26 which says, "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."

Again, it should be evident that Jesus is not teaching anyone to literally hate his family members. Ephesians 5:28-29 plainly instructs a man to love himself and also his wife. Jesus is simply emphasizing that his servant must not place anyone BEFORE him, not even the closest of relations (KJV, Matthew 10.37).

Further proof of the use of "love" and "hate" in the Bible indicate free will to choose, the choice itself, and dealings with someone or something. This is seen in St. John 12:25 which says, "He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal."

Christ is not telling anyone to literally hate his own life. Hatred of oneself is NOT of the Lord (Ephesians 5:28-29). The person who loves his life, chooses to care more for his comfort in this present world, even at the expense of giving up his eternal life in the hereafter. The person who hates his life, chooses to hold on to eternal life to be enjoyed in the world to come, even when his decision leads to martyrdom in the present. This is why Jesus said, "No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate (reject) the one and love (choose) the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise (count as inferior) the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (riches)" (Matthew 6.24).

Note that the word "despise" in the Bible seldom denotes hatred, but rather an act of belittling someone or something. Confusion over the words "love" and "hate" has caused a host of misinterpretations of the scripture of Romans 9:13 which speaks of God's love of Jacob and his hatred of Esau.

Returning to the scripture of the Psalm in which David spoke of his hatred for the enemies of God, it should be noted that in the nineteenth verse of the same chapter (139th), David is seen telling the enemies of the Lord to depart from him. He tells them to get away from him, because he will not do the things they do. Consequently, he will not have any dealings with them in their wicked deeds. David took an unwavering stance on the side of the Lord, the master he chose to serve. This was his choice to love (choose) God. He also completely rejected the things and deeds of the enemy of God; and showed a perfect hatred for all of them. This is the meaning of Christian hatred according to the Christian Bible.


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