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The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11

by Stephen Hebert on Wednesday - 11 April 2007

in Biblical Studies, New Testament

This is the 9th part in an ongoing series on the Epistles of John.

English Standard Version Nestle-Aland 27
Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness ha blinded his eyes. ὁ λέγων ἐν τῷ φωτὶ εἶναι καὶ τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ μισῶν ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ ἐστὶν ἕως ἄρτι. ὁ ἀγαπῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ φωτὶ μένει καὶ σκάνδαλον ἐν αὐτῷ οὐκ ἔστιν· ὁ δὲ μισῶν τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ ἐστὶν καὶ ἐν τῇ περιπατεῖ καὶ οὐκ οἷδεν ποῦ ὑπάγει, ὅτι ἡ σκοτία ἐτύφλωσεν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτοῦ.

Here again, John is coming back to this idea of the Two Ways. There is a way of light and a way of darkness. These two ways are intimately wrapped up in this new command that John is writing (2:8).

Central to these verses is the definition of “brother”—what exactly does John mean by “brother”? We could take it in a very literal sense and assume that “brother” is “my mother’s son.” However, I think that this would be too narrow. I just doubt that John’s concern is limited to how we treat our literal brothers.

A little broader definition would be “my mother’s children.” The greek word ἀδελφός is probably gender neutral. It probably means brother/sister. This is why many translations of the Bible render the plural ἀδελφοί as not just “brothers” but “brothers and sisters.” Again, however, I feel that this is too narrow; it should not be limited to our siblings.

Rather, I think John is talking about the human race as a fellowship of “brothers”—we’re “brothers from other mothers.” The reality for John (and you and me) is that we are all kin. We all trace our family trees back to Noah. When John speaks of “brother” he speaks of anyone.

We are commanded by John not to hate, but to love our brothers.

This seems so simple, so central to our Christian faith. In reality, however, it is a difficult thing to do, and the consequences, as John sets them forth, are pretty rough. Loving our brother means we are walking in the light. That’s a good thing. Hating our brother means we are walking in darkness.

What does this darkness entail?

  1. Lack of Direction
  2. Blindness

In The Empire Strikes Back (I know, I’m a geek), Yoda tells Luke that anger leads to hate which leads to the dark side. Star Wars is biblical! Hate blinds Darth Vader to what is good; hate nearly blinds Luke too.

When we hate our fellow humans we are not acting in a Christ-like manner. Jesus didn’t hate anyone. On the cross he asked God to forgive them. God loves humans…loves ‘em! When we hate, we aren’t acting in accordance with the will of God.

I’ve found that when we aren’t acting in accordance with the will of God we tend to lose our sense of purpose. We lose our direction. We become aimless wanderers, serving false gods like money and sex.

What’s worse is that when we’ve lost this sense of purpose, we become blinded to the truth, blinded to reality. Not only do we lose direction, but we lose any notion of what is true and right.

All of these negative consequences stem from hate.

How do we let go of that hate?

Article Series - The Epistles of John

  1. The Epistles of John (Part 1): 1 John 1:1–4
  2. The Epistles of John (Part 2): 1 John 1:5
  3. The Epistles of John (Part 3): 1 John 1:6–7
  4. The Epistles of John (Part 4): 1 John 1:8–10
  5. The Epistles of John (Part 5): 1 John 2:1
  6. The Epistles of John (Part 6): 1 John 2:2
  7. The Epistles of John (Part 7): 1 John 2:3–6
  8. The Epistles of John (Part 8): 1 John 2:7–8
  9. The Epistles of John (Part 9): 1 John 2:9–11
  10. The Epistles of John (Part 10): 1 John 2:12
  11. The Epistles of John (Part 11): 1 John 2:13
  12. The Epistles of John (Part 12): 1 John 2:14
  13. The Epistles of John (Part 13): 1 John 2:15
  14. The Epistles of John (Part 14): 1 John 2:16
  15. The Epistles of John (Part 15): 1 John 2:17
  16. The Epistles of John (Part 16): 1 John 2:18
  17. The Epistles of John (Part 17): 1 John 2:19
  18. The Epistles of John (Part 18): 1 John 2:20
  19. The Epistles of John (Part 19): 1 John 2:21
  20. The Epistles of John (Part 20): 1 John 2:22
  21. The Epistles of John (Part 21): 1 John 2:23–25
  22. The Epistles of John (Part 22): 1 John 2:26–27
  23. The Epistles of John (Part 23): 1 John 2:28
  24. The Epistles of John (Part 24): 1 John 2:29
  25. The Epistles of John (Part 25): 1 John 3:1–3
  26. The Epistles of John (Part 26): 1 John 3:4–6
  27. The Epistles of John (Part 27): 1 John 3:7–10
  28. The Epistles of John (Part 28): 1 John 3:11–12
  29. The Epistles of John (Part 29): 1 John 3:13
  30. The Epistles of John (Part 30): 1 John 3:14-18
  31. The Epistles of John (Part 31): 1 John 3:19–22
  32. The Epistles of John (Part 32): 1 John 3:23–24
  33. The Epistles of John (Part 33): 1 John 4:1–3
  34. The Epistles of John (Part 34): 1 John 4:4–6
  35. The Epistles of John (Part 35): 1 John 4:7-8
  36. The Epistles of John (Part 36): 1 John 4:9
  37. The Epistles of John (Part 37): 1 John 4:10
  38. The Epistles of John (Part 38): 1 John 4:11-12
  39. The Epistles of John (Part 39): 1 John 4:13–14
  40. The Epistles of John (Part 40): 1 John 4:15
  41. The Epistles of John (Part 41): 1 John 4:16–17
  42. The Epistles of John (Part 42): 1 John 4:18–19
  43. The Epistles of John (Part 43): 1 John 4:20–21
  44. The Epistles of John (Part 44): 1 John 5:1
  45. The Epistles of John (Part 45): 1 John 5:2-3

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