Hate crimes are quick to dominate the headlines. Our culture is afflicted with “isms” rooted in hate.
The nation is divided by parties and factions. Marriages are torn apart by resentment and bitterness. Families are wrecked by rage.
It’s easy to be discouraged.
And yet—one force conquers them all.
In every battle where love is embroiled with hate, love wins. Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8 NAS)
Be encouraged. Here are 9 times love overpowers hate in Scripture.
1. Jacob and Esau - Genesis 25:19-34, Genesis 32-33
They were bitter rivals from the start. This tale begins with a set of twins’ epic duel in utero to be the firstborn. Esau edges his brother out and claims the coveted prize, but foolishly sells the birthright to his younger sibling for a bowl of stew.
In order to receive the full blessing, however, it had to be pronounced by the father, Isaac. This required an elaborate scheme. While Esau, ironically, is preparing a meal, Jacob impersonates his brother, putting animal skins all over his body. He tricks his father into speaking the firstborn blessing over him.
When Esau enters his father’s tent with a freshly cooked meal, he finds that his birthright is gone.
The firstborn fumes with hate and plots to kill his brother.
Fearing for his life, Jacob leaves his father’s house for decades and returns only after being cruelly tricked himself. As he sets off for home bearing gifts and a contrite heart, a dramatic encounter with God in the desert transforms Jacob.
Terror grips him, however, when the news comes that Esau and an army of 400 men are marching his way. Jacob knows what he deserves, and he expects it.
But in a blessed turn of events, “Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept” (Genesis 33:4, NIV).
The rivalry ends, bitter wounds are mended, and love overcomes hate as these brothers embrace.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Adrian
2. Joseph - Genesis 37-45, Genesis 50:20
They bullied him, stole his coat, threw him a pit, and left him for dead. And they weren’t strangers—they were his brothers.
Jealousy breeds a particularly vicious kind of hate.
Joseph was the favorite son, and he looked like it. His multi-colored coat taunted his brothers, as did his dreams. Their retaliation was brutal. They sold him to a traveling band of Egyptians. Betrayed by his own flesh and blood, Joseph became a slave in a foreign land, and then, after a false accusation, a prisoner.
But Joseph’s dramatic rise from the prison to the palace has God’s finger prints all over it. By chance, or not by chance at all, he accurately discerned the Pharaoh’s disturbing dreams and became Prime Minister. He saved the country from a savage famine.
Then, in a scene so serendipitous only God could write it, the former slave and prisoner found himself face to face with his brothers. They came seeking provision from the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. They didn’t know that they sought those provisions from the boy they betrayed.
But Joseph knew.
The pain of his past was not forgotten. No, the Prime Minister excused himself and screamed with such passion that the palace shook.
But love prevailed when Joseph revealed his true identity.
His brothers stood awestruck in terror, expecting slavery, imprisonment, and death—all the things they gave the boy who was now a man.
They deserved Joseph’s disdain.
Instead, they received love and one of the greatest truths in all of Scripture: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20, NIV)
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Simon Matzinger
3. The Woman at the Well - John 4:1-26
He shouldn’t have spoken to her. Good Jews don’t speak to half breeds. The Samaritan race was impure—they were despised for the sins of their parents, who had married filthy foreigners.
But Jesus didn’t operate according to the prejudices of his day. He always operated in a spirit of love.
The Messiah was traveling through a village filled with this marginalized group of mongrels when she came to a well at the center of town. She expected arrogance and condescension, or, at best, to be ignored. But unlike every other Jew she had met before, this Jew was kind to her. He spoke to her.
Shocked, the woman thought that Jesus would be disgusted if He really knew her. After all, she’d had five husbands and was living with a man she wasn’t married to. This Rabbi never would have spoken to her if He really knew who she was, she thought.
But He did know her—and He spoke to her anyways.
To her amazement, Jesus revealed that He knew her whole life, just as He knows ours. He knows every unclean and despicably hateful thing we’ve ever done. He knows that, like this woman, we should be outcast. And He loves us anyways.
The woman at the well experienced the radical love of a Savior in a world who hated the thought of her. We can experience that same love.
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/inigofotografia
4. The Woman Caught in Adultery - John 8:1-11
They dragged her from a bed of sin, leaving the man, and threw her at Jesus’ feet insisting that He exact justice. Public humiliation was just the start. For those who broke the seventh commandment, the law required death by brutal stoning.
“What do you say?” the Pharisees and teachers of the law demanded.
Jesus wouldn’t play the game.
Instead, He stooped down and drew with his finger in the dust. No one knows what He wrote. Scholars speculate that He may have written the names of the accusers’ conquests, or, perhaps, their other secret sins. Whatever He scribbled in the sand, His words drove the message home.
“All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7)
One by one they dropped their rocks and left. Only the woman remained.
“Where are your accusers?” He asked. “Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
Still expecting the first stone to strike, the woman looked up. She was alone with Jesus. Her faultfinders were gone.
“No, Lord,” she replied.
“Neither do I. Go and sin no more,” Jesus answered.
Like this woman, sin brings us low, and we expect to feel the full weight of our transgressions. It is what we deserve. Sometimes others anticipate our punishment with relish. But the Messiah compels us to look straight into His eyes and experience a radical love that overcomes the hate of this world and the magnitude of our sin.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Alexandru Zdrobau
5. The Good Samaritan - Luke 10:25-37
It was a parable, a tale of fiction. It never happened, and yet it happens all the time.
When asked by a teacher of the law what he must do to be saved, Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law?”
The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
His answer highlighted the command to love. “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But the religious leader wanted a pat on the back, so he asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
He didn’t really want to know. So, Jesus told him a timeless story.
A man is robbed, stripped of his clothes, beaten unconscious, and left for dead. First a priest and then a Levite passed by, both moving to the other side of the road. They were too busy doing the Lord’s work to be bothered by this unfortunate soul.
But a lowly Samaritan, a mutt of a man, took pity on the victim. He bandaged his wounds, put him on his donkey, took him to an inn, and foot the bill.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man?” Jesus asked.
“The one who had mercy on him,” the lawyer replied.
“Go and do likewise,” Jesus challenged the religious leader.
He challenges all of us to love those who our culture says we should hate.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Clay Banks
6. Mary of Bethany - Luke 7:36-50
She was an object of ridicule and scorn, hated by everyone in civilized society, hated by those who supposedly loved God. And yet, Jesus said her story—not theirs—would be told where ever his story is told.
Scripture is filled with poetic justice.
She brought an alabaster flask filled with costly oil worth a year’s wages to a home filled with men repulsed by the sight of her.
Love compelled her to walk into this den of hate.
Love compelled her to pour her fortune and her future over the Messiah’s feet.
Love compelled her to prepare his body for burial while the civilized sat, “holier than thou,” at the table.
Noting their disgust, Jesus told a story about two men with debts—one who owed much and one who owed little. Both were forgiven what they owed by their generous benefactor.
Jesus asked, “Which of them will love him more?”
The replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little,” the Messiah declared.
This woman’s sin caused the pious men of the town to despise her. Jesus used her transparency to expose the sin lurking in their souls and show a greater love than they could imagine.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Madeleine_Steinbach
7. Saul/Paul - Acts 9
He was a terrorist in every sense of the word. His sole mission in life was to eradicate every last Christ-follower from the face of the earth, and he was racking up an impressive kill-count. He was present at the execution of the first martyr, Stephen (Act 7:28). His very name struck terror in the hearts of believers everywhere.
But on yet another mission to kill some Christians in a town called Damascus, Saul was met with a blinding light—and a blinding love.
A voice penetrated the stillness, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?”
Bewildered, Saul asks: “Who are You, Lord?”
The Lord replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
God’s way is love. You can’t operate in hate and follow Him.
Meanwhile, a true follower named Ananias was instructed by God to meet this Christian killer and disciple him. Understandably reluctant, Ananias reminded the Lord of Saul’s resume.
The Lord didn’t care.
“Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.”
Ananias went. God changed Saul’s name to Paul, which means “small” or “humble,” and this small man evangelized the Gentiles and wrote much of the New Testament. None of the apostles or disciples would have chosen Paul for such a mission. Only God would choose a man filled with righteously indignant hate to spread His message of love to the world.
Photo Credit: © Pixabay
8. The Cross - Luke 23
The greatest example of love overpowering hate in the Bible is, not coincidentally, the greatest example of love overpowering hate in all of human history.
The cross—a device of torture that murdered our Lord—forever conquers hate.
The God of love sent His only Son to the world as a sacrifice for our sin. But the world didn’t want Him. The religious leaders who had been waiting for the Messiah were the very ones who plotted to kill him. He exposed their pride. He uncovered their hypocrisy. He unmasked their quest for power. He revealed the hatred in their hearts.
Christ’s love reveals the same in all of us.
After a savage beating that ravaged his flesh, after the crown of thorns pressed into his skull, after being spat on, ridiculed, and tortured—He said these words:
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:A34, ESV)
The world has never shown a greater hate. The world has never known a greater love.
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Alicia Quan
9. The Final Victory - Revelation 20:10
The final time that love overpowered hate in the Bible foretells of events yet to come, events that every believer anticipates with great enthusiasm and joy.
This story began in the heavens before there was an earth, when the Father of love cast down a fallen son of hate. This vile creature, Satan, roams the earth spreading spite in the hearts of all who will adopt his ways. He is behind every act of envy, gossip, prejudice, assault, and murder ever committed.
He has been defeated many times—every time love overcomes the hate he spreads, this foe is crushed.
But the book of Revelation tells of a day when hate will be defeated once and for all. On that day,
“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” (Revelation 20:10, NKJV)
One day, hate will be a distant memory. We will think of it and the pain it caused no more. Until that day, we know that love conquers every act of hate. Let us, then, be agents of God’s love so that we may overcome the hateful acts of the enemy.
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, blogger and motherhood apologist. She is launching the Mere Mother website in October 2019, which will delve into critical issues that marginalize mothers in our culture. This homeschooling mama of five is dedicated to helping mothers see their worth in a season when they often feel overwhelmed and irrelevant. You can find Catherine’s blog, dramatic blogcast, and other writings at www.catherinesegars.com and connect with her on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/
Photo Credit: © Pixabay/Eberhard Grossgasteiger
Originally published Wednesday, 27 November 2019.