Why in one Bible reference we are called to hate and in others to love?

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Hate and Love

When thinking of the words hate and love, some don’t understand Jesus’ words that say, “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). These find the above statement contradicting to the following verses: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). And “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20).

The context of Luke 14:26 makes it clear that the word “hate” should not be understood in the usual sense of the word. In the Bible, “to hate,” should be understood simply as an oriental hyperbole meaning “to love less” as in the following passage in the King James Version: “If a man have two wives, one beloved, and another hated…” (Deuteronomy 21:15–17).

Therefore, a better translation of Luke 14:26 is given in the New King James Version for the word “hated” is translated “unloved” which means “less favored.” An example of that is the story of Leah Jacob’s wife who was loved less than his other wife Rachel (Genesis 29:31).

Therefore, in Luke 14:26, Jesus is simply saying: “He that loves a father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). This hyperbole is used to make clear to the follower of Christ the fact that, at all times, he must make first in his life the kingdom of heaven. He should love God above anyone or anything. God should be first in the life (Matthew 6:19–34). Whoever has personal interests that take priority over loyalty to God will find it impossible to meet the requirements Christ asks of him.

Love God With All the Heart and Man as Yourself

The Lord commanded, “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 12:30-31 also Matthew 22:37-39).

Whereas Luke 14:26 is speaking of the believer’s love to God as being supreme in the life, 1 John 3:15 and 1 John 4:20 are speaking of the necessity of loving our fellow men as we love our selves. Man’s natural tendency is to make self first, regardless of his duties to God and men. To be completely selfless in dealing with his fellows, a man must first love God supremely. This is the very foundation of all right conduct.

The law of love toward God and man was not new. Jesus was the first to unite the thoughts of Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 and Leviticus 19:18 as “the whole duty of man,” though Micah presented the same principle. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

Love should be present before a person, in the strength Christ, begins to keep God’s law (Romans 8:3, 4). Obedience without love is impossible and empty. Where love is present, a person will naturally carry on his life in harmony with God’s commandments (John 14:15; 15:10). Love for God, if truly present, will be seen in every aspect of the being. And God’s love is given to all that accept it by faith (Romans 5:5).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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