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. (1 John 2:9-11 NIV)
John’s claim in this passage is challenging. Either you love, or you hate. There is no middle ground. If I do not love a fellow believer, then I hate them. We might well argue that what I feel toward another believer, while maybe not love, is certainly not hate. We want a neutral middle ground. But John does not give that to us.
John compares love and hate for our spiritual siblings with light and darkness. You are either walking in the light of Christ or stumbling in the darkness. You are walking in the light if you love your brother or sister. But if not, you are blindly walking in the dark.
What It Means to Love
To understand what John is saying, it is important to know what it means to love. This love is not an emotional feeling we have toward others, although that may be there. Rather, it is choosing to do what is best for another and caring for them, putting their interests ahead of your own. And doing this regardless of how they are treating you. When I fail to do that, I fail to love. And that is what hate is—a failure to love.
John is writing to people who are a part of a local community of believers. And the force of what he is saying is especially true there. Together we are the body of Christ. And within that body, there can be no excuse for not loving each other. When we fail to love, we walk in darkness, hurting both ourselves and the body of Christ. Love one another!