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