Second Samuel 13 is one of the darker chapters in the Bible. Immediately following the tale of David and Bathsheba, the chapter relates the story of Amnon and his half-sister Tamar, two of David's children. In an account chilling for its depiction of pre-meditation, Amnon states his love for Tamar in one breath and rapes her in the next. And yet, as it turns out, it wasn't what Amnon wanted after all: "Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her" (2 Samuel 13:15).
The whole situation is both horrific and sad, but it demonstrates the relationship between love and hate. Both are immensely powerful emotions directed at another human being. The two are all-consuming and mutually exclusive, yet somehow they can be confused for one another. Consider, for example, the fourth-grade boy who, unsure of how to express his first crush on a girl, pulls her pigtails at recess. Or think about that time-tested plot device of a villain falling in love with the hero because hatred was a mask for affection. Still, hate is hate, and love is love. The two aren't the same.
As Christians, we are called to love others as we love ourselves. This assumes, of course, we do in fact love ourselves. No matter how much I sin, no matter how grievously I wound another's soul, God doesn't want me to hate myself. He doesn't want me to hate those who inadvertently remind me of my sin and inspire guilt, as Amnon and Tamar. Instead, if hate I must, let me hate the sin itself. Let me recoil in horror I went against God and then ask forgiveness. Let a hatred of sin come from a love of God.
Love is ultimately far more powerful than hate, for God is love. May we love others with the powerful love of Christ.