As mentioned in Part 1 of this Journey through God’s Love, there is only one word for love in the English language, whereas there are multiple words with differing meanings and levels of intensity in scripture. Those who spoke Greek and Hebrew knew that love necessitated more than one word to reveal its many faces and degrees of passion and strength. In our modern world of short cuts and quick fixes, the true meaning of love has been lost since it is used in reference to such multifaceted objects ranging from cars to pets to people. No wonder the word is tossed about so carelessly in our society, as it has been used out of context and on so many shallow, superficial things that are not worthy of true love. After all, how does one truly love a burger or a pet rat? It is my hope that as we journey through what love really means, we will discover and utilize love in a more meaningful and heartfelt way.
In Part 1, we examined the more intimate form of love expressed in scripture. The love that is shared between a husband and a wife is a love that bonds them physically, mentally, and spiritually. Eros or dowd, depending on Greek or Hebrew terminology, are meant to enable a man and a woman to grow together in marriage and commitment to one another. This deep love was created by God enable such closeness that infidelity is unnecessary and husband and wife can be united. He gave the gift of sensual love to allow a husband and wife to enjoy one another deeply and on every level possible.
The second kind of love that will be addressed in Part 2 is liberally sprinkled throughout scripture, both Old and New Testament. It is that of brotherly love. Brotherly love is a love that we are commanded to give generously to those we encounter; a love that is to shine the light of Christ into their lives bringing hope, encouragement, restoration, salvation, and sympathy. There are several different words to express brotherly love, in which there also exist feminine and masculine forms for some of them.
Greek – Philadelphia (f) – brotherly love, kindness, love of brethren
– Philos – a love based on friendship between two people, loving friend, a trusted confidant
– Philadelphos (m) – to be fond of brethren, fraternal, affection for brethren, loving like a brother
Hebrew – Rea, reya (m), raya (f) – a brother, companion, fellow friend, love, neighbor
Christ makes it very clear in scripture that love for others is not an option but is the underlying law that governs all other scriptural law. In Matthew 22:34-39 an “expert in the law” challenges Christ and asks what the greatest commandment is. Christ responds: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commands.” There is no room to misinterpret this scripture; no opportunity to disregard what Christ is telling the teacher here. What He is telling all of us is to love God and to love others for if we do this all the other commands will fall into place. After all, who would steal, murder, or lie if they love others? And who would use the Lord’s name in vain or have false gods if the love of the one true God is in their heart, soul, and mind? Love covers all other commands for it is with love that we are able to carry out and follow through with the laws and commands of God. We cannot follow the Lord and His laws in our selfish humanness. No, only with love can they be adhered to.
So what does brotherly love look like? In the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 we find an excellent example.
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Brotherly love is reaching out when no one else wants to. It is acting and responding to those in need even if we are headed somewhere else in a rush of busyness. Brotherly love is giving all you have to help someone who needs it more than you. We cannot cross to other side of the road, or turn our eyes away from the hunger, the thirst, the desperate need to be loved, the broken hearts, or the shattered lives that surround us. No, we cannot pass the homeless neighbor on the street without a care in the world, nor can we deny the brother or sister in Christ who is in dire need of comfort. We are called to be shepherds, to be encouragers, to be the light in the lives of those who are lost and those who are struggling. The concept of brotherly love is truly the foundation of the Christian faith for as scripture states in 1 John 3:18 we are not called to love with words or tongue, but with actions and truth. In order to reflect the love of God in us, it is mandatory that we give it away. What good is God’s love if it is only stored in our hearts, but not shared with others in need? It is wonderful for us, but if we share that love, not only do we feel it, but so too does the brother or neighbor we shower it upon.
Brotherly love, Philadelphia, is not a feeling or an emotion that we wait for, but rather it is a willed love that is manifested through our actions toward others, be they brethren in Christ, ungodly neighbors, friends, family, or enemies. We do not get to choose when we show brotherly love. We are required to give it to all we encounter, all who God places in our path. Whether you like someone or not does not dictate if you give them love. If someone has hurt you or has lied about you, that is of no concern, for brotherly love is given just as God’s love is given freely to us who are unworthy and sinful creatures. That does not mean we allow someone to continue hurting us, but instead we show them brotherly love that can confront and call them out of their sin and bring them closer to God.
Before I go any further, perhaps I can shed some light on what brotherly love looks like. There are numerous ways to put philadelphos or rea into action. The first of these actions is friendliness. As defined by dictionary.com, friendliness is the act of showing friendship and giving friendly greetings. In Romans 16:16, 1 Corinthians 16:20, and 1 Peter 5:14 this is expressed as a holy kiss when greeting one another. This “holy kiss” is meant to be a heartfelt and sincere token of our affection and friendship for one another. Holy distinguishes it from an unchaste, lascivious kiss and avoids improper familiarity and possible misunderstanding. Today, this holy kiss is customarily a hug or a handshake to show our friendliness toward others.
Courtesy and hospitality are also ways in which brotherly love is manifested. In 1 Peter 3:8 courteous (KJV) in Greek is tapeinophrosune, meaning humility, lowliness of mind and modesty. We are to yield in favor of someone else. An example of this would be holding the door for someone and allowing them to proceed before you or giving your seat to someone who would like to sit. It also means that we are listening and being polite, not using vulgarity or harsh speech with others. To be hospitable means to open our homes to others to serve them and fellowship with them in a deeper, more intimate way. 1 Peter 4:9 and 1Timothy 3:2 both touch on hospitality.
Kindness is yet another way to show brotherly love to others. Kindness requires empathy, an understanding of how others feel and a genuine concern about how they feel. It is a sensitivity and compassion for others. In the story of the Good Samaritan, he showed great kindness to the stranger in need. He had compassion on him and was concerned with his well being. In Ephesians 4:32 kindness is translated eusplanshnos, meaning tenderhearted. Just as the Good Samaritan was tenderhearted toward the beaten and dying man, so too God shows tenderheartedness toward us, a distraught and desperate people. Kindness translated in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is chresteuomai, which means to be kind. It is God’s kindness and mercy toward us that brought us to a place of salvation and we are to share that with others who lie broken and dying on the streets of life.
Out of the Good Samaritan’s kindness sprang a desire to help and the ability to self sacrifice, both of which are outward expressions of brotherly love. When we help others we are sacrificing our financial and material resources, our time, and often our hearts. There are numerous scriptures that address helping those in need, sacrificing what we have to bring comfort, peace, love, and light into the lives of those around us. James 2:15-16, Acts 2:35, Galatians 6:7-10, 1 Timothy 6:18, Hebrews 13:16, Matthew 5:42, Isaiah 58:10, Proverbs 28:27, and Leviticus 25:35. When brotherly love is given freely, it is the epitome of Christian love which accepts pain and loss to help those who are not able or don’t know how to give love in return.
The last two examples of brotherly love in action are impartiality and forgiveness. When being impartial, one is able to accept everyone despite whether they are rich or poor, master or servant, believer or unbeliever. Those who truly express brotherly love welcome everyone regardless of their culture, beliefs, morals, or values. Even Christ hung out with those that were unwelcome in the towns and homes he traveled through (there was Mary the adulteress-John 8:1-11, the woman at the well-John 4:1-26, the sinful woman who washes Jesus’ feet with oil-Luke 7:36-50, and many others). It was the goal of Christ to be the light in those that were lost and how better to reach them than to go to them and spend time loving them as God loves us.
Forgiveness, in my opinion, is the hardest quality of brotherly love to extend as it goes against every fiber of our flesh and humanness. When we stand betrayed, hurt, and falsely accused, the last thing we desire is to forgive the perpetrator. But that is what brotherly love does and it is what sets Christian love apart from any natural, human love. When Christ was beaten and tortured, when he was spat upon and mocked, when the crown of thorns was thrust onto his head, when the nails were driven through his hands and he hung on the cross, he did not cry out for revenge. NO! He asked his Father in heaven to forgive them for they knew not what they were doing (Luke 23:34). Amidst the pain and suffering, among the betrayal and the agony, Christ took pity on them for he could see their end. He offered them forgiveness even though they did not deserve it. In that moment, he offered us all forgiveness even though we have all failed him and fallen short (Romans 3:24). That was his example to us, that we would extend forgiveness even if we don’t feel like it, even if we want revenge. If you don’t believe that you are called to forgive those who hurt you, think again! Read these scriptures and find out for yourself: Colossians 3:13, Matthew 6:14-15, 18:21-35, Ephesians 4:32, Mark 11:25, Luke 6:37. Forgiveness is not only showing God’s mercy to others who do not deserve it, but it frees you from the bondage of anger, bitterness, and resentment.
There are so many opportunities to show brotherly love to those we encounter each day. A simple hello and a friendly smile can turn thoughts of loneliness and suicide into thoughts of love and joy. A genuine hug and words of sympathy can comfort the broken heart and heal the hurting soul. Forgiving someone for a wrong done to you can shine God’s love so brightly that they can’t resist the need to transform their souls from a world of darkness to a life filled with glory. We are not called to give love because it feels right; we are called to give love because it is right! Brotherly love is a willed love in which no sacrifice is too great, no service too large, and no possession too valuable to keep us from helping others and continuing God’s work here on earth. We must stop living in our little room of selfishness and choose to live in the spacious mansion of God’s love where peace, joy and security flow abundantly.
May your actions reflect the love of God and may you find yourself reaping the rewards of love given freely and lavishly. Blessings to you all and may you change the world with one random act of brotherly love each day—what a difference we could truly make. After all, it was one man dying on the cross that changed the face of humanity forever! Let Christ’s example and sacrifice not be in vain, but instead continue to change the face of the world, one broken heart, one stranger, one child of God at a time.