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Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. Proverbs 10:12

Is there a great deal of strife in your life? Are there others with whom you are constantly contending and arguing? Do you find that you have a running battle with certain individuals? Perhaps it is a spouse, a family member, a coworker, or a fellow student?

The proverb (wise saying) that we consider for this meditation speaks about this kind of strife. It tells us that strife is stirred up by hatred.

This hatred and strife are contrasted to love. Love does not stir up strife. Love, rather, covers sin and thus eliminates strife. Love brings peace.

There is implied here a calling. Do not stir up strife in hatred. Rather, cover all sin in love.

A wonderful love!

This wonderful love is contrasted to hatred.

The use of this word “hatred” in the Old Testament indicates that there are degrees of hatred. Sometimes that hatred is intense, so that one completely despises and abhors another. This was the case with Joseph’s brothers: “And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him” (Gen 37:4). We also see this hatred with Amnon after he had sexually defiled Tamar: “Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her” (II Sam. 13:15). Then again, this word is used to describe a situation in which a person simply does not love another. This appeared to be the case with Leah, the first wife of Jacob: “And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (Gen 29:31). This does not mean that Jacob had an intense hatred for Leah but simply that he lacked love. This is properly called hatred, because you either love or hate. There is no middle, neutral ground.

The hatred of which this proverb speaks is a sinful hatred.

There is a righteous hatred. In Psalm 139:21-22 David writes, “Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.” There is a sense in which we are to hate those that hate God. This is a righteous hatred rooted in the love of God.

However, most often hatred is a sinful hatred. It is a hatred that arises out of our sinful, depraved nature that became horribly twisted at the Fall. It is a hatred that despises God and His goodness and despises anything that reflects the goodness of God. It is a hatred that arises also out of a self-seeking, self-serving spirit. The fallen sinner does not seek God but himself. Neither does he serve God but only himself. This self-seeking, self-serving spirit leads him both to love and to hate. Yes, even the fallen, depraved sinner can love on the natural level. He is attracted to and seeks the friendship of those that give him pleasure and can serve his selfish purpose. But he hates those who, in his estimation, work against his self-seeking goals. And he hates more than he loves.

This hatred is found not just in the world but also in the church, as is evident from the sad stories of Joseph, Leah, and Tamar.

How much is that hatred found in your life?

In contrast, this proverb speaks of love.

The love that is spoken of in this proverb is the love that arises out of the work of God’s grace. By nature we are so corrupt and depraved that we are prone to hate God and our neighbor. In Jesus Christ God transforms His elect people into new creatures. This transformation is called a new birth, a resurrection of the dead, and a new creation. This radical transformation is accomplished on the basis of Christ’s death and in the power of His resurrection. The result of this glorious transformation is love.

We ought to notice the character of this love.

This is a love that is rooted in a love of God. When one is transformed by the grace of God, he comes to love God and His goodness. This is because he has been made in the likeness of God’s goodness. Being made in God’s likeness, he is drawn to God and seeks His fellowship in Jesus Christ. This deep love he has for God he also reflects to his neighbor. He loves his neighbor. This love comes to highest expression with his believing neighbor, who also has been transformed into God’s image. The same thing that draws him to the God of his salvation draws him to such a neighbor! He delights to fellowship with him. But the transformed believer also loves his unbelieving neighbor as God calls him to. However, this is not the love of attraction. It is a love, however, that seeks the welfare of the neighbor.

And that brings us to the fact that the love given to the transformed believer is not the self-serving love of the depraved sinner, but a love that is selfless and giving. When this love is directed towards God, it seeks the glory of God by giving Him praise and honor. When it is directed towards the neighbor, it seeks the welfare of this neighbor—even the sinful, self-serving neighbor. Love does this because that reflects God’s love to him. God in His love gave His only begotten Son and in Him gives us all things. God gives this to us even though we were self-serving sinners. Anyone so transformed by this love of God will reflect that kind of love to others.

We find numerous examples of this kind of love in Scripture. There was the love that David and Jonathon had for each other. There was the love that Abraham had for Isaac. There was the love that Ruth had for her mother-in-law Naomi.

This is the love that also must be found and promoted among us.

A wonderful covering!

“Hatred stirreth up strifes.”

The word “strife” emphasizes contention and discord. This strife can take many different forms. It usually involves words; for example, bickering, arguing, tearing each other down, and name-calling. There is also gossip and slander, that is, spreading evil reports. Sometimes this strife becomes physical with pushing and shoving, blows, or other acts of physical harm, even murder.

Strife is a great destroyer. It destroys marriages and families. It has torn apart many churches. It has led to war among nations with all its destruction.

Hatred stirs up this strife.

“To stir up” literally means to awaken, to arouse. It suggests that contention and discord are part of the nature of man. Strife is likened to a terrible beast within each of us that is asleep but easily awakened. But, once it is awakened, it rears its ugly head to devour, destroying our homes, our church, and all that we hold dear. And the thing that arouses this horrible beast of strife is hatred.

There are various things that trigger this hatred.

This proverb points to sin. The word for “sin” emphasizes a breach in a relationship. Relationships bring responsibilities and expectations. Sin breaches or violates those relationships by failing to meet one’s responsibilities and falling short of expectations. And this triggers hatred in one controlled by a self-seeking, self-serving spirit. But hatred is also triggered by many other things in the heart of one controlled by a self-serving spirit. His hatred is triggered by an annoying personality, a contrary point of view, or the success of another in which he does not share. Hatred is triggered by anything that a person views as a threat to attaining his self-seeking goals.

And that brings strife between people. Sometimes this is because hatred seeks revenge. Sometimes this is because hatred seeks one to protect his self-seeking, self-serving interests.

There are many examples of this in Scripture. In hatred Esau sought to kill Jacob after Jacob sinfully stole the birthright blessing from him. In hatred Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery because their father loved him more. Are there examples similar to this in your home?

On the other hand, love covers all sin.

Understand well that there are sins that should be exposed and not “covered up.” This is the case of one who persists to pursue and live in a sin without repentance. This sin needs to be exposed to the church for the sake of the sinner and those who may in the future be hurt by his sin. The procedure for doing this is given to us by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17 as being part of the proper discipline of the church. Love does not cover up these kinds of sin so that a person is allowed to continue in them. Love exposes these sins in the proper way.

But there is a proper sense in which love covers sin.

Love leads us, for example, to bear with the faults and weaknesses of each other so that we overlook them instead of contending about them. Many arguments and fights are over small things that are better overlooked and endured. Love leads one to overlook these rather than contend about them.

Love also leads us to prevent as much as possible sins in our neighbor that arise out of his character faults. Each of us has character faults and weaknesses that have the potential of leading us into sin, perhaps great sin. Love seeks to prevent that in each other.

Love also leads us to bring the sinner to Christ to find the covering of the cross for his sin, that he may be forgiven and reconciled to God.

Finally, love leads us to forgive for Christ’s sake those who sin against us.

And notice that love covers all sin. This is the sin of every neighbor, even the neighbor that irritates us or hates us. This is sin of every kind, even the sins that have injured us.

An important calling!

All too often the hatred that stirs up strife is found among God’s people instead of the love that covers sin. Because God’s love has transformed them in Jesus Christ into new creatures, they are able to love God and to love their neighbors. However, because God’s transforming work is only begun, they still retain a sinful nature filled with hatred that is easily aroused and stirs up strife.

Our calling is to have and show the love of which this proverb speaks.

Love is the great commandment of the law (Matt. 22:37-39). And in that love we are called to cover the sins of our brother in Christ and our neighbor. “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (I Pet. 4:8).

Let us cultivate and walk in that love, that we may enjoy peace and not strife.