This Apostle Issues A Serious Challenge To All Christians

John, the Apostle of love, guided by the Holy Spirit, gives us a very challenging thought to consider and to take seriously to heart here. This is at the very core of what it means to be a Christian. He is reminding us, in another way, of Jesus’ advice about the subtle danger of hypocrisy. He is also getting us to reflect on the question, “Who is my brother or my sister?”

What is hypocrisy? It is a pretense of virtue, or moral principles, or, in this case, a religious belief, that one does not fully posses. This is what Jesus accused the Pharisees of on many occasions. John is pointing out how we can easily fall into a dangerous kind of pharisaical behavior as believers here when he says, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.” The two important words for us to focus our meditation on are “claims” and “brother.” The former points to the potential error, the latter points to Jesus’ law of love.

To claim one thing and to do another is the definition of hypocrisy. In this case, to claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ who is the manifestation, the evidence of, and the model of the Father’s love, while at the same time harboring hatred for another in our hearts and minds, is hypocrisy. Hate is in direct opposition to love. As Christians, then, to think in terms of “us versus them,” or to be utterly indifferent to another’s woundedness, or to his or her needs, is to “proclaim the light,” but to be, “still in the darkness.” Since every single human being is a child of God, created in the same love, the same image and likeness, therefore, all human beings are my brothers and sisters. For a Christian to limit brotherhood to a particular race, or to a particular denomination, is to be living “still in darkness.” Yes, it is true that others may hate us, either out their ignorance of God, or because they have become habituated to pride, selfishness and evil. But, if Jesus is our perfect model, and he commands us to love one another as he loved us, then, in order to really claim to live in the light, we must love ALL others as our brothers and sisters. To live in the light, then, is to live in a love so grand and so complete that we will be able to forgive as we have been forgiven, and to be compassionate as the Father has been compassionate toward us. If we hate ANYONE, we can not claim to be of the light. We can not claim to be followers of the One who is the “Light that dispels all darkness.”

Jesus calls on all who believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God, to preach the Gospel to the world. The Holy Spirit tells us, through John’s words here, that, if we proclaim the “light” of the Gospel, and Jesus’ commandment to love as he did, and yet, treat our brother or sister hatefully, or with indifference, no matter how we may rationalize such behavior, we will still be in the darkness. We are given the positive view of this idea in the very next verse: “Anyone who loves their brother lives in the light and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.” (verse 10) But those who walk in the dark, “do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” (verse 11) It is the desire of every Christian to preach and to walk in the light. It is in this alone that we would be true to both Christ and to ourselves.

Lord, dispel the darkness of any unseen hatreds or prejudices that might hide in our hearts and minds. Help us to think, to speak, and to act only in the light of your love, so that in doing so, we might bring those who are in darkness into your light. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.