The conception of love taught by our mainstream culture is fundamentally romantic and sentimental, holding that an abiding emotional disposition of romantic feelings—that is, being “in love”—is both necessary and sufficient for a new physical relationship to form. Hence we see the abomination of sodomitic “love,” grounded in two men’s consensual, though perverse, desires for one another. By forcefully emphasizing constant romance and ignoring the rational, teleological boundaries of marital love, the media effectively communicates that love is nothing more than romantic. This romantic conception of love, however, is not so much false as it is incomplete, for God has clearly designed romantic love to flourish within the covenantal fences of marriage; the error in this sentimentalist conception is its failure to ground romantic love in a sturdy, action- and principle-based foundation.
Love is willing the good of another; hatred is willing his suffering, and holy hatred is willing his suffering on account of sin. Love and holy hatred are two harmonious dispositions, whether situated in the mind of God or of the saint, and hence they can be expressed in different circumstances, even if they often cannot be expressed simultaneously. The summary of their practical harmony consists in a prima facie disposition of love and goodwill, which is counterpoised and then displaced by a disposition of hatred and enmity as sufficient evil circumstantially demands a contrary response. Difficulty will attend any attempt to codify how we are to act at all crossroads, but these principles can guide our conduct as we seek to apply practical wisdom to our varying affairs.
The connection between a sinner and his sin should be obvious when we consider that God punishes sinners in hell for their sin, not sin itself. Scripture expressly states that God hates sinners (e.g., Ps. 5:5; 7:11; 11:5), and accordingly He pours out His wrath upon them: sin and sinner are connected.2 Our dispositions should be geared in the same way; we should not believe in such a gaping divide between sinners and sin. This is why David, as an inspired psalmist, can proclaim, “Do I not hate them, O LORD, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies” (Ps. 139:21-22). We are supposed to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44), but hate God’s enemies.3 Hence the usual assertion of “hate the sin and love the sinner,” with its unqualified and unclarified meaning, is a cowardly denial of our obligation to hate God’s enemies. It necessitates total societal surrender to antichrists. It is a venomous exhortation.
Our obligation to hate God’s enemies while loving our own enemies tends to result in a more complicated ethic, since these two categories can overlap and apply to the same people, requiring us to love people in some senses and hate the same people in different senses. In contrast, the ethical code of the sentimentalist will be that in all circumstances (unconditionally), we ought to be nice to others; in no circumstances should we refuse to be a doormat. But, of course, we can understand that ethical codes need to be neither simple nor simplistic. The ethical complexity introduced by a biblical conception of conditional love should help us to realize the splendor of God’s law, our feeble inability and unwillingness to keep it, and the perfection of our Savior to fulfill it in our stead. May His Spirit grant us the practical wisdom to discern when to dispense wrath and when to dispense grace.
Christianity will go the way of the dodo if it cannot formulate a proper ethic of violence. Hatred is not evil, for even God hates evil. He hates evil so much, that He makes it suffer in hell forever.