Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. (1 John 4:20-21 NIV)
This passage is one that I find to be very personally applicable, and very challenging; it is a challenge for me to love, especially those outside of my circle. I have, in the past, been hurt very much by the actions of some fellow believers. I believe they were acting in what they felt to be the best interests of the church. But it hurt nonetheless. And the human part of me wanted to respond in a less-than-loving way. But I also know, and this passage confirms, that was the wrong approach. I needed to love them.
I do not believe that John is talking here about emotional feelings toward people. Personally, I seem to have little direct control over how I feel about people. But for John, love is a verb, it is something that we do. It is acting in a loving fashion toward them, looking to do what is best for them.
And I believe that, for John, hate is similar. It is acting in a less-than-loving fashion toward another person. John gives us no middle ground. If I do not love my brother or sister in the Lord, then I hate them.
Unlike emotional feelings, acting in a loving fashion is something that I can choose to do, even if I find it difficult. And it is really something that I need to do. As John says, how can I claim to love God, and yet not love those he has put around me? Jesus has to be my example. Hanging on the cross. Ridiculed by the ones he was dying for. And he forgave them. Can I do any less than take on the challenge to love others?