The concept of love can be confusing under the best of circumstances. However, throw our frequent use of the word into the equation and we really get lost. Growing up, my siblings and I would often make fun of this frequent use. If my brother said “I love this ice-cream”, my response in big brotherly sarcasm was “why don’t you marry it then?” Silly I know. It is also, perhaps, the opposite of what I am trying to illustrate in this post!
Understanding that Phileo love is generated from an affection and devotion to a person or thing, helps us as we try to add this very important characteristic to our faith. Three Biblical examples will help us understand this type of love so that we can imitate it in our lives as Christians. In each, the word love is not in the text.
Example #1: Barnabas
There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. (Act 4:34-37 ESV)
He was not the only one who did this. Many did. There was a desire to help those who were in need. While it might be argued that this is an example of Agape love (duty bound), I would suggest that Barnabas did not do it for any other reason than a devotion to and affection for those who had obeyed the Gospel and now were in need.
This example is in contrast to Ananias and Sapphira in Chapter 5. Even though they also sold a field, there was not affection for anyone but their own selves. God was not fooled.
Lesson to be learned: Brotherly affection will help us loosen the ties to the material things we own.
Example #2: Onesiphorus
You are aware that all who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes. May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me– may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!–and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. (2Ti 1:15-18 ESV)
Many turned away from Paul in his time of need. However, Onesiphorus (try saying that three times fast!) did not. Not only did he want to help Paul, but he searched diligently for him until he found him. Also, he did not let Paul’s imprisonment become, either a cause for shame or a fear that being Paul’s friend might get him put in jail also.
Lesson to be learned: Affection for our fellow Christians will help us overcome mundane worldly concerns for our own safety or social status.
Example #3: Jesus
Picking one example may be hard to do but look at the feeding of the four thousand.
In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” (Mar 8:1-3 ESV)
What makes this act of compassion so important is that the recipients of His compassion were not Jews but Gentiles. (cf Mark 7:24, he leaves the borders of Israel) In this example, again a possible example of Agape love, we see His affection for those who were also His creation but not treated so well by those who were in the covenant relationship with Him.
Of course, Jesus died to tear down that wall of separation (cf Eph 2:11ff) and it appears that he started tearing it down a little bit before before He died too. This is similar to Good Samaritan and once again shows that those who prove to be the neighbor are the ones who help in time of need.
One cannot read the Bible and draw the conclusion that we are allowed to hold back on the brotherly love. Additionally, while our responsibility is clearly to our own kindred in Christ first, it does not prohibit us from showing (and perhaps even requiring that we show) this same kindness to our lost spiritual “brother”, created in God’s image also, as we have an opportunity to do so.
Lesson to be learned: Brotherly Affection may start with those that we a lot in common with but as we grow in compassion, we may find opportunities to share affection with non Christians too.
Question: What are the best examples you have seen of an individual showing brotherly kindness to another brother?
Photo credit: sbhland (If you look closely, you will see several photos by this individual that picture the story of the Good Samaritan)