Brotherly Love

By Mike Willis

The 13 February 1984 issue of The Journal Herald, the local newspaper in Dayton, Ohio, related the story of a thirteen year old boy who saved his brothers’ lives. The newspaper related how William Holsclaw saved the lives of his three and four year old brothers. The family was living in a trailer house which caught on fire. His father awoke early in the morning to find flames in a hall between the room where he had been sleeping and the boys’ bedroom in their small mobile home.

He ran outside, broke a bedroom window, and told William to help get his two brothers out. His father related what happened. “He stood there and handed me them babies out while he was cooking. He never looked up or hesitated a minute, he did just what he was supposed to do. The flame were in there coming up his backside. He was on fire, I could see him, but there wasn’t a thing I could do except grab the babies. I didn’t think he was going to get out, but he made it . . . . All he had on was a T-shirt and underwear, and the shirt was burning on his back while he got the boys out.” The last newspaper account I saw stated that William was in critical condition but was expected to survive the ordeal.

This thirteen year old lad demonstrated what brotherly love is all about He endured pain – excruciating pain – in order to save the lives of his brothers. He put his own safety second to their good. Surely we can learn a lesson from this beautiful example of brotherly love.

A Reminder Of Jesus

This incident reminds us of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Jesus left the beauties of heaven to come to this land of sin and sorrow. For thirty-three years, He lived among men. During these years, He went about doing good. He healed the sick, made the blind able to see, enabled the lame to walk, restored the bodies of lepers, and cast demons from the demon possessed. He preached the gospel of God’s love for mankind, calling upon men to repent and obey the Word of God.

Because the common people heard him gladly, the Jewish leaders became jealous of Jesus and plotted His death. They paid one of Jesus’ close associates to betray Him into their hands. They went through the forms of justice in Jesus’ trials and then crucified Him. They nailed Him to a cross and then stood around to watch Him die. They mocked and ridiculed Him, hurling abusive speech toward the sinless Son of God.

Jesus endured the cross because He had our good in mind. Like William Holsclaw whose body burned while he passed his brothers out the window, Jesus suffered the pain of Calvary – its physical suffering and humiliation – in order that you and I might be delivered from sin. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” Qn. 15:13).

Our Love For One Another

The love which Jesus displayed for us is the kind of love which He commanded us to show one another. The apostle John wrote:

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another (1 Jn. 4:11).

We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he had not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That we who loveth God love his brother also. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat him also that is begotten of him (1 Jn. 4:19-5:1).

Sometimes we act as if love is some warm, mushy feeling which we have toward someone else. That love is more than some warm feeling of endearment should be obvious from the divine command to love one’s enemies (Matt. 5:44). The good Samaritan obviously did not have such warm feelings toward the man who fell among thieves. He did not even know him. Yet, he demonstrated love toward his neighbor (Lk. 10:25-37). Love is an act of the will, not of the emotions. It demonstrates itself by what it does. In reading 1 Corinthians 13, Paul’s unparalleled description of love, notice that Paul used verbs to describe love. He described love by showing us what love does: “charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” (13:4-7).

John emphasized the same truth when he wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 4:18). John was not denigrating the expression of love. If a person loves someone else, he should tell them. Too many suffer loneliness in spite of the fact that they are loved by many simply because their loved ones never get around to telling them how much they love and appreciate them. However, love goes much beyond the mere expression of words. It shows itself by its deeds.

The mother who tenderly nurses her sick child back to health is showing her love. The woman who cares for her father-in-law who has been paralyzed by a stroke is demonstrating her love. The thirteen year old boy who stood with flames burning the shirt off his back and passed his younger brothers out the window demonstrated his love for his brothers; his body will bear the scars of his love for the rest of his life. These acts show love in deed and in truth.

Our love toward one another should demonstrate itself. John wrote, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he

laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jn. 3:16-17).(1) Here are some ways in which our love should display itself:

1. We should relieve the physical needs of each other. In a period of high unemployment, some of our brethren have suffered financially. We must be careful not to become calloused toward these brethren. Sometimes we depend upon food stamps, unemployment, and other federally-funded programs to such an extent that we show little human compassion toward our brother. A man may have been out of work for months and no one from the church ever ask him, “What can we help you with?” or slip him a $20.00 bill. We almost want to reduce the unfortunate to the point of having to beg before we help him.

Human compassion toward one another should characterize the saints. I am reminded of Barnabas selling his property to relieve the needs of his brethren (Acts 4:36-37). How many of us would be willing to sell our second car or rental property in order to relieve the suffering of our unemployed brother?

2. We should demonstrate love in our relationships within the local church. Sometimes the church looks like some of the best people acting the meanest toward one another. Envy, jealousy, bitterness, abusive speech, gossip, suspicion, and evil surmising sometimes are rampant in the local church.

Some of us are so bound and determined to stand up for our rights that we destroy the local church. When brethren allow their rights to destroy the local church, they have abused their rights. 1 Corinthians 9 should be studied carefully by every brother who is worried about standing up for his rights. In that chapter, Paul emphasized that he had the right to be married, to forbear working and be supported by the local churches, and to eat meats. Nevertheless, he willingly refused to exercise his rights in order that he might win more people for Jesus Christ (9:19-22). He then warned brethren to be careful in the exercise of their personal liberties not to become the occasion of another person stumbling, thus falling from grace themselves (cf. 9:24-10:12).

There are times when we might have the right to press our point but would be much advised to keep our mouths shut, bear some injustices for Christ’s sake, and go on living for Jesus in order that the peace and tranquility of the local church might not be disturbed. Peter said, “. . . for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8). Paul added, “And let the peace of God rule(2) in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Col. 3:15).

Because some brethren with inadequate understanding of love might judge otherwise, we need to emphasize that rebuking a sinner in the hope of causing him to repent is an act of love. Sometimes men conclude that elders hate a brother from whom they lead the congregation in withdrawing fellowship; others conclude that bitterness and hatred exist when one brother rebukes the false doctrine taught by another brother. Both are mistaken. Men take the time to call these errors to the attention of the erring brother for the express purpose of leading him to repentance. Such men love the soul of the erring brother and want to see him in heaven. Consequently, when they see him err from the truth, they seek to restore him to the Lord. When brethren learn this truth, they will no longer look upon every disagreement printed in periodicals as “preacher fights” generated by hatred, variance, bitterness, and strife. Generally such exchanges are written by conscientious brethren with the highest regard for each other. Each participant who is attempting to persuade the other to his point of view is convinced that he has the truth and is sincerely trying to convince the other party. In pressing his points, he may sometimes overstate his case, become too zealous, or in some other way make a rash statement; however, generally such discussions spring from love for each other’s soul and are healthy to the people of God.

Brotherly Love: An Evidence Of Salvation

John repeatedly used brotherly love as a criterion for determining whether or not one was saved.

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him (1 Jn. 2:9-10).

In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother (1 Jn. 3:10).

We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him (1 Jn. 3:14-15).

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God (1 Jn. 4:7).

The knowledge that we have brotherly love gives our heart assurance and confidence before God (1 Jn. 3:19). The person who feels bitterness, hatred, variance, and strife toward his brother surely must question his personal salvation before God. The brother who backbites, gossips, spreads rumors and malicious lies about his brother surely must know that he is lost, regardless of how highly regarded he might be by some brethren. To have a genuine assurance of salvation, let each of us manifest brotherly love toward each other.


Young William HoIsclaw who rescued his younger brothers while his flesh was burning with fire gave us an example of how we ought to love one another. From his exemplary conduct toward his fleshly brothers, let us resolve anew to manifest a lovely and loving disposition toward our brethren in Christ.


1. One cannot pass this text without comparing it with John 3:16. John 3:16 tells us of God’s great love toward us in giving His Son to die for our sins in order that we might be saved through faith in Him. 1 John 3:16 ties that thought together with out obligation to show the same kind of love toward one another.

2. The word here is brabeuo which means “to be an umpire, to direct, control, rule.” Things which make for peace should be the rule which determines our conduct. In our working with one another, we should allow those things which will promote harmony and peace to be our guideline for determining which course of action we will follow.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 11, pp. 322, 345-346
June 7, 1984