If anyone claims to be in the light but hates his brother, he is still in the darkness.
I. THAT THE EXERCISE OF BROTHERLY LOVE IS AN EVIDENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light." To be "in the light" and to "abide in the light" is to live a true Christian life, a life in harmony with the light of God. By the "brother" we are to understand here neither our fellow-man nor our neighbour, but the members of the Christian community, those who by profession are Christian brethren. We say, "by profession," because it is clear that in verses 9 and 11 persons are spoken of who are professedly but not really Christians. We show that we are in the light by our affection for those who are in the light. "God is Light" and "God is Love;" if we are sharers in his light we shall also be sharers in his love. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34, 35). "In this one thing," says Stier, "and in no other, is discipleship approved. It is not knowledge which avails, not a so-called faith, even though, like that of Judas, before the devil entered him, it could cast out devils and remove mountains; rather is this knowledge and this genuine faith known by this love. As little avails the confession of my Name, or of all the truth concerning my Person and my kingdom. Where this walking in the truth is not found, the confession becomes an all the more frightful lie. As the disciples of the Pharisees were known by their phylacteries, and as the disciples of John were known by their fasting, and every school by its shibboleth - the mark of the disciples of Christ is to be love. And that a genuine love, as Christ loveth."
II. THE EXERCISE OF BROTHERLY LOVE PROMISES THE STABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. "He that loveth his brother abideth in the light." Love is an expression of faith; it also increases and invigorates faith. The outgoing of the heart in holy affection to the Christian brotherhood strengthens the new life within the heart. Pure affection for others augments the wealth of our being. "The heart grows rich in giving." The exercise of brotherly love promotes the sanctity and strength of the entire Christian life, the susceptibility of the soul to Divine influences, its firmness in holy principles, and fidelity and facility in Christian practices.
III. THE EXERCISE OF BROTHERLY LOVE PROMOTES THE SECURITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. "There is none occasion of stumbling in him."
1. Brotherly love will give no occasion of stumbling to others. Love will keep us from doing any wrong to others, from giving any cause of offence to others, or from doing anything whereby they may be led astray from the path of rectitude or caused to stumble in that path. "Love worketh no ill to his neighbour."
2. Brotherly love will preserve us from stumbling ourselves. Love is not quick to take offence. Love is forbearing, patient, humble; and humility walks peacefully and safely where pride painfully stumbles and falls. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself," etc. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
IV. THE ABSENCE OF BROTHERLY LOVE IS AN EVIDENCE OF A LIFE OF SIN, NOTWITHSTANDING A PROFESSION OF LIFE IN THE LIGHT. "He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in the darkness even until now He that hateth his brother is in the darkness," etc. St. John mentions no middle condition between love of the brethren and hatred of them. As Dusterdieck says, "On the one side is God, on the other the world: here is life, there is death (1 John 3:14): here love, there hate, i.e., murder (1 John 3:15); there is no medium. In the space between, is nothing. Life may as yet be merely elementary and fragmentary, love may be as yet weak and poor; but still, life in God and its necessary demonstration in love, is present really and truly, and the Word of our Lord is true, 'He that is not against me is with me' (Luke 9:50): and on the other side, the life according to the flesh, the attachment to the world, and the necessary action of this selfishness by means of hatred, may be much hidden, may be craftily covered and with splendid outer surface; but in the secret depth of the man, there, where spring the real fountains of his moral life, is not God but the world; the man is yet in death, and can consequently love nothing but himself and must hate his brother, and then that other Word of the Lord is true, 'He that is not for me is against me' (Luke 11:23). For a man can only be either for or against Christ, and consequently can only have either love or hate towards his brother." Mark the characteristics of this life from which brotherly love is absent, as they are here sketched.
1. Darkness of moral condition. He "is in the darkness" - in it as the element of his moral life.
2. Darkness of moral action He "walketh in the darkness." His course of life and conduct is in keeping with the gloom of error and sin.
3. Darkness as to destination. He "knoweth not whither he goeth." He knows neither the way he is walking in nor the end to which it leads.
4. Darkness of the spiritual being. "The darkness hath blinded his eyes." Persons who have long been imprisoned in darkness have frequently lost their physical vision. So here it is said that the moral darkness in which the sinner dwells has destroyed his spiritual vision; and he walks on in moral night, imagining that he is walking in the light of day (cf. John 9:41). - W.J.
He that...hateth his brother is in darkness
Brotherly love a test and means of being and abiding with guileless spirit in the light instead of walking in darknessI. BROTHERLY LOVE CONSISTS IN THIS — that they in whom, as in Christ, this thing is true, that the darkness is passing and the true light is shining, recognise one another as, in that character and on that account, brethren. For, first, in Christ, our position with reference to that darkness is changed from what it naturally is. It is reversed. The terrible flood is not now carrying us away; we stem it holding Him — He holding us. We see it passing. Now all is changed. By grace in Christ I am in a new way. As I feebly open my heavy eyes in the upper atmosphere I am now beginning to breathe, what bright warm beam is that which lightens up the face of Him in whose arms I am, and lightens up my heart as I look and gaze on Him and cling and grow to Him? It is the Father loving me as He loveth Him. It is "the darkness passing and the true light now shining." Then, as the first confused and rapturous joy of my own narrow escape becomes collected and calm, I look around. And I see Him — for He multiplies Himself and is everywhere — I see Him doing the same kind office to one, and another, and another still, that He is doing to me, I see Him embracing them because He loved them and gave Himself for them. Shall I not hail them as my brethren? Can I hate, or refuse to love, one who is my brother on such a footing as that?
II. Hence it is that the existence of this brotherly love is A FITTING TEST OF OUR BEING "IN THE LIGHT." At all events, the absence of it is conclusive proof that we are not. Light is in itself — in its very nature and bare shining — a great extinguisher of hatred, especially of hatred among those who should be brethren. It is in the darkness that mistakes occur and misunderstandings arise. It is in the darkness that injuries are brooded over and angry passions nursed. If you, brother, and I, are at variance, it is almost certain to be because there is some darkness about us that hinders us from seeing one another clearly. Hence we imagine evil of one another and impute evil to one another. Let in the light. Let us see one another clearly. Differences between us may still remain; our views of many things may be wide as the poles asunder. But we see that we are men of like passions and like affections with one another. The light shows us that we are true brethren in spite of all.
III. The exercise of brotherly love is fitted to be THE MEANS OF OUR CONTINUING IN THE LIGHT, So as to avoid the risk of falling (ver. 10). Two benefits are here. First, positively, by means of brotherly love we abide in the light. The law of action and reaction is here very noticeable. Being in the light begets brotherly love, and brotherly love secures abiding in the light. For this brotherly love is simply love to the true light, as I see it shining in my brother as it shines in Christ. And such love to the true light, wherever and in whomsoever it is seen shining as it shines in Christ, must needs cause me to grow up more and more into the true light myself; to grow up into Christ and God in Christ. Secondly, "there is none occasion of stumbling in Him." This is a negative advantage; but it is great. Saved yourselves by grace, gratuitous and rich and full; loved with an everlasting love; grasped in the arms, in the bosom, of Him in whom and in you, as now one, "the darkness is passing and the true light is now shining" — your spirit is free, your heart enlarged. Being loved, you love. The scales of selfishness fall from off your eyes. Christ sends you to His brethren: "Go tell My brethren." And as you go to them with Christ's message and on Christ's errand, and make them more and more your brethren as they are His, you clearly see your way. He makes it clear. And you walk at liberty when you have respect to all His commandments, "loving your brother, and so abiding in the light."
(R. S. Candlish, D. D.)
He that loveth his brother abideth in the lightPsalm 82:5; Ecclesiastes 2:14). He has lost his point of orientation — "he knoweth not whither he goeth," to what unsurmised guilt and punishment. Something follows, worse than darkness above — the darkness has not only blinded him, but "blinded his very eyes" once for all. He has lost the very faculty of sight! Could the apostle have thought of creatures who, in dark caverns, not only lose the faculty of sight, but have the visive organs atrophied? Tennyson has presentedthe same image, applying it, however, not to sin, but to sorrow —
"But the night has crept into my heart,
And begun to darken my eyes."
(Abp. Wm. Alexander.)
(A. J. Bechtel.)
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