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From the Summer 2008 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

What Jesus Hated

by Michael J. Wilkins
Dean of the Faculty and Professor of New Testament Language and Literature Talbot School of Theology, Biola University


ATE. A very strong word. It was a word that we were discouraged to use when I was a boy. “I hate you,” I would say through clenched teeth to my brother in a fit of anger during a trivial boyhood fight. And my mother would inevitably say, “Michael, don’t use that word. You don’t know what you’re really saying.”
  And she was right. My wife and I discouraged our own children from using the word when they were little. And I find that I very seldom use the word myself, except in trite expressions like “I hate being cold,” or “I hate green peppers!”
   But hate is not trite. On a purely human level, hatred is destructive. It is the emotion of anger, or fear, or disgust that has settled into a destructive pattern of life. It is an attempt to reject a person completely and to rob that person of his or her very existence. That is why hatred is said to be the equivalent of murdering a person in our heart. Hatred prevents a person from loving God and from having eternal life (1 John 3:15; 4:8, 20; cf. Matt. 5:21-22). These are terribly strong words.

A Time to Hate

   But on the other hand, the same words for hate in both the Old and New Testaments that can speak of destructive patterns of life are also used to describe ways in which hate is both appropriate, and necessary. There is “a time to hate” (Eccl. 3:8). In the life of fallen men and women, hate will inevitably end up destructive. But in the life of a person who has been touched by the love of God Himself, hate will prove invaluable to living safely and wisely in this world that still lies under the power of the evil one (Eph. 2:1-3).
  Specifically, we must learn to hate what Jesus hates. This especially means to learn to develop a pattern of life in which we decisively reject whatever would harm us spiritually, or reject whatever is antithetical to God. Love is the opposite of hatred, as goodness and righteousness are the opposite of evil and wickedness. In love we give to another person what is good for him or her. In hate we reject what would be bad for us or for those for whom we are responsible. It might surprise and disturb us, but the same Jesus who told His disciples that they were to love their enemies (Matt. 5:44) also told the crowd that they were to “hate” father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—and even their own life (Luke 14:26).
   As baffling as that may seem, we must come to grips with what this tells us about Jesus, and what that means for our own lives.

Jesus Hates Evil

  The primary truth for us to understand is that God hates evil, but loves righteousness. If we rightly understand that the cross defines the central purpose of Jesus’ earthly ministry, then we will also rightly understand that Jesus came to defeat the very wickedness that had held humanity in its grip since Adam’s tragic fall. Jesus came as God’s promised Messianic deliverer, and what motivated Him was His love of righteousness, and His hatred of wickedness (Heb. 1:8-9; citing Ps. 45:6-7).

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