“He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now.”
Verse 9 connects closely to verse 8. John now gives a concrete example of verse 8. This is the third and final spurious claim to intimate fellowship with God in this chapter (2:4,6).
Hatred of other believers is a sure sign of being out of fellowship with God. John tests the spurious claim in a practical situation.
John picks up another test of character in this verse. The test here is the hate/love test. This is the fifth time John challenges inconsistency between claim and conduct (1:6,8,10; 2:4). There is a sixth in 4:20. Love concludes the three criteria for fellowship with God: “keep,” “walk,” and “love.”
He who says he is in the light,
The Gnostics mistakenly took academic knowledge of God for fellowship with God. Genuine knowledge involves correspondent involvement with truth. Genuine “knowledge” (fellowship) involves the corresponding action; therefore, anyone who claims to be in the light demonstrates it in some way.
Being “in the light” is equivalent to walking in fellowship with God.
and hates his brother,
The Greek of “hates” conveys habitual hate. It especially carries the idea of malicious and unjustifiable bad thoughts toward others – to detest. It is a sense of animosity without cause.
“His brother” is a reference to a member of the family of God, a Christian.
is in darkness until now
Christians who characteristically hate their brothers are in the darkness of being out of fellowship with God. This is the absence of fellowship with the God of light. God’s love cannot be neutral.
Genuine Christians can hate other Christians. That is why John challenges the believer to radical love. We cannot toy with divine love if we love biblically. A Christian loves self-sacrificially.
We cannot hate our brother and walk in the light simultaneously. There is strong antipathy between God and the believer who hates his fellow Christian because God is pure and absolute light.
Darkness means, in this context, to be out of fellowship with God or carnal. We cannot claim to be in the light and hate fellow Christians. We test our fellowship with God by whether we love Christians. There is no gray area between light and darkness when it comes to God, for He is absolute in His character. We cannot be in fellowship with God and out of fellowship with a Christian concurrently.
Fellowship with God depends on loving members of the family of God.
Christians do hate other Christians. When this happens, we step out of fellowship with God. Hate stumbles our walk with God.
Without love for the family of God, there can no love for God. Hating the members of the family of God is equivalent to walking in darkness. Hate and fellowship with God cannot mix.
We can hate overtly or covertly. Either way, we no longer fellowship with God. Coldness, isolation, or exclusion of another Christian hinders our walk with God.
Ro 13:8, 10, 8 “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law… 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
We cannot claim fellowship with God and make a practice of hating the one we profess to own as our brother. Hate is not “not loving.” Hatred is the absence of divine love produced by the Holy Spirit for fellow Christians.
Apart from walking in the light, all else is phony fellowship. It may be a human attraction, but it is not divine love. Human attraction has its preferences based on biases that we pick up along the way. We may like some but hate others. Many may be human unattractive to us. It is also easy to be attracted to those we are naturally attracted to. It is not spirituality to be attracted to those whom we are naturally attracted. Attraction to personality or physical appearance is not love.
Can you say, “As far as I know, there is nothing between me and anyone else that I am free to love.”?