Verse 11: Spiritual Blindness
But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.
Someone may attend Church, volunteer, lead, and be well studied; they may give all their money to the poor, be mighty in spiritual deeds, and be extremely zealous for the cause, but they display the darkness in them by their disposition of hate towards their brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Anyone who hates a brother or sister”: John’s “present tense active” verbs like “hates” and “loves” denote active conditions and not singular actions. Actively living in hate is a spiritual impossibility for Christians because Christ lives and abides in them, and he fills their life with the true light of God. Christians cannot actively “exclude”, “despise”, or “slander” their brothers and sisters in Christ.
Furthermore, “hatred” in John’s epistle is not confined to acts of violence or malice alone. John’s definition of hatred expands to include things like withholding material benefits from brothers or sisters who are in need:
1st John 3:17 (CSB) If anyone has this world’s goods and sees a fellow believer in need but withholds compassion from him—how does God’s love reside in him?
“Is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness”: both the condition of their being and the path of their feet are in darkness. Their hate reveals that their life is still in bondage to the dark tyranny of sin and all their doings are done in the bondage of sin. Even the greatest acts of virtue and spirituality of those who harbor and demonstrate hate to their brothers and sisters are performed and accomplished in a state of sin!
Isaiah 64:6 (CSB) All of us have become like something unclean, and all our righteous acts are like a polluted garment; all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities carry us away like the wind.
1st Corinthians 13:1-3 (CSB) If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.
When we are in the darkness, all our deeds are done in the darkness as well; even our most valiant acts of righteousness are like filthy rags.
“They do not know where they are going”: sinners do not comprehend the destination of their path:
Bede the Venerable (c. 672–735): The person who has turned away from the light of Christ goes ignorantly into hell, blind and unaware of the punishment which awaits him.
Sinners know where they are going on earth. They are able to formulate well-laid plans for the whole of their life, but sinners do not see the punishment that awaits them. But why can’t they see?
“Because the darkness has blinded them”: there is no greater inebriant on earth than sin!
Hebrews 3:13 (NASB) But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
Sinners are intoxicated by the pleasures of sin and fooled by its deceitfulness. They never accept that God will punish their sin! They do not understand God because they are in the darkness of sin.