Love is a central theme in the Bible. God’s love for humanity and the call for us to love one another are expressed repeatedly throughout Scripture. However, the Bible also speaks about the opposite of love. So what is the antithesis of love according to the Bible?
- The opposite of love is hate, evil, fear, and selfishness
- Hatred and evil stand in direct contrast to God’s nature of pure love
- Fear involves torment and exists outside of love
- Selfishness prioritizes self over others, the antithesis of biblical love
- Satan embodies the opposite of godly love as the father of lies and murderer from the beginning
- Actions like murder, lies, jealousy, and pride all demonstrate the opposite of love
- Biblical love is characterized by selflessness, sacrifice, honesty, patience, kindness and more
What Does the Bible Say About Hate?
One direct antonym for love is hate. Love and hate are portrayed as opposites throughout the Bible.
1 John 4:20 says:
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? (NKJV)
The apostle John makes it clear here that hatred towards others is incompatible with love for God. Hatred is set in opposition to love.
The Old Testament law also contrasted love with hatred:
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18 NKJV)
Bearing a grudge or seeking vengeance was considered the opposite of loving your neighbor.
Proverbs 10:12 also sets hatred against love:
Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins. (NKJV)
The Opposite Nature of Godly Love
The Bible presents God as the pure embodiment of love. 1 John 4:8 plainly states:
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (NKJV)
God’s essential nature is perfectly loving. This means that the opposite of love does not come from Him. Evil, hatred, fear – these are outside of God’s character.
The apostle John goes on to say:
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10 NKJV)
By contrast, the devil seeks to oppose God’s work and nature:
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8 NKJV)
The devil stands in opposition to Jesus, carrying out evil rather than good. Darkness cannot dwell with light. Hate cannot truly coexist with love.
Fear as the Opposite of Love
In addition to hate, the Bible presents fear as another antithesis to love. 1 John 4:18 states:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. (NKJV)
Fear and love are mutually exclusive according to this verse. Fear, especially of punishment or judgment, torments people. But love – perfect, sacrificial, Christ-like love – drives out fear and its torment.
The Old Testament frequently encourages people to not be afraid because God is with them. His loving presence brings peace rather than fear. As Isaiah 41:10 declares:
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (NKJV)
Since God is love, remaining in His love drives out fear. Walking in godly love removes any need to be afraid.
Selfishness as Opposing Biblical Love
The Bible warns against selfishness and greed as additional opposites of godly love. 1 Corinthians 13 is the famous “love chapter” that describes what true love is. It begins:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Cor. 13:1-2 NKJV)
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (1 Cor. 13:4-8 NKJV)
Key phrases here like “does not envy,” “does not parade itself,” “is not puffed up,” and “does not seek its own” all point to the selfishness which is the antithesis of biblical love. True godly love focuses on others not self.
The opposite of love involves jealousy, pride, rudeness, and seeking your own interests first. Godly love is selfless and sacrificial, putting others first.
Philippians 2:3-4 also emphasizes this:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (NKJV)
Self-seeking and conceit characterize the opposite of love, while humility and concern for others display true love.
Additional Contrasts Between Love and its Opposites
We see many more contrasts between godly love and its opposites throughout Scripture:
- Love is patient and kind, opposite of anger and hatred (1 Cor. 13:4-5)
- Love speaks truth, opposite of lies and deceit (Eph. 4:15)
- Love forgives offenses, opposite of resentment and bitterness (Col. 3:13)
- Love values fidelity and commitment, opposite of adultery and unfaithfulness (Heb. 13:4)
- Love brings joy and peace, opposite of dissension and discord (Gal. 5:22-23)
- Love produces gentleness and self-control, opposite of chaos and recklessness (Gal. 5:23)
- Love leads to righteousness, opposite of lawlessness (Rom. 13:8-10)
Satan as the Embodiment of the Opposite of Love
One prominent figure in the Bible who starkly opposes godly love is Satan. From the beginning, Satan sought to undermine God’s loving purposes through deception and murder:
You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:44 NKJV)
As “a murderer from the beginning” and “the father of lies,” Satan stands as the very antithesis of love. Jesus also referred to Satan as:
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)
Murder and lies are directly contrary to God, who is the author and embodiment of truth and life. Satan’s native language is deception, fear, and death – all opposites of true biblical love.
The book of 1 John was written to encourage followers of Jesus to walk in love and avoid the lies and hatred of the devil:
I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth…Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:21,22 NKJV)
John wanted believers to reject Satan’s falsehoods and embrace Christ’s loving truth. He goes on to say:
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8 NKJV)
By walking in godly love, we can resist the devil and overcome his unloving works. Love and truth stand opposed to Satan’s deceit and destruction.
Love Is a Choice, Requiring Us to Reject Its Opposites
Love is not just an emotion but an action. For this reason, we have to intentionally choose love over its counterparts like hatred, fear, and selfishness.
Paul exhorts believers:
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. (Eph. 4:31-5:2 NKJV)
We must consciously reject bitterness, anger, and malice and instead choose to walk in the love modeled by Jesus. As we imitate God, we will love others through kindness, forgiveness, and sacrifice.
The Bible contrasts love and its opposites frequently to remind us that they cannot coexist. We must cast out hatred, fear, and selfishness from our hearts in order to walk in godly love. Asking the Holy Spirit to fill us will help overwrite unloving tendencies with the compassion and mercy of Christ.
As 1 John 4:7-8 encourages:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (NKJV)
May we embrace this truth, rejecting all that opposes godly love.