Hate Evil, Not People
LOVE is the outstanding attribute of Jehovah. “God is love,” wrote the apostle John. His love is so complete that it reaches even to his enemies, as Jesus said: “You heard that it was said: ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ However, I say to you: Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you; that you may prove yourselves sons of your Father who is in the heavens, since he makes his sun rise upon wicked people and good and makes it rain upon righteous people and unrighteous. For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? are not also the tax collectors doing the same thing? And if you greet your brothers only, what extraordinary thing are you doing? Are not also the people of the nations doing the same thing? You must accordingly be complete, as your heavenly Father is complete.”—1 John 4:8; Matt. 5:43-48.
If Jehovah is long-suffering toward these enemies of his, why should not we be? The love he expresses respecting them is expressed by the Greek word agápe, and it is broader in scope than a sentimental affection. As Dr. Strong says, it is “embracing especially the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety.” It wishes well even for enemies, works for their good, though unable to approve all their deeds. God’s love worked good for those sinning against him: “God recommends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It is love, not slowness, that makes God wait in executing sinners: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” By kindness and forbearance and long-suffering God tries to lead sinners to repent: “You do not know that the kindly quality of God is trying to lead you to repentance?” He does not approve sin, but he shows love to sinners.—Rom. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:9; Rom. 2:4.
WHAT WE HATE
It is right to hate wrong. To do so is to copy Jehovah and to model ourselves after Christ. Jehovah hates “lofty eyes, a false tongue, and hands that are shedding innocent blood, a heart fabricating hurtful schemes, feet that are in a hurry to run to badness, a false witness that launches forth lies, and anyone sending forth contentions between brothers.” Jesus “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.” Nonetheless, Jehovah and Christ show love toward sinners while hating their sins. So should we.—Prov. 6:17-19; Heb. 1:9.
Love may work toward the sinner’s conversion. We preach to people that sin, and we preach in love, for if it is not done in love it is nothing: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a sounding piece of brass or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophesying and understand all the sacred secrets and all knowledge, and if I have all the faith so as to transplant mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my belongings to feed others, and if I hand over my body, that I may boast, but do not have love, I am not profited at all.” We show love to the sinner but not for the sin.—1 Cor. 13:1-3.
You do not hate a person because he is young or old, male or female, tall or short, fat or thin, blonde or brunette, beautiful or homely. It is not the person’s looks or appearance that incites hate. It is his acts that are wrong, and if you love righteousness you hate his wickedness. If he ceases these acts your cause for hate is gone, so your hate goes too. When a persecutor stops persecuting and embraces Jehovah’s truth we love him. It was his wrongdoing we hated, not the person. Show love to the person even while he does wrong and it may lead him to doing what is right. This is Jehovah’s loving way: “Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that which he had taken by robbery, walk in the statutes of life, committing no iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. None of his sins that he hath committed shall be remembered against him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live.”—Ezek. 33:14-16, AS.
SINNER HATES OWN SINS
A wrongdoing child is disciplined because he is loved: “The one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.” A child may do many hateful acts, but the parent still loves his child. He hates the wrong acts, but not his child, and he works for its recovery by disciplining it. Jehovah follows this course also. He does it where there is hope for saving the sinful person. He knows that in so many cases it is fleshly weakness that plunges the person into wrongdoing, that it is not really what the person himself desires. Paul showed this aversion to sins he himself committed: “For what I wish, this I do not practice; but what I hate is what I do. But now the one working it out is no longer I, but sin that resides in me. For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, there resides nothing good; for ability to wish is present with me, but ability to work out what is right is not present. For the good that I wish I do not do, but the bad that I do not wish is what I practice. If, now, what I do not wish is what I do, the one working it out is no longer I, but the sin dwelling in me.” Many wrongs persons commit are because of weakness, of environment, of past circumstances in an unfortunate childhood, and do not express the true person within at all. Some wrongs are committed in ignorance, and on coming to knowledge the wrongdoer may possibly repent.—Prov. 3:12; Rom. 7:15, 17-20.
WHEN HATRED ENCOMPASSES THE PERSON
In the above cases the sins do not really express the desire or inward yearnings of the person, but there are others that have become so degraded that they relish their sins and pursue them with deliberateness and in full knowledge of their evilness. They have so merged their personalities with these evils that a separation of the person from the sins is difficult or impossible. They go to an extreme that leaves them in an unforgivable position before Jehovah: “Every kind of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven.” Deliberate and continued sin against the enlightening spirit of Jehovah is not forgivable; defiance of the spirit’s manifest operation is not pardonable. When persons persist in wrongdoing after it has been completely exposed to them, when it becomes so ingrained as to be an inseparable part of their make-up, then hatred for the person that lovingly clings to it as well as the sin must be one’s feeling. How else can it be, when the person and the sin become inseparably and permanently merged?—Matt. 12:31.
Such incorrigible ones reverse the injunction, “Hate the evil, and love the good,” becoming those “who hate the good, and love the evil.” No intercession is to be made for them. “Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me; for I will not hear thee,” says Jehovah. God himself will be “repaying to his face the one who hates him by obliterating him. He will not hesitate toward the one who hates him. He will repay him to his face.” Some reach a point when even strong discipline will not pry loose the evil that has become a part of them. It is no longer possible to destroy the evil and preserve the persons. Both must be destroyed together, since there is no separating them. The evil works truly express and reflect an incorrigibly evil heart. Such persons personify evil, just as God does love. To such Jesus said: “You are from your father the Devil and you wish to do the desires of your father.” In Matthew chapter 23 he scathingly denounced them and asked: “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?”—Amos 5:15; Mic. 3:2; Jer. 7:16, AS; Deut. 7:10; John 8:44; Matt. 23:33.
When the wicked hater of Jehovah will not separate himself from his wickedness and his hatred, how can we do it in our proper hatred of his sinfulness? “Is it to the wicked that help is to be given, and is it for those hating Jehovah that you should have love? And for this there is indignation against you from the person of Jehovah.” When the hatred is intense and entrenched and inseparable from the person, the case goes beyond the enmity due to inherited sin or ignorance that can be dealt with patiently in love: “Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you, O Jehovah, and do I not feel a loathing for those revolting against you? With a complete hatred I do hate them. They have become to me real enemies.”—2 Chron. 19:2; Ps. 139:21, 22.
But these incorrigible ones that personify hateful evil make themselves manifest. Generally we can and should look upon the masses of humanity alienated from God as Jesus did: “On seeing the crowds [seeking him] he felt tender affection for them, because they were skinned and knocked about like sheep without a shepherd.” We can preach to them in love, while hating their sins. When told to hate the evil and not the correctible doer of it, it may seem difficult to do. But when you stop and reflect you see that in your own case you have been doing it all your life. Do it unto others also.—Matt. 9:36.