2 Peter 1:7a
It is evident from previous articles in this series that growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ involves a spiritual construction project. By adding to our faith such graces as virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness, we are slowly becoming more like our Lord. This is in keeping with God's predetermined plan that we be conformed to the image of His Son (cf. Ro 8:29). Equally important to spiritual growth is the development of brotherly kindness. Together with love, it adds a focus to our spiritual maturity that is outward (and not just inward and upward), for it affects how we act toward other people.
The Definition Of Brotherly Kindness
The Greek word for brotherly kindness is transliterated "philadelphia," a compound involving two words: "phileo" (love) and "adelphos" (brother). It literally means "the love of brothers." As used in the New Testament, "philadelphia" describes the love which Christians cherish for each other as brethren (Thayer). Romans 12:10 reveals that it is through brotherly kindness that we can have "kind affection" toward one another. It is brotherly kindness, therefore, that provides a true sense of family in our association as members of the Lord's body.
The Demand Of Brotherly Kindness
Without sincere love for brethren, the apostle John wrote that any claim to love God or even to know God is impossible (1 Jn 4:7-8,20-21). If we truly desire to grow in our knowledge and love of God (including our knowledge of Jesus Christ, the focus of this series), then it is essential that we develop brotherly kindness. Jesus also made love for brethren an identifying mark by which the world can know we are His disciples (Jn 13:34-35). Right doctrine is certainly important (2 Jn 9), but the world pays little attention to what they may perceive as minor doctrinal differences. What people do notice is love in a world filled with hate, especially when such love is observed among individuals who come from various social, economic, and racial backgrounds. Any attempt to proclaim New Testament Christianity, therefore, will fail to appeal to those in the world unless it is accompanied by a visible demonstration of true brotherly kindness among Christians. Unity among brethren is also very important as indicated in the prayer of Jesus (Jn 17:20-23). The unity made possible through the cross of Christ is maintained as we endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ep 4:3). Crucial to that endeavor is "bearing with one another in love" (Ep 4:2). There will be times when brethren sin against one another, but where brotherly kindness prevails there will also be forbearance and forgiveness. This provides time for repentance and reconciliation necessary to remain united. Unless we develop brotherly kindness, churches will be prone to split at the earliest indication of conflict.
The Development Of Brotherly Kindness
As implied in our text, brotherly kindness is a virtue that must be developed. Fortunately, we have assistance from God Himself. When we first obey the gospel, our souls are purified so that sincere and fervent love of the brethren is now possible (1 Peter 1:22-23). We are then taught how to love one another by God Himself (1 Th 4:9-10). The Father teaches us the meaning of love by the manner in which He offered His Son as the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:9-10). The Son also demonstrated true love by freely offering His life for us (1 Jn 3:16). The more we reflect upon the love and sacrifice of Jesus, the more we are able to understand the true meaning of brotherly kindness. As Jesus said, "as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (Jn 13:34). I find two other things are helpful to developing brotherly kindness. First, spend time with your brethren. The more I am around people, the more I come to know them personally, the more I share experiences (both good and bad), the easier I find it to "fall in love" with them. It is not much different than with one's own physical family. I had no choice who my three physical brothers would be. But as we experience life together our love and appreciation for one another deepens. I find it to be the same with my brethren in Christ. The second thing is to pray fervently for your brethren, especially those with whom you may have a personality clash. It is hard to remain angry or maintain a strong dislike for someone when you spend time praying for them. As you pray seeking God's love and forgiveness for yourself, it becomes so much easier to love and forgive others.
The Display Of Brotherly Kindness
In our relationship as brethren in Christ, brotherly kindness will manifest itself in various ways. A brother who is strong will be considerate of his brother who may be weak (Ro 15:1). Where a brother may have liberty in Christ, he is willing to limit that freedom if it is beneficial to the spiritual well-being of his weak brother (1 Co 8:13; Ga 5:13). It is also brotherly kindness that will lead one to be cautious about judging a brother or what they say about them (Ja 4:11-12). Brotherly kindness will also lead Christians to truly care for one another, to warn the unruly, to comfort the faint-hearted, to uphold the weak, to be patient with all (1 Th 5:14). Yes, it is brotherly kindness that will prompt us to pursue the things that make for peace and the things by which we may edify one another (Ro 14:19). As we give thought to what it means to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, what it means to grow spiritually, may we appreciate the importance of developing that Christ-like spirit of love for the brethren! "Let brotherly love continue." (He 13:1)
Editor's note: The preceding expository article comes from "Bible Insight" edited by Carey Dillinger and is a part of a series by him and other writers. Carey contacted me several weeks ago and suggested that we might be interested in publishing these articles. The series is quite good and Lord willing, Expository Files will be using these articles in future issues. Carey and the other writers have given their permission.
By Mark Copeland
From Expository Files 7.11; November 2000