By Janelle Pollard
One of my favorite things about my husband is how much he loves his brothers, how close they have always been (even when living states apart), and how much they value each other. In today’s day and age, it’s not the most common thing, sadly. Dale and his brothers have always been very close, and I love how much they mean to each other. I hope and pray that if we have a few boys one day, they will share that same kind of bond. For a close-knit family like his, loving your own family that much doesn’t take much effort.
Recently, I studied the topic of “brotherly kindness” for a ladies’ Bible class. I began to realize that I had never actually spent much time on this topic on my own time. I already knew that as Christians, it is important to love our brothers and sisters in Christ (the church) and treat them with love and kindness, but I had to admit that I didn’t realize just how seriously God takes this and what is actually required. It’s usually easy for us to love our own family and sometimes even be very close to them just like Dale is with his brothers. However, the kind of “brotherly kindness” that we are commanded to show to our Christian brothers and sisters requires dedication, intentionality, and a heart that wants to please God.
The English Standard Version refers to this as “brotherly love” and “brotherly affection” in Hebrews 13:1 and 2 Peter 1:7, respectively.
According to John 13:34-34, Jesus isn’t offering a suggestion on how to treat our brothers and sisters. He says this brotherly love is a new command:
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
The ultimate test of one’s love for a brother (or sister) is in 1 John 3:16-18:
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
It isn’t hard to say things like “I love you” or “I’d do anything for you” or “let me know if you need anything” but do we really mean those things every time we say them? We shouldn’t have to say those words for others to know how we feel. We must strive to live out those words through our actions. The Bible says very clearly that if a brother or sister is in need and we do nothing to help them, we are lacking in the love that gives evidence that we are truly children of God. This verse says that we must be willing to give up our own life!
We also read of this command for love in Matthew 22:37-39:
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor a little bit less than yourself.”
Except, that’s not what that verse says…
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This command—obviously very important for us to live out—is recorded many times, not just by Jesus, but also by several of the apostles:
1. Paul refers to this “new commandment” in his letter to the Galatians, in Gal. 6:2:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
2. Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 1:22:
“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”
3. James instructs us in James 2:8:
“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.”
4. John warns us in 1 John 3:11, 14-15 (refers to those who hate their brother as a murderer!)
Also, 1 John 2:8-10:
8 At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
We are able to see just how crucial brotherly love truly is…
– evidence of Christ’s true followers (John 13:35)
– the law of Christ fulfilled (James 2:8)
– assurance of our salvation (1 John 2:8-10)
So, what are some PRACTICAL ways we can show brotherly love?
1. LOOK for areas of need (ex. cook a meal for someone who is sick, has experienced a loss, or is tight on money; offer to babysit for free so a parent can have a needed break; clean the house or mow the yard of an elderly person who could use a hand!)
2. ASK for specific things we can pray about for someone—and continue to be in prayer about this; follow up on how things are going throughout the days or weeks we’ve begun praying for them
3. TAKE NOTICE of others who are striving to live faithfully & let them know how it has encouraged us/that we are thankful for their example—be the person known for genuinely lifting others up, not for gossiping or pointing out others’ faults
4. VISIT a widow who may be lonely and take a card game or dominos & get to know them better
5. SEND a greeting card or care package to someone in college with words of encouragement and Scripture
6. SPEND TIME with a member in the hospital or nursing home
7. INVITE a new member or family to a group lunch or coffee to get to know them better and help them feel welcome
8. TEACH a Bible class & before each class meets, pray for those who attend
9. PRAY for the youth group & always set a Christ-like example for those who are younger
10. GIVE your time and comfort when a member experiences a loss of any kind, (sometimes just being there, without words, is all they may need!)