Hate is a strong word. In the dictionary, it is defined as an intense dislike, or hostility or aversion that is extreme. God’s Word tells us that hate is the spiritual equivalent of murder (1 John 3:15). Now that doesn’t mean that everyone who says they hate someone else will go out and murder that person. But hatred comes from the same emotional place as murder. Those of us who follow Christ would say, “I would never murder someone.” But, in God’s eyes, hatred and murder are one and the same. We cannot be in an authentic relationship with Christ if we have hate in our hearts.
The cure for hatred is love. When we open our hearts to Jesus Christ, we allow Him to transform our hearts, to turn hatred to love. Without Christ, our hearts are enslaved by sin, by passions and desires that are outside of the will of God, and by envy and hatred (Titus 3:3). As followers of Christ, we learn that we must love one another. 1 John 3:11 says that this is the message that we were taught from the beginning, it is a foundational truth of our faith in Christ. We cannot claim to follow Christ and to love God if there is hate in our hearts. Rather, our hearts should be filled with love.
So what is love and how can we know what it looks like? A popular song by the rock group, Foreigner, “I Want to Know What Love Is,” asked that very question. The singer wants to know exactly what love is, but he doesn’t want to be told what it is. He wants to be shown. Love must be more than words. The greatest example of love came from Jesus, who because of His great love, gave His life for us (1 John 3:16). Scripture says that we ought to do the same (1 John 3:16). That doesn’t necessarily mean that we must die for someone. It also means giving of our lives in other ways, reaching out to help those in need.
1 John 3:17 says that if we have worldly possessions and see a brother who is in need but we close our hearts against that brother, God’s love does not abide in us. Our God is a loving God and a giving God. If His love is in us, then we should help others in whatever way we can. That can be by giving financial help if we are able. It can be giving our time. Our love should be shown in more than just words. Actions speak louder than words, and this is what John was saying when he told us that we must love not in word or talk but in deed and truth (1 John 3:18).