“O you who love the LORD, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10a)
Whether committed by a politician on Capitol Hill, a famous producer in New York City, or a professional athlete from your favorite team, evil should be hated by those who love the LORD. Our skin should not crawl less when we hear a story of evil actions by someone that we like or supported in the past. There should be parity in our repulsion over evil. When someone claiming to be a Christian or to reflect Christian values does evil, their actions do not get a pass. Evil actions are not on the same team as Christian morality. There is no place for Christians to defend evil actions, regardless of the political stripes or popular opinions of the perpetrator. Stated simply: our hatred of evil should be without hypocrisy.
Opposition to evil will not make you more friends or help you influence more people, but it may reflect a heart full of love for the righteous God. Make no mistake about it: there is a rightful place for outrage in the life of those who love God. This outrage is not rooted in a sense of moral superiority, but rather in the reality that one cannot rightly love the righteous, holy God of all and remain indifferent to evil. Evil is antithetical to the nature of God. Thus, love for the LORD demands a hatred of evil, which is why Psalm 34:14 tells us, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” It is impossible to “do good” without “turning away from evil.” Proverbs 8:13 makes this even clearer, stating, “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” The apostle Paul also joins this chorus of counsel, stating that Christians should “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9).
What, then, is evil? This is an important question, especially in our day and age. For the Christian, evil is not subjective. It is not up for debate. Evil is easily definable. Evil is anything that is contrary to God’s holy and righteous character, particularly as it is revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We know the character of God because it has been revealed in Jesus Christ (John 1:18), whom we encounter in the “living and active” (Hebrews 4:12), “God-breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16), “Holy Spirit-guided” (2 Peter 1:19-21) Scriptures. For those without a standard like the Scriptures, evil becomes more difficult to define. At this point, it might be easy to criticize those who deny that Scriptures are a faithful and authoritative guide in matters of faith and practice, but for many evangelicals, it seems as though someone has pressed the Bible’s “mute button” on matters of morality. When evangelicals express outrage over those “outside the camp” while lauding others who have had similar moral failures, the onlooking world is left tragically confused about the holiness of God. The biblical word for this phenomenon is called, “hypocrisy.” Either scripture tells us what is evil and contrary to God’s holy will, or it doesn’t. We don’t get the luxury of picking and choosing evils that outrage us or, as Psalm 97 would put it, that we should “hate” because we love the LORD.
As the weeks, months, and years ahead are sure to reveal that evil is alive and well in this world, at least for now. When evil appears on our radar, the questions we ask must not be whether or not it was committed by a politician that we voted for or a producer whose movies we like the most or a person who can help us professionally or an athlete on our fantasy football team, but rather, “Do I not hate that which is contrary to the holy character of my God?” Let us not be hypocrites in our hatred of evil. Let us hate the evil that remains in our own lives. Let us hate the things that God hates while never forgetting the mercy that He offers to evildoers, even people like you and me. For while we were yet sinners, haters of God, rebels with no hope in this world; Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus came into this world to save evil people (1 Timothy 1:15). Thus, downplaying the evilness of evil does no favors for the gospel. Let us speak plainly about evil and the hope that we have in the only Savior of evil people, Jesus Christ.