“A Time to Love and a Time to Hate”
“GOD is love.” In some lands people frame those words and hang them on a wall in their home. Indeed, it is a beautiful expression that describes what God is—the personification of love.
Many people, though, do not know that those words are from the Bible. It was the apostle John who wrote: “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) John also wrote about God’s love for the world of redeemable mankind: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
With that in mind, some may think that God is always willing to overlook anything that we do. The way many people live shows that they think that no matter how they conduct themselves, God will not call them to account for their behavior. But is that really true? Does God love everyone, both the good and the evil? Is there ever a time when God hates?
God’s Love Versus His Hatred
Wise King Solomon made this declaration: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens . . . a time to love and a time to hate.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 8) According to this principle, although God is very loving and kind, there are times when he hates.
First, what does “hate” mean as used in the Bible? One reference work answers: “In the Scriptures the word ‘hate’ has several shades of meaning. It may denote intense hostility, sustained ill will often accompanied by malice. Such hate may become a consuming emotion seeking to bring harm to its object.” This is the meaning we are most familiar with, and we see the effects of this kind of hate all over the world. But the same work goes on to say: “‘Hate’ may also signify a strong dislike but without any intent to bring harm to the object.”
This second meaning is what we are considering here. It is an intense aversion, an utter abhorrence—not malice, spite, or a desire to inflict injury. Can God have this kind of hatred? Note what is expressed at Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things that Jehovah does hate; yes, seven are things detestable to his soul: 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 among brothers.”
As we can see, there are certain practices that God hates. Yet, he does not necessarily hate the person who commits such things. He takes into consideration extenuating circumstances, such as fleshly weaknesses, environment, upbringing, and ignorance. (Genesis 8:21; Romans 5:12) The writer of Proverbs explains this with a fine example: “The one whom Jehovah loves he reproves, even as a father does a son in whom he finds pleasure.” (Proverbs 3:12) A child’s disobedient acts may be hated, but the parent still loves his child and does all he can to help him recover from his bad conduct by disciplining him. In his love, Jehovah takes a similar course when there is hope of saving the sinful person.
When Hatred Is Justified
What, though, if someone comes to know the will of God but refuses to do it? That person is gaining, not God’s love, but his disfavor. If he willfully practices the things Jehovah hates, he incurs His hatred. For example, the Bible says: “Jehovah himself examines the righteous one as well as the wicked one, and anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” (Psalm 11:5) For such an unrepentant one there is no forgiveness, as the apostle Paul makes clear in his letter to the Hebrews: “If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment and there is a fiery jealousy that is going to consume those in opposition.” (Hebrews 10:26, 27) Why does a God of love take that position?
When a person practices a grave sin willfully, the wickedness can become so firmly entrenched that there is no separating it from the person. He may become depraved, incorrigible, irreformable. The Bible compares such a person to a leopard that cannot change its spots. (Jeremiah 13:23) Beyond repentance, the individual commits what the Bible calls “everlasting sin,” for which there is no forgiveness.—Mark 3:29.
This was true of Adam and Eve and also of Judas Iscariot. Since Adam and Eve were created perfect and since God’s command to them was explicit and understood by both, it is evident that their sinning was willful and deliberate and therefore inexcusable. God’s words to them afterward offered no invitation to repent. (Genesis 3:16-24) Judas, although imperfect, had lived in close association with God’s own Son and yet turned traitor. Jesus himself referred to him as “the son of destruction.” (John 17:12) The Bible also shows that the Devil is an inveterate sinner who can only expect destruction. (1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:12) These individuals have incurred God’s hatred.
It is reassuring to know, however, that not everyone who has sinned is beyond recovery. Jehovah is very patient and takes no delight in punishing those who have sinned on account of ignorance. (Ezekiel 33:11) He invites them to repent and be forgiven. We read: “Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way.”—Isaiah 55:7.
A Balanced View of Love and Hate
Clearly, as imitators of God, true Christians need to understand when it is “a time to love” and when it is “a time to hate.” Sentimentality can cause one’s view of love and mercy to become unbalanced. But the words of the disciple Jude can help us to keep the proper balance between showing mercy and hating sin: “Continue showing mercy to others, doing so with fear, while you hate even the inner garment that has been stained by the flesh.” (Jude 22, 23) We should therefore hate what is bad but not the person who does what is bad.
Christians are also commanded to show love for their enemies by doing good to them. “Continue to love your enemies and to pray for those persecuting you,” said Jesus. (Matthew 5:44) That is why Jehovah’s Witnesses do not cease preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom again and again to their neighbors, even though some do not respond to that message. (Matthew 24:14) Looking at matters from the Bible’s point of view, the Witnesses consider every person a potential recipient of Jehovah’s love and mercy. When their efforts to help people are not appreciated or when they are rejected or even persecuted, the Witnesses follow the apostle Paul’s counsel: “Keep on blessing those who persecute; be blessing and do not be cursing . . . Return evil for evil to no one.” (Romans 12:14, 17) They bear in mind that Jehovah will determine who merits his love and who deserves his hatred. He is the final Judge in matters of life and death.—Hebrews 10:30.
Yes, “God is love.” As for us, we should show appreciation for his love and make an effort to find out what his will is and then do it. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your locality will be pleased to help you learn from your own copy of the Bible what God’s will is and how to apply it in your life. Doing so, you will avoid God’s hatred and enjoy his love.
[Blurb on page 23]
“There are six things that Jehovah does hate; yes, seven are things detestable to his soul: 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 among brothers.”—PROVERBS 6:16-19
[Blurb on page 24]
“If we practice sin willfully after having received the accurate knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left, but there is a certain fearful expectation of judgment.”—HEBREWS 10:26, 27
[Blurb on page 25]
“Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him . . . He will forgive in a large way.”—ISAIAH 55:7
[Picture on page 24]
A loving parent disciplines his child in order to help him
[Picture on page 25]
Many prison inmates have benefited from God’s love and mercy