The word “love” has several different meanings, each of which we can find reflected in the Greek words for these concepts. The notion of sexual love or desire is captured in the Greek word eros. While this captures a certain dimension of romantic love, it fails to account for love that truly seeks what is best for the beloved. It is less “love” in the sense of a desire for the good of the other than a desire for one’s own enjoyment, so it really doesn’t mean “love” in the Christian sense.[i] Also is the love of friendship—in Greek, philia. This love is that which people have for one another in a natural sense—that is, without the intervention of God’s grace. This love desires what is good for the other with or without a sense of self-interest, for example, the love of parent for children and vice versa, or the love between two people who share common interests and values. Just as eros can be expressed properly in Christian love, by itself, philia remains only a natural affinity for the other. Philia has limits and can come to an end if circumstances change.[ii]
In the New Testament, the concept of “love” is expressed in the Greek word agape. This kind of love is that which is a gift of self to the other—a generous, creative, and supernatural love only available to us through the Gift of the Holy Spirit and His grace.[iii] This kind of love goes beyond an appreciation of the values and qualities of the beloved or the filial love of parent, child, or relative, or the romantic love of husband and wife. It transcends these (while it can also incorporate them) and allows us to love by virtue of the beloved’s relationship to God or by virtue of the beloved being God (who should be the first and foremost object of our love). God’s love for us is agape love, and we in turn, by His grace, love Him and love those whom He has created, even those who wish to do us harm.[iv]
Hatred against God or neighbor is always contrary to love by definition, since God is love itself. We cannot truly love God if we do not love the image of God in His creation. So hatred of neighbor is hatred of God by proxy. Scripture also clearly states that he who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar (1 John 4:20). However, we can hate sin and hate the sin in others. This is a righteous hatred in that it hates what harms the other. Sin, as a violation against self or other, expresses hatred toward self or other, so hatred of hatred is not contrary to love but expresses it.[v]
i. Benedict Ashley, “The Theological Virtues: Charity,” Moral Theology: Biblical Foundations, (Catholic Educational Television, 2006).
ii. Alexander Moseley, “Philosophy of Love,” 17 April 2001, The Interent Encyclopedia of Love, 17 April 2010,
iii. Ashley, “The Theological Virtues: Charity.”
iv. Benedict Ashley, “Moral Theology: Lecture 7A—Lesson Thirteen,” International Catholic University, 17 April 2010,
v. Bendict Ashley, Living the Truth in Love: A Biblical Introduction to Moral Theology, (Staten Island: St. Pauls, 1996), 452.