The universal principle of brotherly love is revealed in several books of the New Testament. It conveys the kind of love expressed towards other people as a fellow-man. Brotherly affection can mean the cozy feeling of belongingness. It presents a calm atmosphere of serenity like kinship or friendship. Yet, in the Biblical context, it is a love seeking the best interest of fellow believers and counting them as more significant than oneself (Philippians 2:3). Love is given to flawed, sinful people with deeds of sacrifices and service. We know this because we know of a love that was given to us (1 John 4:19). And every believer can only love because they’ve received love. With this, love is not about that we have loved God but that He loved us. Our ability to show love is due to the love shown to us.
Christian churches exist because of the love of Jesus, and it grows with the love of every believer strengthening the family of God. Each follower of Christ is part of God’s universal family. As children of God, we will enjoy His fellowship through the life of every believer. It is a gift from God to enjoy our faith journey with Christians around us to help, encourage, strengthen, teach, and comfort us. It is also a blessing from Him to show our love for them. Take time to read these significant means and reasons to show your love for your brothers and sisters in Christ.
What Is Real Brotherly Love?
The phrase ‘Brotherly Love’ comes from the Greek word Phila which means ‘love’ or ‘love of brothers’ in Greek philosophy. This kind of brotherly affection sets apart the Early Christian churches from other groups during their period of existence. It is their most notable characters as Christians. Today, this should also be an eminent trait for all Christians because the God whom we are serving is the author of love. The New Testament abounds with expressions and teachings of brotherly love. This type of love mentioned in the Bible means loving our brothers in Christ with selfless desires and humility. True brotherly love is not self-centered, rather, it is sacrificial.
The Book of 1 John 3:16 writes a very popular phrase about love. It says “By this, we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers”. The laying of one’s life for another is the true essence of brotherly love. The Bible never points to seeking personal satisfaction in loving one another. It always pursues others before one’s self. Jesus modeled the perfect example of love which we ought to follow in carrying out brotherly love. Furthermore, the Bible never fails to define and describe the context of love in Christianity. Thus, it gives us the best lessons concerning brotherly love without the need to take a course on it.
A Biblical Command of Love
The Ten Commandments given to the Israelites during the time of Moses had a summarized edition when Jesus stepped down into the earth. Probably it was Jesus saying to His disciples, ‘let us make things a bit easier for you, ten must have overwhelmed you’. Jesus narrowed down the ten to two in the principle of love. First, He commanded to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls, and strengths. This is the great and first commandment (Matthew 22:37-38). The second commandment is about loving our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). All the laws of the Bible depend upon these two greatest commandments. This sheds light on why Christians ought to always love because a core rule of Christian law is love. God is love, and Jesus was the best example of these commandments.
Jesus gave a new and one of the most significant commandments to His disciples in the Book of John before He fulfilled His mission on the cross. This is the commandment: that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another (13:34 ). Jesus showed the purest and most selfless form of love on the cross and gave this new commandment before his crucifixion. Nevertheless, the disciples knew the kind of love they ought to give. Love is the core of God’s being. To love one another is a God-ordained instruction for His disciples. If you are His disciple, you then also ought to show brotherly love.
Who Shall We Call as Brothers
In Paul’s letter to the Church of Rome, he gave instructions to love one another with brotherly love and to honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10). His various letters to different churches in the New Testament also contains reminders of loving one another as part of the body of Christ. The term ‘brothers’ may refer to anyone like our ‘neighbors’ yet the context of the brotherly love given emphasis here is our love for our fellow believers.
Once we decide to follow Jesus, it will be impossible for us to continue the journey of our faith without being part of God’s family. The church of Christ is like a body with many parts (Romans 12:4). Hence, although we are many, we are one body in Christ (Romans 12:5). One cannot function on its own. Every part needs another to serve and follow God. Using the label brothers and sisters in Christ suggests an unbreakable tie between the children of God.
A family remains a family whatever happens because of the blood that connects them. This is the same with our family in Christ. Jesus, being our elder brother (Hebrews 2:12) holds us with such an indestructible bond that unites us with Him and with His people. Love seasons and strengthens this connection.
How Do Christians Show Brotherly Love?
Expressing love to another takes various forms. When we begin to understand the significance of a brotherly love both as a commandment and privilege through Jesus Christ, it will be less difficult to find the eagerness in showing brotherly love. Looking to our brothers and sisters in faith through the eyes that Jesus has is the first step in conveying our love for others. This is no ordinary shift of outlook and opinion, however. Because the eyes which Jesus had was filled with love, so much so that he died for all.
In Romans 14, Apostle Paul gave specific instructions on how to treat each believer and how to think of each other. His first advice was about embracing a brother and sister in Christ who has weaker faith without passing judgment. If we start to judge our fellow believers there will never be enough room for our love to abide. Judgment and love cannot exist on the same ground. The Apostle Paul wrote that neither of us is fitting to judge another for we are all servants of one Master. We are only called to love.
Paul’s last instruction was to not cause another to stumble. It is heart-rending to see God’s children without love for one another. Paul’s warning was clear, do not for the sake of food and other futile reasons destroy the work of God and your relationships with one another. Christian bonds are far more important than our sentiments and opinions. Showing real brotherly love takes courage and strength. Yet, with our own strength, it is impossible to accomplish such love, but with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26). Here are Biblical means of showing real brotherly love.
The kind of love which we know by this world is commonly based on emotions and feelings. We act and react depending on how we feel towards another person or circumstance. This is not the kind of love Christians ought to bear. Even though our emotions give us primary sentiments to react, it is not the sole foundation of love. If we do so, our love is no doubt laid open to crumble. Christian love demands self-control, discipline, and consistency. Feelings are deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). It is not the basis of brotherly love, it is the Word of God. If we want to show brotherly love, it is the Scripture that we need to seek.
True brotherly love never chooses the perfect time to love nor the best person to love. The Bible’s definition of love is simply far above these things. Proverbs 17:17 says that a friend loves at all times. Love has no preference. If that would be the case, it is love no longer. Love is beyond judgment as conferred in Romans Chapter 14. Thus, any status, level of faith, or period of being part of God’s family can bound the love that we have for our brothers. We should encourage one another and build each other up through love (1 Thessalonians 5:11. In addition, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 compares believers’ bond to a threefold cord that is not easily broken because it lifts each other in times of stumble.
The Book of 1 John discusses Biblical truths in loving one another. Verse 11 states the first truth about brotherly love, that we should love one another. The succeeding verses warn us not to be like Cain who lost compassion for his brother Abel, compelling him to murder his brother. Hate for a brother is a form of murder. Apostle John further warns, whoever does not love abides in death. How then can we combat hate? By dwelling in the greatest love we ever received.
1 John 3:16 talks about understanding love through the life that is laid down for us. When we know sinners like us experience love and favor we don’t deserve, it is hard not to give love. Jesus who is full of compassion showed the best way to love by laying his life down for us. The verse also states that we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. How then can we show unselfish love and compassion towards our brothers and sisters in faith?
1 John 3:17 says “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?” Charity is the heartbeat of compassion. It is through giving and doing something that we can demonstrate our brotherly love. While faith without work is dead (James 2:17), brotherly compassion without action is vain.
An Attitude of Sharing
The early Christian community spent days and nights devoting themselves to teaching, fellowship, prayers, and breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42 – 46). Day by day they came together as one family, sharing all that they have. These included their possessions which helped the needs of others, their knowledge of the Gospel, the Book of Laws, and more. An act of sharing is a great display of brotherly love. Every good act starts with simple strides.
The modern period doesn’t require us to give up our possessions, but sharing may help others in their times of need. For instance, if any brother or sister in Christ requests prayers about a necessity, you can help by praying or take a larger step to help them obtain what is needed if possible to show your love and we don’t always have the chance.
On some occasions, it requires us not only to share good things but also burdens. Every follower of Christ carries a burden for His kingdom and these loads become lighter when shared (Galatians 6:1-10 ). Hence, struggles also turn out to be milder. Sharing burdens with another may mean comforting the afflicted, encouraging the disheartened, visiting the sick, praying for those who are weak, or struggling in faith. As one body of Christ, we must not let any of our brothers stumble without a hand lifting them.
Brothers dwelling in unity glorifies God (Psalm 133:1). The church was advised by the Apostle Peter to have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. These instructions are still beneficial and effective to this day and will continue into the future. The unity of the body of Christ is a very important principle for Christians. It proves that they are children of God. What binds the people of God in perfect harmony is to bear with each other and to love (Colossians 3:13 – 14). There are no other shortcuts. The best element to fuel unity among believers is to pursue brotherly love.
To have brotherly love, we must forgive each other (Colossians 3:13). If someone sins or commits mistakes against you, Jesus’ teachings direct us a life of forgiveness (Luke 17:4). With Jesus forgiving each sin we commit, what then is our reason not to forgive? Unforgiving hearts are covered with pride. To conquer pride is through humility, which leads us to the third means to keep unity. Finally, put on a humble and patient heart (Colossians 3:12). A humble heart does not judge others; they welcome even the weakest brother in faith (Romans 14:1). Moreover, in humility, we are to count others more significant than ourselves with minds seeking the interests of others and not just ourselves.
What Brotherly Love Can Do
We already know that brotherly love is a command from God. Thus, it is not an option we can choose not to follow. There is no reason for us not to, anyway. Besides, it is impossible to live a Christian life without love when we experience it full-time. We love due to an overflow of God’s abundant love. Nothing of which can be counted of us but of God alone. Love is an active principle of the Bible. It causes us to move towards righteousness. Also, it gives us a passion for compassion. Every Christian receives God’s love with the purpose of giving it to others. It simply can’t be contained. Every believer is Christ’s vessel. And there is more to brotherly love that we tend to perceive.
Brotherly love does for us things more than what we do for the sake of it. When we give love, share, forgive, demonstrate humility, or encourage, we have the confidence to receive the same from others. It is not just because the Law and the Prophets teach us to do unto others what we wish to do unto us (Matthew 7:12) but because we are members of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). If one part of the body suffers, the entire body senses the pain and suffers as well (1 Corinthians 12:26). Therefore, no individual member endures pain alone. Above these things, brotherly love points to God who is the sole reason for our affection and being. Showing brotherly affection is therefore evidently significant.
Showing Brotherly Love Strengthens the Body of Christ
God’s children were called with one hope, one faith, one baptism, and one Lord (Ephesians 4:-6). This shows the strength of God’s children when we are united. The Lord gives us different talents to equip His children for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12). Every part of the body functions to serve and be served so that it can grow in love (Ephesians 4:16). And all must be done in love: the love for Jesus and love for the church that is brotherly love.
Apostle Paul urges that there should be no divisions in the Body of Christ; rather the members should have the same care for one another (1 Corinthians 12:25). What somebody lacks, another may be abounding. Where another is weak, someone may be stronger. And each can be used to build each other up all for the sake of growing the family of God. 1 Corinthians 12 shows various ways of strengthening the body of Christ through the gifts God.
Showing Brotherly Love Shows That We Belong to God
Love probably is the loudest form of evangelism or if not, the most apparent way of preaching the cross of Jesus. Sometimes, it is easier to know things by seeing it and experiencing it than listening to it. This is perhaps the reason why Jesus told the twelve apostles that by loving one another people will know they are His disciples (John 13:35). Apostle John possibly remembers this teaching when He wrote in 1 John 4:7 to love one another for love is from God whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Therefore, Apostle John continues, by the awesome love of Jesus, we ought to love one another.
If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us (1 John 4:12). The love of God is seen in those who believe and love. By showing love with one another that other people will know we are the children of God. As stated in the Book of James, let us love not in word or talk but in truth and in deeds. The Lord is the source of affection and love. The essence of God’s being is love. It is His very heart. He is love. If there is a lack of love in our hearts as His followers, we can ask for a sufficient love to fill our hearts so that we can extend it to others.
Brotherly Love: A Portrait of God’s Character
The heart of God’s character is love. 1 John 4:8 tells us that love is God himself. The best expression of God’s love is the suffering of Jesus on the cross for the salvation of the world. Setting this as an example of our love leads us to a love that requires sacrifices for one another. The Bible reminds us that the world can know love if it is evident in the lives of His disciples (John 13:35). As light and salt of the world (Matthew 5:13), our lives can influence others to love and believe the love that was sent to the world.
Brotherly love displays a portrait of God’s character. The mark of true Christianity is love. And above all things, love is what the world needs. Love begins within our family may it be our spiritual and biological family. We cannot extend this love in the world without first extending it with our fellow believers. There is no best time to practice love with the family God has adopted you with but now. Show love with little acts of kindness, patience, and humility. Always seek the interests of those around you. Following Jesus is not about you. He died for you and gave life you never deserve. It is your turn to show that love with compassion, consistency, and harmony. Spread love as you have received it!