When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” – John 21.15
The Inverse or the opposite? A discussion at an IEEE computer society meeting a few nights ago might seem like an unlikely place to be talking about love, but amid the discussion of a networking concept, the presenter distinguished between the opposite of a thing and the inverse of a thing. “What is the opposite of love? Most people would say it’s hate, but the opposite of both hate and love is apathy.” I didn’t fully follow this distinction, but the thought process started me thinking about synonyms, how we use them, and what they mean.
So, what is the opposite of love, and how is it different (if it is!) from inverse, converse, and contrapositive? Let’s take a look!
What do those words even mean? Time to dust off those logic definitions and find out! Let’s examine a statement and the 3 related statements we can draw from it, and evaluate whether these statements are true.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” – John 14.15-17
If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
If you keep my commandments, you will love me.
This is false – without a heart changed and set to love God, outward obedience is insufficient to form love.
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘LORD, LORD, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” – Matthew 7.22
If you do not love me, you will not keep my commandments.
This is also false—there are lots of moral people who, even without loving Jesus, are capable of keeping Jesus’s commandments. It is possible to honor God with our lips and obey commandments taught by men, while also having a heart that does not love God
And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men,
therefore, behold, I will again
do wonderful things with this people,
with wonder upon wonder;
and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish,
and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.” – Isaiah 29.13-14
If you do not keep my commandments, you will not love me.
This is almost true—but more accurately stated as— if you do not bear fruit in keeping with repentance, then you do not love me . UPDATE: a more math-minded reader than I pointed out that the contrapositive of a statement is always true, so ignore the previous statement! The correct phrasing of the contrapositive should be: if you will not keep me commandments, then you do not love me. This is true!
Loving God expresses itself in the fruit of good works in believers. Though believers are imperfect, backslide, go through perhaps even seasons of life where they hold on to sin, the fruit of a heart truly in love with Christ is a walk that is increasingly obedient to his commands.
What is the opposite of love? Is it hate, or is it apathy? Since opposite, unlike converse, inverse, and contrapositive, doesn’t have a strict definition in logic, I am left with a dictionary lookup to decide. The definition of opposite is as follows:
1. Placed or located directly across from something else or from each other: opposite sides of a building.
2. Facing the other way; moving or tending away from each other: opposite directions.
3. Being the other of two complementary or mutually exclusive things: the opposite sex; an opposite role to the lead in the play.
As an an adjective, we would say that love and hate are opposite emotions, whereas apathy is the absence of emotion. As a result, to answer the original question in an extremely roundabout way, the opposite of love must be hate, but in the absence of love, there is indifference.