Scott Tibbs

We should not dismiss the toxic effects of hate

By Scott Tibbs, February 1, 2022

On her show last week, Liz Wheeler opened with a discussion of the definition of "hate." I do not have an issue with the rest of that episode, but the opening segment where she defines the word hate was problematic. (Watch her show here or listen here.)

Wheeler correctly said that love is an action, not a feeling. This is true. If you love someone, your actions will show it. The example she used was an abusive spouse saying he "loves" his partner but his actions show that his claims are false. If your actions are harmful or destructive, then your words are not reflective of your heart.

Where Wheeler goes astray is when she said it is the same with hate. Hate is shown by harmful actions against someone. But this is not true, either by common human experience or Biblical doctrine. (Which is important, as Wheeler is a Christian.) The Lord Jesus Christ said in Matthew 5:21-22 that someone who hates his neighbor is as guilty as someone who actually commits murder. Jesus opens up the Law to show how far away we actually are from following it. The condition of our heart is what matters, not only outward obedience.

Wheeler also said that words cannot be hate. Words can be hateful, but they are not hate. That is a distinction without a difference, but is also theologically wrong. Scripture teaches in Matthew 12:34-35 that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. People who are saying hateful things do so because they have hatred in their hearts. The condition of our hearts is a common theme throughout all of Scripture, but is especially emphasized in the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

It must be pointed out, of course, that much speech that is defined as "hateful" today is not actually hateful at all. The accusation of "hate" is a tool of censorship, meant to silence those who are speaking the truth through intimidation. Accusations of "hate speech" are almost never made in good faith: They are made to silence speech that the "woke" cannot dispute with solid argumentation.

But while the "woke" Left has defined "hate" too broadly, conservatives should not respond by defining hate too narrowly. We can resist efforts to restrict free speech by over-defining "hate" (or even correctly defining it) without minimizing a sin that Scripture treats very seriously. It is always our temptation to respond to one error by veering into the opposite error, and we must resist that temptation.

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