When we think of hate and love, we think of them as emotions, and emotions as mere feelings. There is, however, a difference in the way that the Bible speaks of these emotions. There is the emotion and the expression of the emotion. For example, there is anger which is the emotion and there are outbursts of wrath, Galatians 5:20, Colossians 3:8. There is the emotion and the action the emotion produces. The Bible speaks this way consistently. How can we separate faith and obedience? Why are the demons who believe and tremble not saved, James 2:19? Because they do not act upon that belief. Why is the person who has not been immersed for remission of sins not saved? Because he did not act on his faith in the way prescribed by God unto salvation. This principle is illustrated in Matthew 7:21.
If the foregoing is true, then we would expect it to follow in regards to the emotions of love and hate. Hate is a strong emotion. In Matthew 5:43 Jesus says, ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”‘ Hate, here, is juxtaposed against love. It is the opposite, the dark to love’s light. Then in the very next verse, Matthew 5:44, Jesus says, not “love your neighbor”, at least not overtly; but He says “do good to those who hate you.” Well, that is actually love your neighbor, but more about that later. The point is that He enjoins an action on the part of that person who would otherwise passively hate his neighbor.
In Matthew 5:21ff, Jesus brings up the letter of the law, “You shall not murder.” Murder is an action that results from an emotion. Elsewhere, he makes it clear that such an action comes from a debased heart, Matthew 15:19. In fact, all of our actions originate in the heart as either good or evil thoughts. “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment,” Matthew 5:22. Jesus says that when it comes to hate, harboring that emotion in one’s heart is enough to condemn him. Condemnation does not require that the emotion become action when it comes to hate.
What does this mean when applied to 1John 2:9 “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now?” See also 1 John 2:11, 1 John 3:14-15, and 1 John 4:20. In the second to last verse, John calls one who hates his brother a murderer. Certainly, it means that if we harbor any sort of hateful emotion in our hearts toward a brother, as Jesus said, we are in the darkness, which means we are not in the light, not in a right relationship with God, dead. And being in that condition required no outward action.
Love, as well as being the opposite emotion, is also treated in a diametrically opposed way. Love in the heart is not enough. The Bible speaks profusely about love. We are to love God, Matthew 22:37. We are to love our brothers, 2 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 John 4:21. We are to love our enemies, Matthew 5:44. Husbands are to love their wives, Ephesians 5:25. The question really is, “What does love mean, here?” Many people have trouble defining love, but the Bible clearly illustrates what God wants. James 1:22 reinforces our need to “do” and not just “feel”. John concurs in 1 John 3:18. Jesus said that we should love our enemies, and Paul tells us how to love our enemies in Romans 12:20, give him food and drink if he is hungry and thirsty.
The Bible is not, however, as direct as we might like. There is no verse that says, “Love your brother by doing xyz.” The New Testament, however, is filled with such verses instructing us in our relationships. These instructions, when followed, show us exactly what loving our brethren means. Note this sampling of verses:
Give preference to one another, Romans 12:10
Distribute to the needs of the saints and be hospitable, Romans 12:13
Greet one another, Romans 16:16
Bear one another’s burdens, Galatians 6:2
Put away lying, Ephesians 4:25
Forgive one another, Colossians 3:13
Pray for one another, James 5:16
See 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Hebrews 10:24-5
What all of this means is that emotions are tricky things. They cannot be depended on to guide us but can lead us to do things, even things we may not want to do. Jesus clearly says that from our hearts our deeds spring. Good deeds come from a pure heart, and bad deeds from an impure one. It is worth noting that the mere contemplation of hatred against another is enough for us to stand condemned, while love requires an outworking. John goes so far as to say that we should be willing to lay our very lives down for our brother, 1 John 3:16. Why? Because laying His life down is exactly what Jesus did for us in the ultimate illustration of love in action.
These thoughts should give us pause. To know that God holds us accountable for hate merely in our hearts is a sobering thought. In addition, knowing that love in the heart MUST translate to action encourages us to put our faith into deeds. We are also accountable for the good deeds that we do out of love. Think on Proverbs 4:23.