It has been said that love makes the world go round. Certainly relationships only work when people have the right attitude to each other. It is just the same in the church, as we discover.
In the Bible we are exhorted to “let brotherly love continue” (Heb.13:1). The church is God’s family (Eph.3:15) and is described as “the household of faith” (Gal.6:10), being made up of sinners who have trusted in Christ. Believers are adopted by God as His children and are to regard themselves as brothers and sisters in the Lord. Amazingly the Lord Jesus Christ is not ashamed to call us His brethren (Heb.2:11). What condescension!
A well-ordered family is a delight to behold. Likewise when the church functions as God intended it is a beautiful thing. Ministers, elders, deacons, members and adherents have their respective roles. Some teach and others learn. Some rule and others obey. Some serve and others benefit. But brotherly love binds them all together. It is necessary for the prosperity and well-being of the church.
Brotherly love ought to be fostered by us all. We should “put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Col.3:14). We should “be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love” (Rom.12:10). Divisions can come into any family, even God’s family. Think of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39,40), or Euodias and Syntyche (Phil.4:2). We should be willing to forgive those who wrong us, as Peter indicates: “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1Pet.4:8). We should know nothing of a bitter or vengeful spirit.
Brotherly love is proper among Christians because we share the same origin. We are all born in Zion (Psa.87:5). There is one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all (Eph.4:4-6). Believers are a new and holy nation (1Pet.2:9): the various differences which would ordinarily keep us apart have been overcome by God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
Brotherly love is appropriate among Christians because we have the same occupation. We are all “partakers of the heavenly calling” (Heb.3:1). We study the Scriptures, we pray to the Lord and we praise His Name. We have a common interest in godliness. We are comrades in arms, fighting against the world, the flesh and the devil.
Brotherly love is fitting among Christians because we belong to the same home. We are all heirs of heaven (1Pet.1:4). It is a home we have never seen yet it is precious to us and we long to be there. We should be helping each other to make progress to the blissful mansions above.
When we are joined to Christ by faith we are also joined to His people. A saving change is evidenced by a love for the people of God. John says: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1John 4:20). We glimpse something of Christ formed in other believers and are drawn to them as a consequence.
Brotherly love will be present in the glory above, when other loves have failed. To love our fellow-believers is a preparation for heaven. Oh for a greater love to all the Lord’s people in all our hearts!