How much clearer could Peter be when he said:
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)
There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.
As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.
Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:
Virtue (or moral excellence)
This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.” This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.
It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.
A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.
Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.
This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.
I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.
This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.
Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.
Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver. Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.
Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.
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
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)