The prophet Amos was called to bring this message to the northern kingdom of Israel: the Lord God Almighty would come to judge the nations that had rebelled against Him. Israel would be punished and essentially destroyed for forsaking her covenant with Him, but God would preserve a remnant of those who would repent from among the people. At the heart of Amos’s discourse, we find these words of invitation offering a sliver of hope: “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph” (Amos 5:14–15).
Scripture says, “To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech” (Proverbs 8:13). But the overwhelming majority of God’s people in Amos’s day had ceased to hate evil and love good. Israel had perverted justice and righteousness (Amos 5:7), opposing the truth, oppressing the innocent, and trampling the poor (Amos 5:10–13). They thought God was on their side, but they were deluded (Amos 5:2). “Pure and genuine religion,” as James explains, “means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27, NLT). Israel had abandoned the true worship of God. Their only hope of escaping judgment was to answer God’s call to repentance, to turn from evil and change their ways—to seek good, not evil, to love good and hate evil.
Amos’s plea to “hate evil, love good” mirrors the psalmist’s cry, “You who love the Lord, hate evil! He protects the lives of his godly people and rescues them from the power of the wicked” (Psalm 97:10, NLT). God calls us to hate evil because nothing beneficial comes from it, only harm. But perhaps the most straightforward reason that we should hate evil is that God hates evil (Deuteronomy 12:31; 16:22; Psalm 5:4–6; 11:5; Proverbs 6:16–19).
Unbelievers of the world “hate what is good” (2 Timothy 3:3, NLT), while the children of God are lovers of good. God Himself is good by nature and the source of all goodness (Psalm 86:5; 119:68; 1 Chronicles 16:34; Mark 10:18). Everything God makes is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Loving good is a way of life that pursues God and His goodness, that chooses what God esteems as good, and that delights in seeing good prevail (Psalm 23:6). When we love good, our lives reflect the goodness in the heart of God.
God’s Son, Jesus Christ, “loved righteousness and hated wickedness” (Hebrews 1:8–9), setting the pattern for how His disciples ought to respond to good and evil. Just as God hates evil and loves what is good, His followers are called to “hate what is evil” and “cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). In 1 Thessalonians 5:22, the apostle Paul encourages believers to “reject every kind of evil.” We hate evil because it is the enemy of all that is good. It’s important to differentiate between hating or rejecting evil behavior and hating people. Believers should never reject or hate sinful people, only their immoral or evil behavior. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies and do good to those who mistreat us (Luke 6:27–36). Paul urges, “Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good” (Romans 12:21, NLT).
Through the prophet Micah, God tells His people to love “what is good . . . to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8, NLT). “All who fear the Lord will hate evil,” declares the teacher (Proverbs 8:13, NLT). Heeding Amos’s call, we must swim against the prevailing tide of immorality by upholding justice instead of thwarting it, hating oppression and ungodly behavior, and demonstrating love, mercy, honesty, and righteousness.
Christians who love good and hate evil can vow, as King David did, “I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them” (Psalm 101:3, NLT). We will love good because God is good, and He loves what is good. We will hate evil because it goes against all that God is, and He hates evil.