1 John 2:9-11
Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
We don’t use the word hate very often, at least not in reference to other people. Can you think of anyone, maybe excluding politicians or athletes who play for a rival team, who you would say you hate? Probably not, I hope. The Bible, however, talks a lot about hate and about enemies. Maybe ancient times were just more brutal, or people’s lives were more interconnected with those who could oppress them. Then again, maybe we have just learned to be more polite in how we talk about other people. Maybe we prefer painting with different shades of emotional color between the extremes of love and hate. But what if John’s point is that if you don’t actively, intentionally love a brother or sister, it’s as though you hate them? We may not like that sort of black-and-white view of relationships, but in light of Jesus’ command to love one another, maybe there are fewer gray areas than we think.
Some people say that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. The Biblical standard for love seems to suggest that indifference is the moral equivalent of hate. If, for example, you know that someone in the church is suffering, perhaps from a sudden financial crisis, and you have the means to help but choose instead to ignore their need, that would be a failure to love, right? Your indifference would leave that person in the same sort of darkness as would an attitude of hate. You might think, “Well, I didn’t cause their problems so it’s not my responsibility to help.” But perhaps that’s exactly where the line is drawn between love and hate. To love that person would mean helping them through their hardship; anything less would not be love.
This is a hard teaching, and we shouldn’t allow our application of John’s words to get hung up on the meaning of hate. The real issue here is what does it mean to love. We don’t need to worry about whether we might hate someone if we first seek to love them. As we love one another, the light of Christ glows more brightly within our fellowship and becomes more visible to those outside the church. The more we love, the more the light overcomes the darkness. May that become more and more the reality of our church.
Father in Heaven, You are the source of love and light. Help me to love others as You love me. Help me to treat others the way Jesus would, for their good and for Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian