Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Love and (necessarily?) Hate

Love, when properly understood is necessarily and rightly accompanied by hate. In fact, I think it can be said that we can measure our moral character by what we can’t stand.

First of all, I’m not all that interested in hating people. I think Scripture and Christian teaching are clear that people are to be loved with God’s kind of sacrificial love. But then, I also believe that Scripture and Christian teaching are clear that the development of moral virtue in our lives is accompanied by a development in the things we hate.

To love a person is to properly hate the things that separate them from God and destroy their lives. God, for instance, hates divorce. Does that mean he hates divorcees? Such a conclusion would be silly – he hates the dysfunction that leads to and destruction that results from divorce exactly because he so deeply loves divorcees. If someone you love deeply is destroying their life, chances are you can’t stand the behaviors or habits causing their ruin. And it is right for you to hate those things – because they hurt the ones you love.

If love can be understood this way, then our popular cultural view of love should be immediately jettisoned. It is commonly thought that to love someone is to allow them to be who they want to be or do what they want to do. But if this is true, then there is no real room for my hatred of the things that corrupt and destroy my loved ones.

Thus, true love assumes and enforces moral rights and wrongs.


Tom Gilson said...

The other day I saw a bumper sticker, "Hate is not a family value." I've already written an article on it, so I'll just leave this as a question for you (hoping you won't mind if I do): what do you think? Is it always true that hate is not a family value Or is it possible that hate, at least in some circumstances, for some purposes, might be a family value?

Follow-up question: can we always trust a slogan?

Phil Steiger said...


I see that bumper sticker often, and I think this is a good question. When a clarification is made, I think an answer presents itself pretty naturally.

The sticker assumes a hatred "for people different than we are." As such, this hate is not a "family value" - at least I wouldn't consider it one.

The clarification is that parents naturally hate habits and actions that destroy their kids and marriages, and kids naturally hate things that destroy their parents. A parent ought to hate groundless rebellion. A child ought to hate abusive behavior.

We might say something moral is missing if that kind of hatred was not in the hearts of families.

Jeremy D. Troxler said...


I have been reading your blog for some time and enjoy it very much. Very thought provoking. I've been thinking about this one a bit and would like to submit the following:

I would like to agree wholeheartedly with your analysis of the contemporary attitude or mood in terms of a loving relationship. We seem to equate loving the individual with not only tolerating or condoning destructive behaviors, but more and more demanded to celebrate those behaviors (as positive expressions of personality or some other). I have four children and I well remember giving some chewable medicine on one occasion and my then two-year old asking for more. I asked how many more he wanted and he said 10 (he thought they were fruit chews and was hungry). I explained to he and my other son (only had two at the time) that exceeding the medication dosage would be harmful and so because I loved him I had to say no, for his good. Love not tempered by law, or more broadly justice is a license to behave badly as much as complete neglect. Interesting that Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, but to perfect it.

Second, just an observation that the love/hate relationship might be akin to the right/wrong or good/bad relatioship developed by C.S. Lewis; namely that hate owes it's existence to love. The point being the two are not on equal ground (which you made clear by intimating hate tags along after love and is a by-product: loving something or someone necessarily entails hating things harmful to it or them). I think Lewis put it something like good has to borrow from his adversary?

Anyway, I appreciate the opportunity to ponder these things and look forward to your next post.