A Time to Love and a Time to Hate
A Time to Love And a Time to Hate
The two greatest forces in the universe are love and hate. When wrongly diverted they can desecrate life, but when rightly directed they can consecrate life. It is imperative that we interpret these two qualities of love and hate in the light of our Lord's teaching, in order that we would love as He would love and hate as He would hate.
The first thing that we shall discover is that when we truly love we fulfill:
Life's Total Obligation
When a lawyer asked our Lord what commandment was the greatest in the law of God, Jesus quoted the Old Testament (Deut. 6:4; Lev. 19:18) and declared:
The first of all the commandments is: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)
According to rabbinical teaching, there were 613 precepts in the Law. Of this considerable number all could not be observed. For this reason some of the religious leaders taught that if a man rightly selected some great precept to obey, he might safely disregard the rest of the Law. This is the kind of doctrine against which James expostulated when he wrote, "Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10). So we see both the importance and significance of the Master's reply to the lawyer's question. He not only gave the answer to life's greatest question, but also spelled out life's total obligation. In a word, it is love to God and love to man.
First, then, love to God—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). A. W. Tozer rightly reminds us that:
God being who He is must always be sought for Himself, never as a means toward something else. Whoever seeks other objects and not God is on his own; he may obtain those objects if he is able, but he will never have God. God is never found accidentally. "Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" [Jer. 29:13] ... The teaching of the Bible is that God is Himself the end for which man was created. "Whom have I in heaven but thee [Ps. 73:25]." The first and greatest commandment is to love God with every power of our entire being. Where love like that exists there can be no place for a second object. If we love God as much as we should, surely we cannot dream of a loved object beyond Him that He might help us to obtain. (1962)
Bernard of Clairvaux begins his radiant little treatise on the love of God with a question and an answer. The question, Why should we love God? The answer, Because He is God. He develops the idea farther, but for the enlightened heart little more need be said. We should love God because He is God. Beyond this the angels cannot think.
With this in mind, we need to examine the words our Savior used to describe the measure of our love. He said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). While it is difficult to define with any finality the significance of each of these terms used, it is still important to emphasize that God intends us to love Him with every part of our being.
St. Bernard says, "The measure of our love to God is to love Him without measure; for the immense goodness of God deserves all the love that we can possibly give to Him" (Spence and Exell 1975, 16:157).
For practical purposes, this means we must love God with a real love—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Mark 12:30). Among the Hebrews, the heart was considered to be the seat of the understanding, the home of the affections, and the center of the will. This describes the intellectual, emotional, and volitional outgoing of love to God. Such response is reflective of reality. In this day of play acting we need to challenge ourselves as to whether we really love God. It was to religious people that Jesus said, "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me" (Mark 7:6). Has it ever occurred to you that more lies are said, or sung, during the hours of worship on a Sunday than possibly any other time of the week? We stand up and sing, "Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee," and quite frankly, it's a lie; for, if we really meant it, our Christian behavior and service would be different.
During the Napoleonic Wars the emperors of Prussia, Austria, and Russia were discussing the unquestioning obedience of their soldiers. They agreed that each would call in his sentinel and command him to leap out of a second-story window. First, the Prussian monarch gave the drastic order. "Your majesty, it would kill me," his bodyguard complained. He was dismissed, and the Austrian soldier was subjected to the same test. "I'll do it," he said, "if you really mean what you say." Then the Czar gave his man the same order, and the officer immediately started to obey. But he was stopped as he put one leg over the window ledge. Were these sovereigns really plotting murder? No, their purpose was not to sacrifice their soldiers, but to test their obedience! Are we so loyal to Christ that to obey His will is our chief delight? Do we love Him with all our heart? (Bosch 1976).
We must love God with an intense love—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your ... soul" (Mark 12:30). This means all the living powers of our personality. This intensity of love can be illustrated at many levels. Just watch "the way of a man with a virgin" (Prov. 30:19). Look at the facial expressions of an audience viewing a human-interest movie. Sit with a crowd during an exciting game of football, or tennis, and so on. Quite honestly it makes me mad when I hear the critics deride the passion with which I preach or share my faith, and yet see these same individuals express similar intensity of emotion in relational situations of lesser importance. I do not believe that anyone can love God with all his or her soul without showing it and sharing it. I agree with A. T. Pierson who once said, "A light that does not shine, a germ that does not grow, a spring that does not flow, is no more of an anomaly than a Christian who does not witness."
We must love God with a discerning love—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your ... mind" (Mark 12:30). The emphasis here is more on the intellectual powers. The Bible is so balanced in its presentation of truth. While our love to God must be emotional—to be love at all—it also must be intellectual. This thought is undoubtedly implied when the apostle Paul writes, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service [or intellectual service]" (Rom. 12:1). W. E. Vine aptly explains this verse by stating, "The sacrifice is to be intelligent, in contrast to those offered by ritual and compulsion; the presentation is to be in accordance with the spiritual intelligence of those who are new creatures in Christ and are mindful of 'the mercies of God'" (1961, 3:253). Nobody can study the Scriptures with any perceptiveness without concluding that in the reckoning of God the mind matters. In the divine purpose and instructions, the burnt offering was to be laid on the altar, piece by piece, with thoughtfulness and deliberation. Our whole mental processes are to be involved when we surrender our lives to Christ.
General Charles G. Gordon was an outstanding man of God. When the British government sought to reward him for his brilliant service in China, he declined all money and titles but accepted a gold medal inscribed with the record of his thirty-three engagements. It was his most prized possession. But after his death the medal could not be found. Eventually it was learned that he had sent it to Manchester during a severe famine, directing that it should be melted down and used to buy bread for the poor. Under the date of its sending, these words were found written in his diary, "The last earthly thing I had in this world that I valued I have given to the Lord Jesus Christ" (Naismith 1962, 80). His love for the Savior had constrained him to relinquish his one treasured possession for the relief of the destitute. He would not cling to earthly honor, but casting its last vestige aside, he sought only to serve the Master for the gospel's sake. Here was a man whose consecration to Christ was an evidence of loving thought.
We must love God with an active love—"You shall love the Lord your God with all your ... strength" (Mark 12:30). Quite obviously, the physical powers are implied here. This means the deliberate involvement and employment of all our faculties. The response of our love can never be complete unless we can look into the face of our Lord and Master and say, "Think through my mind, speak through my lips, work through my hands, walk through my feet, and radiate through my personality."
I have always been impressed with the range of teaching that we find in the New Testament on the physical body. Indeed, it is a subject all its own. Suffice it to say, however, Paul, in particular, teaches that the body is to be surrendered (Rom. 12:1-2), exercised (1 Tim. 4:8), disciplined (1 Cor. 9:27), preserved (1 Thess. 5:23), and employed (1 Cor. 6:20). What is more, when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ we are going to be judged for things done in the body, whether they be good or bad (2 Cor. 5:10). Moreover, this teaching comes alive when we realize that Christ depends on your body and mine in order to express His life here upon earth. He is the Head, but we are the Body, and our obligation to God is not fulfilled unless we love Him with all our strength.
So there is a time to love, and that "time" spans our entire earthly existence and beyond, as we live for God and His glory.
But then there is the second commandment: love to man—"Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). It is important to notice that this second commandment is likened to the first; that is to say, in nature and extent. It represents the total obligation of man to man. The verb here as well as in the first commandment, implies not merely animal or worldly affection, but love from the highest moral considerations without self-interest. Moreover, the word "neighbor" in this verse means everyone with whom we are concerned. Man is to be loved because he is in God's image and likeness, and therefore heir of the same hope as us.
John the apostle says, "This commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also" (1 John 4:21). And, of course, we have our Lord's words, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them" (Matt. 7:12). Paul also helps us to interpret our love to man in practical terms when he says, "So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it" (Eph. 5:28-29).
It follows, therefore, that to love our neighbor as ourselves is to nourish and cherish our fellow man. In practical terms, this means a caring love for our neighbor. One of the problems of our modern way of life is the insensitivity and indifference that prevail in human relationships.
In the 1890's, Julia Ward Howe asked a United States senator to help liberate an African American from a desperate situation. The legislator exclaimed, "Madam, I'm so busy with plans for the benefit of the whole race that I have no time to help individuals!" Angered by his lack of compassion, Mrs. Howe replied, "I'm glad our Lord never displayed such a calloused attitude" (Bosch 1976). You and I know that He always sought out the individual who was in need.
One great example that illustrates the importance of an individual is given in our Lord's story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). You will remember that he related this tale in order to answer the specific question, "Who is my neighbor?" And the answer, of course, was the man who fell among thieves, was stripped of his clothes and wounded, and was left half dead. The priest and Levite who passed by both shrank from the trouble and expense of meddling with the poor victim of the robbers. Perhaps a cowardly fear of being identified with a holdup was mixed with these feelings; but notwithstanding this, their conduct was inhuman and unpardonable, even though it was natural. Alas, this whole attitude faithfully portrays the lovelessness of multitudes of men and women professing Christianity today. With the Samaritan, however, it was different. We read that he came to where the dying man was, and "when he saw him, he had compassion" (Luke 10:33). That is caring love.
But with the caring love, there must also be a sharing love for our neighbor. When we think of love we tend to become "all talk and no action." But again, that is not agape love. The apostle John says: "Whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love [the noun, agape] of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love [the verb, agapao] in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:17-18).
The Good Samaritan was not satisfied with feeling sorry for the beaten up man; he did something about it. The story tells us that "he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you'" (Luke 10:34-35). All these tender little details of the Samaritan's compassionate love are sketched in by a Master-hand.
Without even developing the practical aspects of this sharing love, we note that there was medical attention, transportation, hospitality, and follow-up. That is action! That is sharing love! No wonder Jesus added, "Go and do likewise" (Luke 10:37).
The story is told about "a small boy who came from a poor home. He was shabbily dressed and his clothes were patched. Although he liked all of his teachers at school, one of them was a special favorite. When asked why, he simply replied, 'She's so interested in me, she doesn't seem to see my patches.' That's the way...believers look at others when they're really 'loving for Jesus!' "
May I be loving, no matter the cost,
Showing compassion to all who have need;
Willing to aid both the saved and the lost,
This, blessed Savior, I earnestly plead!
So the Preacher says, "There is ... a time to love" (Eccl. 3:1, 8). I must add that there is no limit to that time, for love never fails.
But there is also a time to hate, and that brings us to:
Life's Total Opposition
Now we must recognize right away that the word "hate" in Scripture is used in various ways. In some contexts it is employed maliciously, in others, relatively, and yet again in others, absolutely. Malicious hatred, even under the most aggravated personal provocation, is forbidden. Jesus said, "Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matt. 5:22). And John adds, "He who hates his brother is in darkness" (1 John 2:11); and moreover, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15).
Relative hatred really means "to love less." When God says, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated" (Rom. 9:13), he is speaking relatively of what He saw in those two persons. Naturally speaking, Esau was a nobler man, but he was destitute of faith. He despised the birthright because it was a thing of spiritual value and required faith to apprehend it. On the other hand, Jacob, though carnal and crooked, had the faith to desire the spiritual birthright and become the Israel of God.
Another example of relative hatred is found in the words of Jesus when He said, "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:26). What the Master was teaching was that natural affection, when compared with a Christian's devotedness to Christ, appears to be nothing more than hatred. Only when these natural affections are sanctified and sublimated by the Spirit of God can they rise to the level of divine love.
But our concern in this study has to do with absolute hatred. It can be, therefore, admissible only in a relationship to God, which constrains us to count His enemies as ours. And this inevitably brings us to life's total opposition. As people of God, we are totally opposed to sin. This means we are to hate sin. David could avow, "I hate every false way" (Ps. 119:128). Quite simply, we are called upon to hate everything that God hates. While the list is by no means comprehensive, Solomon helps us to understand what God hates when he says, "These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren" (Prov. 6:16-19). Let us look at these seven objects of God's hatred.
There is the proud look. Pride is the sin that expelled Lucifer from the place of God's throne. Pride is the sin that drove Adam and Eve from the paradise of Eden. Pride is the sin that will keep men and women out of heaven, because it keeps them from coming to Christ. James tells us that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6). That is a frightening statement. It literally means that an omnipotent God sets Himself up against a proud person until he learns with Nebuchadnezzar that "those who walk in pride He is able to put down" (Dan. 4:37). For that ancient king, unbroken pride involved seven years of insanity.
There is the lying tongue. The devil is described as the father of lies (John 8:44), and one day, through the Antichrist, he will persuade the world to "believe the lie" (2 Thess. 2:11). So any form of lying is complicity with the devil himself. We live in a day when lying is a virtual lifestyle. I see it in play-acting, we view it in advertisements, and we hear it in excesses and exaggerations of modern speech. Let us remember God hates the lying tongue.
There are the bloody hands. In our country we are told that if all the statistics were recorded we could report the rate of a murder a minute. The situation is so serious that we have become prisoners in our own homes! But we must remember that in God's book a murderous thought is seen as a murderous act. As I have pointed out already, "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (1 John 3:15).
There is the malicious heart. Some people never seem to be satisfied unless they are intent on some mischief. And this is by no means confined to the muggers and punks on the street. A malicious heart can be found in the home, in the church, and in the office. It is the very opposite of the agape love which thinks no evil and rejoices not in iniquity (1 Cor. 13:5-6).
There are the wayward feet. Man was created to walk with God, but he has chosen, like a straying sheep, to go his own way. This departure from the highway of holiness is an affront to God. No one can turn his back on the Lord without running into mischief. Indeed, we are warned, "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Prov. 14:12).
There are the deceptive lips. These lips are closely related to the lying tongue. The matter of deception, however, is of such serious moment that the Spirit of God has underscored it twice for our learning. Has it ever occurred to you how often we misrepresent the truth in our prayers, our songs, and our testimonies? God hates this, and so must we.
There is the spirit of discord. This is the last of the abominations in this list. Perhaps there is nothing that has nullified the witness of the church of Jesus Christ like the factions and divisions that abound in the religious world of our day. I personally believe this brings more heartache to our Savior than any other sin that you and I can commit. In His last recorded prayer before Calvary, He cried, "that they all may be one, as You Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:21). Every time we sow discord we negate the spirit and words of that prayer.
Now let us face it; these seven sins are an abomination; God hates them, and we are to hate them. Sin not only deserves, but also demands our total opposition.
We conclude, then, that there is "a time to love, and a time to hate," and in the light of all that we have considered, two aspects of Christian commitment are called for: one is life's obligation to God and man, and the other is life's opposition to sin and evil. The Bible says, "Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good" (Rom. 12:9). Commenting on this verse, Dr. Graham Scroggie (1952, 84) writes, "True love is not present where there is not a moral recoil from evil." May the Holy Spirit enable us to hate sin as fervently as we love God.
Think on These Things (Phil. 4:8)
God's standard of love is so high that none of us can attain unto it. How grateful, therefore, we ought to be to know and experience that divine love by the power of the indwelling Spirit! And we read that "the fruit of the Spirit is love" (Gal. 5:22). Commenting on this verse D. L. Moody (Wirt and Beckstrom 1974, 148) notes that "joy is love exalted; peace is love in repose; longsuffering is love enduring; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in action; faith is love on the battlefield; meekness is love in school; and temperance (self-control) is love
— Time for Truth, A