I once heard it said that the opposite of love isn’t necessarily hate as much as it is indifference or apathy. The argument being along the lines that if a father saw their child in imminent danger and, though not hating them per se, did nothing to intervene, that would be unloving. I get the argument. But, not gonna lie, if someone turned the question around and asked me what the opposite of hate was, I’d probably be pretty quick to respond, “Love!” That is until a verse in Psalm 11 gave me something to chew on this morning.
The LORD tests the righteous, but His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
(Psalm 11:5 ESV)
I’m no Hebrew poetry scholar–not even close–but have been exposed a little to those who are and so it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s some fancy-schmancy name for the literary structure in this verse. Something like contrasting literary structure. Nah, not fancy-schmancy enough.
Anyway, there’s a pivotal word here. The word but. And it divides the verse into two sections putting them, by the very nature of the word but, in contrast with one another. That it’s dealing with contrasting opposites also seems evident in that the first part of the verse deals with the righteous and the latter part with the wicked.
So, given that the last part of the verse talks about the verb to hate, seems logical that the first part of the verse would deal with the opposite of hate. And what I’m noodling on is the fact that the verb there isn’t love but the verb to test.
The wicked God hates, but the righteous He tests. He examines them. He scrutinizes and proves them. Like a precious metal, He assays the righteous, trying the quality of their righteousness and turning up the heat in order to drive out the impurities.
True statement? Born out by other “witnesses” in Scripture? I’m thinkin’ . . .
For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives. . . . For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
(Hebrews 12:6, 11 ESV)
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith — more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire — may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
(1Peter 1:6-7 ESV)
So David says, in effect, the opposite of hate is testing. And that because being tried by God is evidence that not only does God love us just the way we are, He also loves us so much He can’t leave us just the way we are.
The righteousness He imputes to us through Christ, is the righteousness He lovingly cultivates in us through trials. Thus, He allows the crucible of trial and suffering to prove the reality of His regenerative work in us. By permitting the heat to be turned up in our lives, He reveals the dross and, through the sanctifying work of His Spirit, continues to skim off the impurities.
Only as we truly believe that God loves us by testing us can we “endure hardship as discipline” (Heb. 12:7 NIV).
Only as we trust in His loving purposes for us as His children would we dare to pray:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:23-24 ESV)
Love me, O God, and test my righteousness.
By Your grace. For Your glory.