Written by Joanne Beckley
The apostle Peter wrote a beautiful beginning to his letter when he combined God’s gifts and then laid out our own offerings we are to develop in Him in return. As we gradually add virtue to our faith, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love, we feel like we’re making headway. But when it comes to brotherly love, this is when the rubber meets the road. Do we really and truly develop true feelings for every person in the congregation like we should? Or is there always someone that “I just don’t cotton to”, that “rubs me the wrong way”.
Peter understood that brotherly love does not come to us automatically. The apostle Paul put it even more bluntly: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another”, Rom 12:10. We are to give all diligence, to make a concerted effort to feel warmth and tenderness toward all our brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, it is the lack of brotherly love within a congregation that begins the downward spiral of destruction of that group. When this breakdown occurs, it isn’t long before a doctrinal issue will be found to justify division within the group. Brotherly kindness is a command. Let us heed.
But why is it difficult?
We have major differences among us! Ages that think differently, wide economic status, little or much educational opportunities, slow-fast thinkers, diverse personalities, even different kinds of parental philosophes–they all come into play when we consider one another.
Is there any solution to a sideways problem between us?
Absolutely! The apostle Peter began with the solution: to remember and appreciate we share a common faith (2 Pet 1:1), common blessings (3), a common hope (4), a common love for the Lord (8), even as we fight a common enemy. When we keep this in mind, we cannot help but rejoice in our brotherhood.
Developing brotherly love with someone quite different from you or me is going to take patience, while we deliberately make a conscious effort to put away “all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking with all malice.” We will deliberately replace this with “kindness, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave” us, Eph 6:31-32. We will have to deliberately find ways to s-h-o-w love, deeper than a off-handed shake or hug (“sincere love of the brethren”, 1 Pet 1:22). Bill Hall gave an excellent reminder in my hearing: my brother (or sister) is a slave, God’s servant! Who am I to interfere or judge his service? “To God he stands or falls” and “it is God who is able to make him stand” (Rom 14:4). Talk about a stopped-in-our-tracks moment! Obviously, we are going to have to start focusing more and more on our similarities and carry the infirmities (scruples of conscience) of spiritually weak brethren (Rom 15:1). We just might be one of those that someone else is carrying.
Brotherly love requires a conscious effort to have good feelings toward our brethren. It means I must! I can! I will! find a way to enjoy being in the company of someone I previously didn’t like and develop good feelings toward him/her, rejoicing in our shared goal. This mutual goal will focus both of us and cause us to minimize, even be blind toward our differences. Isn’t this what we do in our physical families, yes, even as we strive to create a loving home?
Frankly, the show stopper is in 1 John 4. If I can just remember and be humbled by the knowledge of all I’ve done against God–and He still loves me–surely I can love my brother who has done very little against me.