Category Archives: Brotherly affection
Brotherly affection, “Philadelphia” in the Greek, is a characteristic that all Christians need to develop. Well, at least those Christians that want to go the Heaven. It is not that a person can ever be perfect in this or any other “necessary” characteristic, but the process of adding it to our life is a process we should all continue to work on. If spending time together will cause us to grow to love one another more, enjoy each others company and even the various quirks that we have, what will keep us from developing brotherly affection?
In spite of the old saying that when you point at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you, there are times when others cause more hindrance to the growth of brotherly affection. In 3 John, John identifies Diotrephes as a person who is hindering brotherly affection.
Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God. (3Jn 1:8-11 ESV)
He would not receive traveling brothers and hindered those who would show such kindness. Aside from being a wholly unchristian attitude, when someone who is an authority does not show brotherly kindness, it causes others to be hesitant to do so. You might say that “a little leaven, leavens the whole lump” and that brings us the next hindrance, very similar to this one.
In the case of the brother living in fornication (I cor 5), there was sin in the camp. Someone was wanting to live in sin and the congregation was willing to put up with it. In cases like this, it causes confusion. How do you get close to someone who is doing the opposite of what Jesus would do? Yet, being a brother, you want to be-or feel you ought to be-closer to him.
Additionally, those who would normally not be enticed by such a sin begin to wonder if maybe it is much ado about nothing. Suddenly, they find themselves tempted by a sin or similar sin. The leaven of approval winds it way through the body.
Even if others do not find themselves tempted, they are wondering why does the leadership puts up with someone in a clear sin. This can cause gossip, dissension, division, etc. It is always best to deal with sin in the camp rapidly so that it does not fester.
By far the biggest hindrance is when you will not engage in a relationship with another brother. Perhaps you are jealous of what he has, or feel that you deserve to have a place of honor that he occupies. Sometimes it is simply thinking that you are better than others and when that happens, the relationship is more like “everyone should just be thankful that I am even here.”
Perhaps you remember the parable of the Pharisee with this problem. He prayed to God about how good he was. It was as if God should be thankful that this Pharisee existed! Luke records the reason for the parable:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: (Luk 18:9)
We should all work to avoid any of these hindrances to the best of our ability. When it is legitimately someone else’s doing, then deal with it quickly but look to yourself and be sure you are not being tempted. (Gal 6:1) Additionally, we should always test ourselves and make sure that lack of brotherly affection is not our own doing.
photo credit: Jesus Solano
It might be called Shunning, Disfellowshiping , or Excommunication, but anyway you slice it, it is a breaking off of fellowship from an individual. It says in effect, that “you” are no longer a part of “us”. The reasons that this should be practiced are: For the good of the congregation that he is being withdrawn from and for the good of the person from which fellowship is being withdrawn. The first reason is easy and requires no more than vigilance against Satan’s attacks. The second reason is harder and requires our key ingredient.
For the “good of the person” to be truly sought, the key ingredient in a Withdrawal process is Brotherly Affection. Without this key ingredient, the Withdrawal is guaranteed to fail. Even though some might confuse success with the action taken to withdraw from a person, success is only truly accomplished if the person withdrawn from comes back. This is not to say that the protection of the other members from the influence of the person is not a success, but because it is instinctive to protect the sheep in the fold, it is the easiest part of the process to practice. The hard part is letting our emotions of brotherly affection be shown and stomped on and hurt by someone who we want to rescue from Satan.
The good shepherd secured the 99 sheep (partial success) and went looking for the one (complete success). I know that if that sheep had been unwilling to return with the Good Shepherd, had run away from him, had insisted on playing with the wolves that the Shepherd would have been glad to have the 99. Consolation would be found in knowing that he had done what he could.
An example from Scripture
Without Brotherly affection, withdrawing fellowship does not become the incentive Paul imagined when he told the church at Corinth to withdraw from an ungodly brother. The situation was clear cut: One of the members was living a life of fornication. However, the congregation still accepted him into their midst. What may have been perceived by them as a tolerance of someone who was sinning (after all we are all sinners) was perceived by Paul (correctly so) as arrogant and puffed up on their part and dangerous to the rest of the congregation.
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (1Co 5:6)
However, protection of the rest of the saints was not Paul’s only hope:
you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (1Co 5:5)
The hope Paul expresses is to have this individual saved in the final day. It is not the process of withdrawal that does the saving but the repentance that this process can lead to. Jesus, in Matthew 18, also wants us to go to a brother who is causing offense and resolve the issue. If he repents “you have gained your brother” which is the goal.
When brotherly affection is missing on either the part of the congregation. or the individual that is being withdrawn from, that bond that is being severed is not strong enough to be missed. Without brotherly affection, it is easy to find fault, sit in judgement, coerce and push to keep someone in line who may be having difficulties that no one knows about…because no one has the affection for this person to find out.
What if it is missing?
When brotherly affection is missing on the part of the person being withdrawn from, then there is no loss associated with the withdrawal. “Well, they were never on my side anyway”, “This bunch of Christians is just holier-than-thou”, “I am better than some of those hypocrites” and so on. In other words, the bond that comes from tasting that the Lord is gracious (1 peter 2:1-2) was not made. Nor were these words heeded:
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, (1Pe 1:22)
Yet, I think that it right to expect that the primary responsibility for the brotherly affection bond to be formed falls to the congregation. More than just potlucks and handshakes at service, a bond must be formed that says “I want to be with you” and “together we will journey toward Heaven”. In this manner, if a brother decides to take a detour into Satan’s temptation highway, the separation will have an effect on both parties and more of a chance to succeed in bringing the erring brother back.
Sometimes it is necessary to withdraw fellowship but, having the key ingredient of Brotherly Affection already baked into the relationship will give the process of withdrawal the best chance for success.
photo credit: Jerrod Maruyama
The above headline falls squarely under the category of Rhetorical. However, if it is so rhetorical why is it that we find so many people making justifications for not loving a brother in certain specific situations?
Keep in mind, we are not discussing the Agape love but the love that is known by emotions, Phileo love. Nor am I even suggesting that this is easy all the time to do. My own life would NOT bear witness to an attitude of brotherly love 100% of the time and for some, maybe not even 30%. The point is not to point and place blame but the point is to understand the ideal, the standard, the level of affection that Christ had. When we understand that ideal, we can better examine ourselves and look for that weakness that we can correct.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (1Pe 1:22-23 ESV)
As the old saying goes, we can pick our friends but we can’t pick our family. Even the natural course of life tells you that your parents chose to bring you and your siblings into the world, you did not get to choose. In the same way, the Gospel, the seed of the living world goes out, enters the heart and produces a Christian. You don’t get to choose who.
In fact, the early church tried to do that, preaching only among the Jews at first. However, the Gospel is not to be denied and it was eventually preached among the Gentiles. Although I have no proof of this, I imagine that certain ethnic or race groups may have initially been denied the Gospel though history but I dare say that there is no such group of persons to whom the Gospel was not eventually preached. If Paul had written Gal 3:28 today, I am convinced it would read something like this (bold print is my addition)
There is neither Jew nor Greek nor Muslim, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, there is neither Democrat, Republican, or Independent, there is no black or white, communist or capitalist, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 ESV)
Not that he needed to add those words because they are implied in that verse as well as any other distinction man might make (blue eyes, red hair, rich, poor, etc) How dare we make distinctions where God has made none!
Without brotherly affection, it is easier to fight and argue. Without that bond that says, I like you and want to be around you, selfishness will grow. We will make distinctions among ourselves (James 2), strive to inflate our importance (James 3) and fight for our own rights, privileges, economic security (James 4). When we realize that all of us (which includes the one writing and the one reading) were/are sinners who need God’s grace and mercy then we will be less judgmental towards others who also need it. (not need it more….that person does not exist) James 1 and 5.
We need to develop brotherly affection in ourselves and help draw it out in others. It is part of being a part of the family of God.
Question: Knowing that it can sometimes be hard, how can you develop brotherly love for someone that is hard to love? What else might cause a hindrance to developing this characteristic?
photo credit basykes
Brotherly affection is one of those qualities that Peter tells us that we need to add to our faith. He promises to us that if we have it and increase in it that we will receive a valuable benefit. First, we will not be ineffective as a Christian; second, we will not be unfruitful as a Christian; third, we will not stumble and finally, we will be given entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus. But what happens when we do not have brotherly affection? To answer this question, let’s look at the Prodigal son’s brother.
After the Prodigal had returned and his father was celebrating this return, the brother came in from the field and found out “there was a party goin’ on.”
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'” (Luk 15:28-32 ESV)
He had no compassion on his brother.
Really, one might say that he didn’t even consider him to be his brother. “This son of yours” is a clear indication that he had separated from his the prodigal. Rather than rejoicing at the return of this prodigal to his good senses and to the family, the brother is more concerned about the party that is being thrown. Perhaps he considered it a further waste of his inheritance since the prodigal had wasted his portion.
He was short sighted.
He focused on the service he had given his father and yet, never had received such a party for his friends as his father was throwing for the prodigal. I rather doubt that this is completely true. In my own life, I know that I have exaggerated in order to justify my position. The use of the word “never” is key. What’s this? The father who is so generous to the returning prodigal NEVER(?) did anything nice for his son, never (?) threw a party for him, never(?) lavished him with gifts or some other present?
It may also be that the son had never asked. The father indicates that the son has access to what the Father had, could it be that he never asked for a party?
He bore a grudge.
There are many reasons why he could be upset with the Prodigal brother but he directs his anger at the party and the father. Why are you being so nice to him? In the parable, we see the Prodigal returning to the father to ask forgiveness. Perhaps this Prodigal needed to do the same thing to his brother. It was, after all, a sudden departure that robbed the family not just of physical wealth but relational wealth. However, the brother would rather hold the grudge than confront his Prodigal brother (who, if I read the story correctly, would have begged forgiveness). This grudge would keep them separated longer now and it was not longer the Prodigal who was missing but the brother who is leaving (not physically but relationally).
He may have been envious.
In many contexts I have heard a sentiment expressed that says in so many words: If I had not been a Christian, I would have been able to enjoy this or that pleasure of life before getting saved. That is an expression of envy and unworthy of those who are called by the name of Christ. We envy those who are enjoying the pleasures of this world because we see ourselves restricted by the “rules” of being God’s sons. Would we also envy their fate if they do not return?
The Prodigal’s brother was rich but he was really poor. Until his brother’s return, this poverty was not so easily noticed. Perhaps his father had realized this, maybe the father felt like he had lost two sons the day the prodigal left.
The application of this should be easy: If we are the brother who is still at home in the household of God, let us not fail to realize and recognize the benefits we have by serving our Heavenly Father. Let us also realize that we have a brother (or sister) who has left and needs to be welcomed back with open arms if they return. We should not envy them, bear a grudge, or feel that their return will in any way diminish our reward.
Question: Are there other undesirable qualities that the brother showed in this parable?
photo credit: Martin Young 42