Hatred: A Spiritual Malignancy

By Weldon E. Warnock

“There is no faculty of the human soul so persistent and universal as that of hatred. There are hatreds of race; hatreds of sect; social and personal hatreds. If thoughts of hatred were thunder and lightning, there would be a storm over the whole earth all the year round” (Beecher).

Hatred means an “intense aversion or active hostility that is expressed in settled opposition to a person or thing” (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia). A kindred word is “bitterness.” A good description of this word is given by Eadie as “that fretted and irritable state of mind that keeps a man in perpetual animosity — that inclines him to harsh and uncharitable opinions of men and things — that makes him sour, crabbed, and repulsive in his general demeanor — that brings a scowl over this face, and infuses venom into the words of his tongue” (Word Meanings in the New Testament, Ralph Earle).

People hate because they do not love. A loving heart has no place for hate, bitterness and malice. William Barclay stated it well when he said that love “is that attitude of mind which will never allow itself to be bitter to any man, and which will never seek anything but the highest good of others, no matter what the attitude of others be to it” (Flesh and Spirit).

The Effects of Hatred

Hatred is a deadly poison that exudes from the depths of hell, destroying every soul that breathes in its toxic fumes. Its carcinogenic chemical has many side effects:

1. Hatred stirs up trouble. Listen to Solomon: “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins” (Prov. 10:12). The friction between Joseph and his brethren was induced by hate (cf. Gen. 37:4,5,8). Congregations are torn asunder because brethren despise and detest, reject and repel one another.

2. Hatred leads to murder. Because the brethren of Joseph hated him, they said, “Let us slay him” (Gen. 37:20). Because of perpetual hatred, the Edomites (Mt. Seir) shed the blood of the children of Israel (Ezek. 35:5). The Jews crucified Jesus because of their animosity and hostility toward him (Jn. 15:18-25). The apostle John succinctly states, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:15).

Brother Guy N. Woods, commenting on 1 John 3:15, wrote, “What is meant is, he has exhibited the disposition and spirit of a murderer; he has allowed passions to arise in his heart which, when carried to their ultimate ends, result in murder . . . . Murder is simply hate expressed in an overt act” (A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles).

3. Hatred provokes sins of the tongue. David was the target of the biting barbs from the mouth of his enemies. He says, “They compassed me about also with words of hatred, and fought against me without a cause” (Psa. 109:3). The vitriolic opposition to David was nothing but a fabrication, but hatred needed no justification. Solomon said, “A lying tongue hates those it hurts” (Prov. 26:28, NIV).

Abrasive, rude, cutting and harsh language generates from those whose hearts are filled with hate. This is also true of gossip, slander, faultfinding and false witnessing. Jesus said, “That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). The way we use our tongue is a most serious and grave matter.

4. Hatred fosters resentment and retaliation. The Bible is replete with passages forbidding revenge (Prov. 19:11; 24:27,29; Matt. 5:38-48; Lk. 6:27-36; 1 Cor. 4:12; 1 Pet. 3:9). When Jesus was “reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not” (1 Pet. 2:23).

Somone said that to render evil for evil is devilish; to render good for good is human, but to render good for evil is God-like.

5. Hatred begets envy and envy begets hate. We see this vicious cycle in the life of Joseph and his brethren. They hated Joseph (Gen. 37:4,5,8) and, subsequently, “his brethren envied him” (Gen. 37:11). The Jews hated Jesus and they delivered him to be crucified because of envy (Matt. 27:18; Mk. 15:10). Envy is “rottenness of the bones” (Prov. 14:30).

Those who harbor hate, malice and envy are miserable wretches, and unless they excise this virulent cancer from their hearts, they will slowly destroy themselves as a malignancy emaciates the body.

The Character of Hate

Hate is an odious, malevolent malady. Gothold said, “Malevolence is, in point of fact, a real colocynth juice; for, if once it infects the heart, nothing in a neighbor any longer pleases. If he walk, his gait is proud and haughty; if he laugh, he is derisive; if he weep, he is hypocritical; if he look grave, he is insolent. Every fault swells into magnitude, and every virtue shrinks into littleness.” Let us focus upon the following features of hate:

1. Hate is a characteristic of the world. Paul wrote of those in the unregenerated state, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another” (Tit. 3:3). Those in the kingdom of Satan, hate. But the children of God must put off such works of darkness.

2. Hate is a work of the flesh. It is cataloged with fornication, idolatry, witchcraft, murder and drunkenness (Gal. 5:19-21). They who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Hatred will keep us out of heaven.

3. Hate is harbored only by fools. Solomon said, “He that hideth hatred with lying lips, and he that uttereth a slander, is a fool” (Prov. 10:18). Analyzing this verse, David Thomas astutely said, “Wickedness hides hatred by lies, and slays reputation by slanders. It is often honey on the lips and venom in the heart. It is always associated more or less with a villany that hides itself under flattering words, and works out its ends by treachery and lies” (Book of Proverbs).

4. Hate is cruel and mean. The enemies of David were many and they hated him “with cruel hatred” (Psa. 25:19). We see this kind of ill treatment vented upon Abel by Cain, upon Joseph by his jealous brothers and upon Jesus by the rebellious Jews. Today, several members of the church, including elders and preachers, are the targets of this venomous gall that is spued out by those whose hearts are full of hate and bitterness. Let us guard against this root of bitterness that defiles us (Heb. 12:15).

The Cure for Hate

There is only one remedy for hate and that is love, a love that is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs, etc. (1 Cor. 13:4-7, NIV). If we love as we ought, we will love our brethren:

1. As the Lord loves us. “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (Jn. 13:34; cf. 15:12).

2. With unfeigned love. Love is to be genuine and unhypocritical. Peter said, “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren” (1 Pet. 1:22). This kind of love is not in word only, but also in deed and in truth (1 Jn. 3:18).

3. With a pure heart (1 Pet. 1:22). To love with a pure heart is to be free of malice, guile, hypocrisies, envies and evil speakings (1 Pet. 2:1). Peter says we are to lay aside these evil things as a result of being born again. These are layed aside (put off) as one would discard filthy and dirty clothing.

4. With fervency (1 Pet. 1:22). This shows the intensity of love. It describes an emotion that is forceful, vivid and earnest. We are not to love loosely, indifferently or casually, but vigorously and energetically.

“Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1). In the words of Solomon, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith” (Prov. 15:17).

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 1, p. 10
January 7, 1993