The church is described in the Bible as the family or “household” of God (Eph. 2:19). In this household, God is the Father, Jesus Christ is the elder brother, and Christians are the children of God. We have experienced the new birth (Jn. 3:3-5). Upon our obedience to the gospel, God adopted us into this heavenly family (Eph. 1:5). To be in this family is a blessing that springs from the love of God (I Jn. 3:1). In this family, Christians are brothers and sisters in Christ. This relationship is supposed to be a loving relationship. Consider Peter’s words: “Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeign love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). The English phrase “love of the brethren” is one word in the Greek language (philadelphos) and is the word from which we get the word “Philadelphia” which means brotherly love.
Most of the time when we discuss love, we talk about agape love. Agape love is the supreme form of love that one can demonstrate for another. It is the love that God demonstrated toward us (I Jn. 4:19). We, however, do not discuss the subject of brotherly love very often. Let’s examine this type of love in the remainder of this article.
Brother love is mentioned seven times in the New Testament: “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). “But as touching brotherly love ye have no need that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another” (1 Thes. 4:9). “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (1 Pet. 3:8). “And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Pet. 1:7). “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1). With this many exhortations for us to show brotherly love among ourselves, it is imperative for us to understand it and practice it.
Brotherly love is simply defined as “fraternal love.” Thayer says that it is the “love of brothers and sisters.” He also says: “…in the NT love which Christians cherish for each other as brethren.” What unites Christians as a family is the precious blood of Christ. The bond that they share should be closer than the ties of human blood. The bond should be closer than the blood that binds races and cultures together. It is a spiritual relationship that excels all others. In this relationship, there is a deep fondness that brothers and sisters share with each other.
The words of First Peter 1:22 set forth three elements of brotherly love. He tells us that brotherly love should be unfeigned. Unfeigned means “undissembled, without hypocrisy, sincere.” An unfeigned love is the same at all times. It does not display itself one way to a person’s face and another way behind the person’s back. It does not wish a person well outwardly when in the background one is plotting and scheming the individual’s demise.
Second, brotherly love is pure. Strong defines the word as “clean.” Some people love others out of corrupt motives. They love in order to see what they can get out of another. Their love appears to be genuine, but the heart displaying the actions is corrupt. When the corrupt heart gets what it wants, the love ceases.
Third, brotherly love is fervent. The word “fervently” means “intently.” It is love that is “on fire.” Its warmth and caring can be easily felt by the one loved. The person who is loved will almost think that this love is too much. The one who loves fervently can never love enough and their love just keeps giving and giving and giving.
Brotherly love is also a love that involves man’s affections. In other words, the feelings of man are contained in this love. “Be ye kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Rom. 12:10). This love hurts for others. This love rejoices with others. This love has compassion on others. It is a love that will pour out tears on behalf of another. It is not a love that is cold and stand-offish. The person who is loved is drawn toward the deep affections expressed by his brother or sister in Christ.
The importance of brotherly love is found in Second Peter 1. Peter lists brotherly love as one of the Christian graces. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Pet. 1:5-7). Read Peter’s words several times. The blessings of the Christian graces, including brotherly love, are enormous and astounding.
The Hebrew penman wrote: “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1). Amen! Brotherly love among Christians will help us to heal our divisions. Brotherly love will give us a support system that will always be available to us. Brotherly love will draw those in the world to the body of Christ. The world will truly say: “Look at how they love one another!” Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, LET BROTHERLY LOVE CONTINUE!
Victor preaches for the Oceanside church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL
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