Yet hates … (1 John 2:9)
I can remember the day I was sitting on our sofa at home, study Bible in my lap and coming to 1 John 2:9. I just couldn’t breeze on over to verse 10 because of these two words that stopped me right there – “yet hates.” Immediately, I saw that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John just directed his pen to address, once again, the heart. But … what did John mean when he chose such a strong word like hates? What he was saying to the early Christians of Asia Minor is what we see in our world today; not only among those lost without Christ, but sadly among many professing Christians.
“yet hates…” the more I studied just what that one word [hate] is addressing, I understood clearly that it should never ever describe anyone who professes to walk in the love and light of God….who claim to have fellowship with God, Who is Love. We should never be unforgiving. Actually, we are never more like God than when we are forgiving and we demonstrate that forgiveness sincerely.
“yet hates …” is not only referencing being unforgiving. It is also addressing underlying detestation, hostility, ill will, grudges, false accusations, hurtful attitude, bitterness, rejection, avoidance, spreading gossip, slander, and working against another believer.
You see, this past Wednesday night in class, we touched on two areas of a believer’s life that provides assurance of their salvation. 1) obedience to God’s commandments, and 2) love for others.
In 1 John 2:9-11, John mentions that we can’t claim to be a true Christian [to be walking in the Light] and also have hatred for a brother or sister in Christ. We read in John’s epistle that those who trust in God are described as walking in the light. God wants us to live in the light as He is in the light (John 3:21; 1 John 1:7). Walking in the light means living in obedience to Him and not living in sin. So, in 1 John 2:11 we are warned that he who hates his brother walks in darkness, they are not in the Light and are blinded by sin.
John explains, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates [underlying detestation, hostility, ill will, grudges, unforgiving attitude, bitterness, rejection, avoidance, spreading gossip, slander, and working against] a brother or sister is still in the darkness – they are not walking in the Light. However, anyone who loves [selflessly, sacrificially, and genuinely loves] their brother and sister lives in the light … it is the spiritual course of their life to show love from a heart that is purified by the love of Christ. 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). These are not words that we can brush over lightly…these are words that expose the true spiritual condition of our life. We just can’t say “I love God” and yet, withhold true biblical kind, generous gracious, and serving love from a professing Christian.
Those who walk in the light are to be marked by love. This love is shown in obedience to God (John 15:10; 1 John 2:3) and in loving others (John 15:12, 17; 1 John 4:7–8). Love for others is a sign of God’s presence in the life of a believer (John 13:34–35; 1 John 4:7–12).
And here is the truth that we studied last Wednesday in 1 John 2:9 and it’s this – Since God is love, anyone who does not love others shows that God is not in him. They are walking in darkness. That is a heavy truth that lands on our hearts with penetrating conviction! And that’s a good thing…the Holy Spirit is a good Counselor and Friend who loves us so much that when we harbor any hatred in any form toward another believer, He will lovingly press in on that sin so that we confess, repent, and have our hearts and mind transformed by the Word of God so that we live in the Light.
Friend, God’s Word works God’s heart in us! That is such a humbling act of God’s grace and mercy. Loving others is the second greatest commandment!
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ – Matthew 22:36-39
First John 4:20 says, “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.” A liar? That’s a strong thing to say, isn’t it? But it’s truth. It’s truth from the mouth of God. When we sit here and read that verse slowly, taking every morsel of it to heart, it grips our soul and we see clearly that loving others is not a suggestion for believers — it is a command (Mark 12:30–31). And we see that for us to claim to have a relationship with God, it can’t be on any other terms but His. We can’t “say we love God” and live with others on the terms we choose or the terms that make us comfortable in our own flesh.
Jesus told His followers, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Love for others manifests our love for God, who is Light, so he who hates his brother walks in darkness, showing that God’s love is not in him. It’s not there. They may ‘think’ and ‘say’ they are truly born again, but John is assuring the Christians in Asia Minor that ONE of the tests that shows they have truly been regenerated by God [born from above] is how they love one another and how they love those lost in sin.
Our love for others is another way the world can see God. Those who trust God live in love because this truth has completely changed their thinking and the course of their life.
Yet, it is possible for people to claim they love God without truly knowing Him. That’s why John warns that he who hates his brother actually walks in darkness. Loving others distinguishes those walking in light from those walking in darkness. In John 13:35, after Jesus commands His disciples to love one another, He says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Believers love others because “[God] first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
We are to love others in all we do (1 Corinthians 16:14). We show love by our attitudes as well as our actions. Philippians 2:3–4 gives us a practical way to show love: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” James 2:14–17 tells us to live out our faith by providing what others need instead of simply mouthing words of blessing. As we love others as Jesus loved us (Ephesians 5:2), we can walk in light, but he who hates his brother walks in darkness.
God’s love for us changes our lives and affects the way we see others who are also made in His image. The person who loves God will love others. He who hates his brother walks without Him, showing that the love of God is not in him. Those who walk in the light have been given the reasons to love others and have God’s Spirit living in them to help them truly love.
As a genuine Christian, just reading these words of John leads us to examine our own hearts and actions and attitudes. Why? Because loving others can be difficult at times; even those who genuinely love God and walk in His light still struggle against sinful tendencies (1 John 1:8–10; Romans 7—8). But God is faithful to give us His heart for others if we seek Him. It’s a matter of the heart.
The more we understand His great love, the more we’ll desire to share it with the world through our words and deeds. Love speaks truth and genuinely seeks the benefit of the other (John 15:13; Romans 5:8; 12:9–21; 1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:15). God can give us the desire, wisdom, and anything else necessary to love others with His love. As we continue to walk in His light, we will continue to live out His love.
Have a wonderful weekend! Maybe consider starting your day outside with your Bible, and prayerfully go to the Lord confessing any form of ‘hatred’ that you may have been experiencing toward anyone. Confess and repent of that sin, and just know that as a child of God, He finds no reason for condemnation toward you. He delights to forgive, and He is faithful and just to cleanse you from all unrighteousness. Then, is there an action to follow? A call to make, a letter to write, or a text to send? The Holy Spirit will guide you in the action to follow, and also anticipate the Providence of God as He will arrange circumstances so that you can demonstrate love and forgiveness.
Next Wednesday we will study 1 John 2:12-29.
See you then,