“Love one another with brotherly affection.” Jesus-centered community is genuine and abhors evil. It is also filled with “brotherly affection.”
This is much deeper than sitting in a small group, drinking sweet tea, eating Doritos, and going home, all the while talking about how great our community is because we’ve spent a few minutes with each other. “Brotherly affection” in the original language is composed of two root words: philos, which means “brotherly love,” and adelphos, which means “of the same womb.” Therefore, because of the gospel, believers are called to possess a deep brotherly love for each other as if we were literally born from the same womb . . . which we were.
Think of it in terms of your own home and family. Even though we might not always be in the same room together, we are fully aware of each person. We know where they are, what challenges they face, and what they need most. We would never sit down for a meal with someone missing from the table and not know their whereabouts. Why? Because we love them with this kind of familial affection.
Christians throughout the ages have been recognized as a group who cares deeply for each other. Aristides, a pagan orator, wrote scornfully of the early Christians, but even he was forced to admit they loved each other deeply: “If these Christians hear that any one of their number is in distress for the sake of Christ’s name, they all render aid in his necessity.” That’s “brotherly love” at work. Hard work.
Paul additionally challenged believers in Romans 12 to “outdo one another in showing honor” (v. 10 ESV). Paul surely doesn’t mean merely honoring the pastor or guest speaker with exotic candies in the green room. The giving and receiving of honor is something that should happen between all believers, all the time.
Honor and affection are connected. A husband who honors his wife will also have affection for her. A woman who has affection for her husband will also honor him. Stirred-up affections result in honor. But how do we generate positive feelings for each other if our heart’s not really in it, if these other people in our community don’t just naturally make us want to “honor” them? The only way to stir up true affection for others is to have a stirred-up realization of God’s affection for us in Jesus Christ. Our understanding of God’s love for us, despite us, enables us to love others in spite of themselves. Affection for the Lord leads to affection for others, resulting in outdoing one another in honor. It makes us ask ourselves questions like:
- How can I be concerned about you and your needs?
- Why shouldn’t I take the farthest parking spot?
- How about if I take the seat that’s blocked by a pole?
- What if I lose so you can win?
- How can I disadvantage myself for your advantage?
- What would it mean to consider you more significant than
Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and I are posting questions each month for church leaders to discuss with their teams. The content and questions are based on our book Creature of the Word. You can get the book here and access the monthly audit here.