Sunday, August 23, 2015

Brotherly Love: What it is and Why it is Important to Christians

  It is not always easy to love another person, but as Christians we are to cultivate and nurture the seed of love. This seed of brotherly love for others was bestowed upon us through Christ and His love for us. Yes, there are people who just naturally seem to really care about and love others. Yet others seem to just ignore people and don't want to help or show love to others. However, Christians have no excuse not to love others, because we are to nurture and develop Christ's love for God's children. For, upon accepting Christ's glorious offer of Salvation, which was offered to us through His great love and sacrifice upon the cross, and with the presence of the Holy Spirit now indwelling our lives, Christ has given us the ability to love even those that may be hard to love. In fact, throughout the Gospels we find Christ telling us to love others as we love ourselves. But, it isn't always easy to grow our love, so we have to cultivate and nurture our embryonic ability to love others, which starts to grow when we accept Christ as our Savior. For, just as Christ loves us, we must love each other.

The Apostle Paul said that if we have all the spiritual gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit, and if we have all kinds of earthly riches, but have not love for others, then we are nothing.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all the mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
– (I Corinthians 13: 1-3. NASV).

Those are pretty strong words. But the Apostle Paul is not the only Apostle who talks of the importance of developing love for others. Along with the Apostle Paul, Peter, John, and even James, the brother of Christ, all addressed the importance of loving others. In fact, before Christ called the Apostles to go out into the world and preach the Gospel, He told them that they were to love other people as themselves. It is often hard, though, to love others as we love ourselves. But, we really need to work on loving others the way Christ wants us to love.

In the last few weeks of recuperating from my knee surgery, I have had plenty of time to re-read the Bible again. I don’t know how many times this makes of reading the Bible, but I know that every time I read the Bible I learn something new, or see a verse that applies to my life in a new and more invigorating, stimulating and useful way. This time through the Newer Covenant/ Testament, I was in awe of the number of Scripture verses that emphasized Christians’ need to love others and to treat other people in the way that we would want to be treated. Additionally, the Scriptures tell us over and over again that we are to build up the body of Christ in love. There were so many verses on the subject of love, doing for others through our love and building up the body of Christ through our love that I finally lost count.

In the book of I John, brotherly love toward other Christians is spoken about in twenty-four of the verses. In fact, the entire chapter three in I John is on Christians loving one another. But, it isn’t just I John, for all of the Newer Covenant/ Testament books speak of the responsibility for Christians to love each other. In fact, Christians are to have more than just a responsibility to love; they should have and should want to nurture Salvation’s internal desire to shower the love of Christ upon others. Let’s take a look at just a few of the verses in I John that speak of our responsibility to develop and nurture love for others.

“… anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. For, this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” 
(I John 3: 10-11. NASV).

We know we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 
(3: 14-15. NASV). 
(Now a murderer can truly repent of his sin and through Christ be cleansed from all unrighteousness, but until he does that he does not have eternal life.)

“This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” 
(3: 23. NASV).

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this, the love of God was manifested in us; that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” 
(3: 7-11. NASV)

Perhaps there are so many verses on love and loving Christian behavior, because love is not always easy to find in our hearts when we are hurting, disgruntled, and unhappy. It is especially hard to find love in our hearts for others who don’t have our same views or who are acting in ways that we personally think are inappropriate. So, we need to cultivate the love seed that Christ planted within us at the time of our Salvation by practicing kindness, caring, mercy, empathy, patience, goodness, and humility when we interact with others. Above all we need a sincere heart of brotherly love.

Developing Brotherly Love

“… speaking the truth in love,
we are to grow up in all aspects into Him Who is the head,
even Christ
 from whom the whole body,
being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies,
according to the proper working of each individual part,
causes the growth of the body
for the building up of itself in love.”

 – (Ephesians 4: 15-16. NASV).

In order to be of godly service to others we need to have and to nurture brotherly love. Active Relational Christian Mentoring requires that we speak truth in love. For, people grow and learn when the mentor speaks the truth in love. However, when a mentor lacks brotherly love, the mentee often shuts down and fails to learn what is needed from their mentoring sessions. No one wants to get instruction or help from someone who acts like they really don’t care about them. So, Christian mentors must have an attitude of brotherly love in order to selflessly mentor another. Of course, mentors without brotherly love, rarely want to give up their time or effort to help another person. Moreover, it is only when Christians can reach out in brotherly love that we can truly have a godly impact on another person. 

So what then is brotherly love?
Brotherly love has nothing to do with liking someone so much that we want them to become our best friend. In fact, if we can have a heart of love toward another person even when we don’t care for their personality, their actions, etc., we are on the road to being able to understand brotherly love, which is what Christ expressed and spoke of when He said that we are to love others like ourselves. For, brotherly love looks beyond what we see and hear with our earthly senses. Rather in brotherly love we begin to see the other person through God’s eyes of love. You see, God loves us for not only who we are, but for whom we can become; a righteous child of His through belief in His Son, Jesus Christ. So we, too, need to look at the other person as a valuable human created by God; one who has worth, one who has a heart, one who is loved by God and one who has great potential to glorify God in everything she does.

So, how do we develop and express brotherly love. Well, one of the first things needed in order to develop and nurture brotherly love is empathy. We are to have empathy for what the other person may be going through. No, I am not talking about sympathy, although there may be an occasion for sympathy. I am talking about relating to what the other person needs and then finding ways to help that person.

Empathy is the ability to share in another’s thoughts, emotions and feelings. Our help, then, may be to just be there for the person and to listen to her, or it may mean being willing to mentor her through a traumatic time or a desired learning experience. It could also mean that you are willing to actually work to help her accomplish something, such as helping her paint her house. (I remember when our church small group got together and painted the house of a widow, because she couldn’t afford to paint it. We had empathy for her situation, and our empathy and brotherly love was expressed in action.).

Another aspect of brotherly love is the development of a kind and caring attitude toward others. Most people understand what kindness and caring is, because we have all experienced it. Other people have been kind and caring toward us, but we have also been kind and caring to ourselves. Brotherly love expresses both kindness and caring toward others even when we don’t really know the other person. Most of us realize that it is usually easy to be kind and caring to those that we know or care about. 

Unfortunately, even Christians may not go out of their way to show kindness and caring to those they do not know. However, true Christian brotherly love does not discriminate against anyone. In our brotherly love we are to be kind to even strangers; knowing that we may be given an opportunity to share the Gospel. For, even if we don’t know a person well, or even if we know nothing about them, Christ has asked us to reach out in brotherly love to share the Gospel and to help each other. Furthermore, He has told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Moreover, Christ did not say that we are to just love the ones that we think we might like or the ones that might do something for us.

 Christians have experienced firsthand the kindness and caring of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are to also be kind and to care about others. Christ cared about our souls. He did not want anyone to spend eternity in hell. Christ was also kind to us. Christ was kind when He helped people, but He showed all of us the ultimate kindness when He took our sins upon His shoulders and died for our sins so that we could receive Salvation. What pain and suffering he experienced so that you and I will never have to spend one moment in hell away from God and Christ. Christ conquered eternal death for us. He arose from the grave and now sits with God, the Father, awaiting the arrival of all who believe on Him.

Just as Christ cares about the souls of each of us, we are to care about the souls of those we meet. Just as Christ showed kindness to all He encountered, we are to show kindness to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to those who may yet come to know Him. In our caring and kindness, we are to want what is best for each person that we encounter.

ARCM is a great way to show our kindness and caring. It is a great way to reach out in brotherly love to help each other. Furthermore, with kindness and caring for the other person and their needs, we can with brotherly love, “cry out” to God when the person needs the intercessory prayers of another Christian. Furthermore, we should also want what is best for those whom we may never meet. For, even if we never meet them, we can still show this particular aspect of brotherly love, by praying for individuals we have not personally met. In fact, Christians often pray for those on their churches' prayer list, even though they may not personally know the person; even “crying out” in intercessory prayer for those in need. Certainly, we can “cry out” for their Salvation.

Brotherly love also encompasses compassion and mercy. God showed us mercy by sending Christ to become the propitiation for our sins. With brotherly love, then, we should also have an attitude of compassion and mercy toward the actions or words of others. We know that not everyone is going to say exactly what we want to hear. Sometimes, people will act in ways that are not very loving toward us either. At other times, someone may hurt our feelings, but, brotherly love does not pay back the hurtful actions of another. Instead, through a compassionate and merciful heart, we are to forgive. Love shows mercy by not seeking retribution. As the Apostle Paul said, Love “does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, … bears all things, … endures all things….” – (I Corinthians 13: 5-7. NASV).

It is easy for us to show compassion and mercy to a spouse, friend, or someone we have known for awhile, but it is not always easy to show the same compassion and mercy to someone we don’t know as well. Becoming more Christ-like is expressing both compassion and mercy to even those in the body of Christ who may have hurt our feelings.

Expressing goodness toward others is also a part of brotherly love. Goodness is a type of benevolence expressed through our actions toward others. Throughout the Newer Covenant/ Testament starting with Christ, Christians are told that we are to “do good” toward others. In other words, we are to develop and cultivate an attitude of goodness within ourselves that will be expressed toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Doing good or goodness encompasses many different actions, but all brotherly love actions should be engaged in for the purpose of helping or in caring about another. With Christ in our hearts, we are to not only be good, but we are to do good for others. The Apostle Paul said that we are to “ … always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.” --  (I Thessalonians 5: 15. NASV).

So, brotherly love also means that we are to look for ways that we can “do good” for others. We are to look for ways that we can share the goodness of Christ with those who don’t know Him. But we are to also to look for ways to show our brotherly love by doing good for those within the body of Christ. Throughout our lives we are to cultivate the seed of goodness in our hearts, so that it will grow into a desire to express goodness the way that Christ intended for us to express it through brotherly love.

Patience is another trait of brotherly love. But, it is not always easy to have patience with those that we feel should know better, with those who always seem to do things the hard way, or with those who have a totally different attitude than we have. However, brotherly love should practice and express patience for another’s actions and words (provided, of course, that those actions and words are not immoral, demeaning, or evil). Mentors express patience in teaching someone who has never heard or doesn’t understand what we are trying to teach. We are to also express loving patience for the needs of another. Furthermore, if we are mentoring her, we need to have patience for her learning style, the objectives she is trying to reach and for her search for knowledge or skills in her own particular way. We are to have patience in the way she does things and within her depth of understanding.

Active relational Christian mentors need to have patience with their mentees. But even when we look at those who are not our mentees, we need to be able to see them through patient eyes. In fact, we are told that “… patience of spirit is better than haughtiness of spirit.” – (Ecclesiastes 7: 8. NASV). Haughtiness of spirit does not produce love for others! It produces pride in self.

This brings me to humility. Brotherly love for others requires us to have and to express humility. Humility is to be an everyday part of our lives. For, if we are prideful, we cannot possibly see the other person with eyes of brotherly love. Lack of humility often means we think more of our self than we think of the other person. Christ gave us a picture of the ultimate humility when He went to the cross for us. For, Christ thought more about us than He did of the pain and humiliation that He would be subjected to in dying for our sins. Christ is the perfect example of humility in action.

Humility of self is perhaps one of the most important traits a Christian can have. For without humility we cannot comprehend what Christ did by laying down His life for us. Without humility we cannot understand what it means when Christ says, that the greatest love someone can have for another is to lay their life down for them. (See John 15:13). Now, brotherly love will not usually require us to lay down our life for another, but when we can, with a humble spirit, be willing to share the Gospel, mentor another, “cry out” for another in intercessory prayer, or help her in some other manner, we are figuratively laying down our life for another. For, it takes a great deal of humility to reach out to another without expecting anything in return. Accolades and crowns for humbly reaching out to another to help in some way will generally not be given here on earth. But, God will remember all the humility you have expressed in your brotherly love toward others. God may have crowns awaiting you in Heaven for all your humble service and for the brotherly love you expressed toward others, including your sharing of the Gospel.

The last trait of brotherly love that I want to discuss is the trait of a having a sincere heart. It is easy to use words to say all the right things and to make ourselves look good in the eyes of others. However, it is only when we have developed a sincere heart that we can truly reach out in brotherly love to provide Christian services such as ARCM. For, only when we are sincere in our love and sincere in our devotion and actions can we then show others that we love them with a brotherly love that comes from the heart.

Brotherly Love in Action

Active Relational Christian Mentoring is based on brotherly love. For, it takes brotherly love (or sisterly love) to give of our time to another woman. It takes brotherly love to teach, support, comfort, and help another woman. But, if we are not careful, we can easily find every excuse in the book to not reach out in Christian love. Even the simple acts of visiting or calling someone who is sick or in need of Christian support can be denied to them, because we can love self and our own convenience more than we love them. Moreover, to avoid showing Christian brotherly love, we can come up with some very good excuses. But the bottom line is that if we always make excuses, we end up pushing our brotherly love for our fellow Christians to the back of our hearts. Only when we truly express brotherly love in action can we say that we are indeed trying to be a good and loving Christian.

To be able to mentor in Christian love or help others, though, we have to give up self-pride, self-wants, self-convenience and self-negations that can keep us from helping or reaching out to other women in Christian love. We have to care more about the other person than we do about the things of this world.

The Apostle John said, “But whoever has the worlds’ goods (that can be money, knowledge, skills, etc.), and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him. Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” – (I John 3: 18. NASV).  Over and over again, we are told that love is an action word and that it is in our deeds that we show we truly have brotherly love for one another.

Although, upon our Salvation we were given the seed of brotherly love, we have to nurture and develop this love by practicing having empathy, humility, a sincere heart, etc. Sometimes, it takes a great deal of effort on our part to develop the traits of brotherly love. Many times, it is only through dedicated prayer and devotion to the Word of God that we begin to see a change in our own attitude toward others. That constant devotion and practice in developing greater and greater brotherly love leads to greater service for the Kingdom of God. Remember, Christ wants us to share His light of Love with others.

Obviously, any type of service for the Kingdom of God is predicated on the love we have for Christ and the brotherly love that we have for others. Active Relational Christian mentoring is a service we can engage in for God’s Kingdom, and it, too, requires a heart of love to help other women in whatever area they have a need. Although, it takes a great deal of brotherly love to give up our own precious time in order to mentor another woman, it takes just as much or even more brotherly love, to “Cry Out” to the Lord and intercede on the behalf of others or for our mentee before the throne of God. So, we all need to work on developing our brotherly love for each other.


I will end with these last two Scriptures, which sum up what we are to exemplify in our Christian attitude and our brotherly love toward others:

From the book of Romans:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal [diligence], but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn [weep] with those who mourn [weep]. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud [haughty in mind], but be willing to associate with people of lower position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do [respect] what is right in the eyes of everyone. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. … Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
– (Romans 12: 9-18, 21. NIV)
[bracketed words are mine for further clarification]

From the book of II Peter:

“… He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For, if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

– (II Peter 1: 4-11. NIV)

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