“Anyone who claims to be in this light while hating his brother is still in the dark.” 1 John 2:9 (CJB)
When we think of sins, most think of the big ones such as murder, adultery, pornography, and drunkenness. Hatred towards our fellow man, in particular towards our brothers and sisters in Christ is a sin we often overlook. That is unfortunate given the Apostle John in 1 John 2:9 equates hatred towards another as akin to walking in darkness. Those who claim to be followers of Christ should not live in hatred towards others. Walking in the light in an attitude of love is incompatible with walking in darkness in an attitude of hate.
Given that one manner in which the world will know we are followers of Christ is by our demonstration of love for one another (John 13:35), to have an attitude of hatred is not in keeping with what God expects of His people. In order to understand what this hatred is all about, let’s spend some time unpacking the short but powerfully important passage of 1 John 2:9.
The first half of this verse notes there are those who make the claim they are in the light. The Greek word translated as light in 1 John 2:9 is phōs. It has a variety of meanings all related to something giving off light. We find in Scripture those who walk in the light are the righteous. This begs the question as to what is the source of this light we are to walk in as God’s people. Psalm 119:105 reminds us “Your word is a lamp for my foot and light on my path.” In order to walk in the light, the follower of Christ must walk according to the precepts and instructions found in God’s Word which is the light that shines on the path of life, determining for us how it is we should live.
We also find that all of God’s commands found in His Word are rooted in loving God and loving others (Matthew 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-31). Loving God and loving others are behaviors that encapsulate all of God’s commands to us throughout Scripture. This means to walk in the light is to walk in the truth of God’s Word which commands us to walk in love towards God and others at all times. If we claim to walk in the light and if we claim to have Scripture as the light and foundation for our life, walking in love will be a hallmark of our life.
The Apostle John notes in 1 John 2:9 that walking in love is not always the case for most people. There are many who claim to walk in the light yet continue to hate their brother. John declares that hating your brother is not walking in the light but is rather walking in darkness. The Greek word translated as dark or darkness is scotia, meaning “the darkness due to want of light.” It is often a metaphor used in Scripture to describe those who are ignorant of God’s Word and His commands. This term is often specifically related to the wicked and those in bondage to sin.
Of further note is what is meant by the word hate. John uses the word miseō which means “to hate, pursue with hatred, detest.” We can clearly see that such an attitude is one that is demonstrated by a pursuit of hatred, a continued attitude towards our brother rooted in detesting the very sight of them or even the sound of their name. This means hatred is an active problem and rears its ugly head in a number of ways in our lives each and every day.
As followers of Christ, we have been delivered from bondage through the shed blood of Christ. With that said, we still have to deal with the sin nature. One element of sin that continually entangles us is that of hatred. When we claim to walk in the light yet allow a root of hatred and bitterness to maintain its hold in our lives, we are not allowing the light of God’s Word to penetrate the darkness that still remains and wants to still grab hold of us. In order to deal with the root of bitterness, we have to allow God’s Word to sink into every fiber of our being. God’s Word is “at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword — it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). When we walk in the light of God’s Word, it will shine into those dark corners of our hearts, cutting through that root of bitterness and hatred.
Hate can be demonstrated in so many ways. We may think that hate is simply snippy words or a bad attitude or grinding your teeth and rolling your eyes when someone’s name is mentioned. While those are certainly indications of hate, walking in a spirit of sinful hatred towards others is actually quite more. Glenn Barker aptly notes, “Whenever a brother has need and one does not help him, then one has despised and, in fact, hated his brother.” That reality certainly puts us all in the category of walking in a spirit of hate more often than we would like to admit.
Dealing with hate in our lives is a must. Walking in hate towards another, whether they are a brother or sister in the Lord or someone outside the household of faith is akin to walking in darkness. Walking in darkness is equated all throughout Scripture as sinful behavior. Thus hatred is sin and sin in all its insidious forms must be dealt with through the work of the Holy Spirit. When the light of God’s Word permeates our hearts and minds, we can walk in the light which is love towards God and others. Being obedient to God’s commands is the very definition of walking in love. John Calvin comments “the love of God teaches us to love men, and we also in reality prove our love to God by loving men at his command. However this may be, it remains always certain that love is the rule of life. And this ought to be the more carefully noticed, because all choose rather almost anything else than this one commandment of God.”
If you are struggling in this area, spend time in prayer and in passionate study of God’s Word. Pray that the light of God’s Word and His love would shine through in all areas of your life and in your dealings with others. Pray that God through the work of the Holy Spirit would uproot the sin of hatred in your life and that He would replace it with love and compassion.
 Glenn Barker. “Commentary on 1, 2, & 3 John” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 12: Hebrews through Revelation. Edited by Frank Gaebelein. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 317.