“The Virtues of Hatred & Intolerance”

Perhaps the two greatest evils in modern society are hatred and intolerance. We are taught that all hatred is categorically wrong and intolerance is not to be tolerated. While hatred and intolerance can be evil, there are virtues to them as well. As is often the case, those who live only according to the wisdom of this world overcorrect and oversimplify. But as Christians, we understand that while we are called to love, patience, and tolerance (Eph. 4:1-3), there are some things we ought to hate and be intolerant of.

For example, Jesus praised the church in Ephesus for their intolerance of wicked behavior and teaching (Rev. 2:2, 6) while he rebuked the church at Thyatira for tolerating it (Rev. 2:20). Paul called out the Corinthians for tolerating a kind of immorality which even the pagan Roman culture denounced! (1 Cor. 5:1-2)

There are many positive examples of hatred in the Bible as well. We should hate bribery (Ex. 18:21), what is wicked (Psa. 26:5), evil (Psa. 97:10), worthless (Psa. 101:3-4), false (Psa. 119:104, 163) and unjust (Amos 5:15). Wisdom gives a list of seven things we should hate including pride, lying, violence, and division (Prov. 6:16-19). Solomon says there is “a time to love, and a time to hate” (Ecc. 3:8).

Clearly, there are virtues to hatred and intolerance. But to get it right, our hatred and intolerance must be directed at things which are truly evil. One way we can learn to hate evil is to love what is good. Consider Paul’s words: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Rom. 12:9) Our love for what is good will naturally cause us to hate and be intolerant of what is evil. Love is not blind acceptance nor does it “rejoice at wrongdoing.” Rather love is discerning and “rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). We may simultaneously love someone and disagree with them, disapprove of their beliefs and behavior, even to hate their convictions.

A.W. Tozer wrote about this fifty years ago in Man: The Dwelling Place of God: “A new Decalogue has been adopted by the neo-Christians of our day, the first word of which reads ‘Thou shalt not disagree;’ and a new set of Beatitudes too, which begins ‘Blessed are they that tolerate everything, for they shall not be made accountable for anything.’ It is now the accepted thing to talk over religious differences in public with the understanding that no one will try to convert another or point out errors in his belief… Imagine Moses agreeing to take part in a panel discussion with Israel over the golden calf; or Elijah engaging in a gentlemanly dialogue with the prophets of Baal. Or try to picture our Lord Jesus Christ seeking a meeting of minds with the Pharisees to iron out differences.”

Richard J. Mouw,in his book Uncommon Decency wrote: “Christian civility does not commit us to a relativistic perspective. Being civil doesn’t mean that we cannot criticize what goes on around us. Civility doesn’t require us to approve of what other people believe and do. It is one thing to insist that other people have the right to express their basic convictions; it is another thing to say that they are right in doing so. Civility requires us to live by the first of these principles. But it does not commit us to the second formula. To say that all beliefs and values deserve to be treated as if they were on a par is to endorse relativism—a perspective that is incompatible with Christian faith and practice. Christian civility does not mean refusing to make judgments about what is good and true. For one thing, it really isn’t possible to be completely nonjudgmental. Even telling someone else that she is being judgmental is a rather judgmental thing to do!”

A healthy hatred of what is evil and a proper love for what is good is not always intuitive. These are things we must be taught. Thankfully, God, by his Spirit, spoke to us in his word. May God give us a growing, discerning love so that we can “approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” (Phil. 1:9-11)