By Mike Willis
Christianity has experienced many aberrations. Perhaps none has been so unique as that of those who sought to escape the world by becoming hermits. Part of one’s service in Christ is administering to the needs of others, especially his own brethren (Gal. 6:10). Peter wrote, “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). The Lord has not called us into a closet, monastery or abbey. He has called us to be light of the world. Nothing displays Christ’s influence in us quite so much as brotherly love.
Brotherly Love Is Commanded
Peter commanded, “See that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently.” The Lord commanded that we show “unfeigned love of the brethren … .. Love of the brethren” is translated from philadelphia. This love of the brethren fits these three qualifications:
1. It is to be unfeigned. That means that our love for each other is to be unhypocritical. Hypocritical love shows itself in such things as fawning praise in one’s presence but knifing him in the back when the brother is absent. The love which Christians show to each other is to be genuine. John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18).
2. It is to be from a clean heart. This indicates that one’s love for each other is not selfishly motivated. Sometimes the rich have those who love them from the hope of what they will receive in return. Love from a clean heart has no such selfish motives.
3. It is fervent. The word “fervent” means “boiling” (in contrast to cold indifference). We speak of “warm” affection; this is the kind of love which Peter commanded Christians to show to each other.
Expressions of Brotherly Love
Brotherly love expresses itself. It cannot be concealed. We can see expressions of brotherly love in such things as the following:
1. Affectionate greetings (Rom. 12:10; 16:16; 2 Pet. 1:7). Paul told Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss. The kiss was the manner in which Orientals greeted one another; we display the same affection by a handshake or a hug. I have witnessed Christians who felt such ill will toward each other that they would not speak as they entered the house for worship. Do you think they could offer acceptable worship?
2. Helping in time of need (1 Jn. 3:16-18; Acts 4:32-37; 6:1-2; Heb. 6:10; Jas 1:27; Lk. 10:25-37). The heart of a Christian should be tender toward the sufferings of his fellow man; this is the trait of compassion (1 Pet. 3:8; Phil. 2:1). Witnessing the suffering of another, the Christian should respond to relieve the afflictions of him who is in need. The good Samaritan was moved with compassion when he saw the man who was beaten and left to die; he ministered to his needs.
Christians should especially rally to each other’s help in the days of affliction. We have been encouraged by the fellowship extended the saints who were suffering from the damage of the recent hurricane in Florida.
3. Pray for each other (Acts 8:24; 12:5; Rom. 1:9). Brotherly love can be shown by taking a brother’s needs to God in prayer.
4. Encouraging one another (Gal. 6:2). We need to bear one another’s burdens. Barnabas was the “son of consolation” (Acts 4:36) because he encouraged his brethren. We can lift the burdens of our brother by encouraging words, a card, telephone call, and other ways.
5. Restoring the fallen (Gal. 6:1). Sometimes men think that there is an absence of brotherly love when a person does what he can to restore the erring. If a brother steps into sin by forsaking the assembly, we generally recognize that brotherly love tries to restore him. However, when a brother steps into sin by teaching false doctrine, some cannot see that brotherly love responds to correct his error. Rebuttal is equated with animosity and hatred. How sad! James said, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20).
6. Hospitality (Heb. 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 4:9). Christians are commanded to be hospitable. Our homes should be open to our brethren. One of the best ways that a Christian has to minister to the needs of his brethren is to open his home for them to visit. In such relaxed sittings, the brother frequently opens his heart to express his problems.
Unfortunately, many Christians have become too busy to be hospitable. Some churches of well over 100 people have trouble filling a meal list for a visiting evangelist. There is little visitation between brethren in some congregations. Visitors to the worship services sometimes perceive the lack of affection and never return. How much different would the visitor’s reaction be if some brother invited him into his home?
7. Forgiveness. Brotherly love is shown by one’s willingness to forgive those who sin against him. Peter said, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).
Enemies of Brotherly Love
If we can identify expressions of brotherly love, we can also identify some of its enemies. Consider these:
1. Selfishness (Phil. 2:3-4). Sometimes brethren become so wrapped up in the affairs of their own life that they neglect everyone and everything else. Sometimes they make up for their lack of interest in their brethren by practicing 44proxy” religion – “I don’t have time for you but here is $20 to solve your problem! ” Brotherly love takes time and effort, a willingness to put others’ needs above our own.
2. Indifference. When a person reaches the condition that he does not care about his brother, he lacks brotherly love. Someone has said that the greatest enemy of brotherly love is not hatred but indifference.
3. Bitterness, anger, malice, and hatred (Rom. 1:29; Eph. 4:32). When a brother reaches a condition of having enmity toward his brother, he is treading on exceedingly dangerous ground. John wrote, “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 hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:20-21).
There is a joy which a person receives from brotherly love. We need to learn the joy of serving, the joy of having God’s approval, the joy of being thanked for a kind deed, the joy of being loved, and the joy of watching a loving group of Christians grow in number and spirit.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 21, pp. 642, 663
November 5, 1992