Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Must we love Hitler?

Christ tells us to love our enemies. He said you have heard it said to love those who are your friends, however, Jesus points out that even evil people do this. We, as Christians, are held to a higher standard. But do we have to “love” Hitler, for example, or anyone who does evil? How is this possible?

Usually the answer people who ask this question receive is that we must love the sinner, but hate the sin. But what does this look like in real life? If a man kills someone close to us, how must we treat him? Do we say, “I really hate what you did, but as a person, I have much love toward you.” Must we be this person's friend? Should we visit him and send birthday cards? Isn't this what we do for people we love? How it is indeed even possible to love someone like this? Must we completely go against every instinct in our bodies in order to “love” someone even though in reality we dislike this person immensely? I do not think we do. I think the love Jesus was talking about was a particular type.

I believe the Christian message is that we must love one another, regardless of who the “other” is. But I think this is a specific type of love. In the Bible, there are three types of love. There is brotherly love, which we have for our siblings and relatives, there is eros, which is love between close people such as spouses, and then there is agape, the greatest type of love. This goes beyond feelings. This love means we hope for the ultimate salvation of someone. We pray that they will be united with God and be drawn close to him. But it does not entail a warm fuzzy feeling inside, necessarily. This is the issue I believe for most people when it comes to this issue. Let's use the Hitler example again. A proper type of love to display toward Hitler would be to hope for his eternal salvation with God, however we can still be extremely angry and upset about his actions. If he went to shake your hand, you can refuse, you do not need to smile at him, or talk to him. You can even seek to bring him to justice. We cannot however hope that he ends up in Hell or that he turns away from God and opposes him. We must still hope for his eternal salvation.

Is this difficult? Sometimes extremely, but Christ's message is rarely easy. I think the distinction being made here is a very important one. Of course we must love the sinner, and hate the sin, but we also do not need to be best friends with someone who does evil. We must help them if they accept help, we must practice Christian virtue with them as with everyone, and we must hope for their eternal salvation, but we needn't go with them to the baseball game.


  1. Awesome post. I think you hit the nail on the head when you highlighted the three types of love. Wishing someone would 'see the light' and unite their souls with God is truly the best way to 'love'.

  2. Does Agape just mean love for their salvation? Then why did Peter not say he had agape for Jesus, but rather that he had philio? I think you got this wrong. I think you are right in that we have to live all men, but the three types of love are misplaced. It's more a matter of the aspect of the person to which you apply that love - that aspect of their nature which is made in the image of God and not that aspect which is corrupted!

  3. I do not believe I am mistaken. Please view the following website for further information: