Brotherly Love

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Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

1 John 4:20

I am blessed to have a brother in my life. Though we are ten years apart, we still have a bond that only brothers related by blood can have. I also have two brothers by marriage. Though we are not blood relatives, they are just as much my brothers. What unites us all is our shared faith in Jesus, so we are more than kin but brothers in Spirit as well.

In John’s letter, the early Christians were influenced by false teachers leading to conflict and division in the church. As new believers in Jesus, some were swayed by winsome speakers to believe in lies about Jesus while others emphasized returning to Jewish tradition as a means of salvation. Thus, the apostle reinforces the role of the Spirit in discerning truth from lies, and it also by this same Spirit that unites them as children of God.

During Roman times, brotherly kinship was not necessarily based on mutual affection for one another. Brothers were often in competition for their father’s affection and were seen as rivals for the family’s fortune. Fast forward to Ottoman times, when the male patriarch of the family had appointed his successor from his sons, the other brothers were disposed of to prevent coups and retaliation.

I’m sure it is no surprise that my brother and I argue and fight, but eventually reconcile. Others are not as fortunate and remain estranged till death. God was aware of relationship strain between brothers when Cain murdered Abel. He desired that they would love one another, support one another and encouragement one another as only brothers can through kinship love and shared love of God. This kind of love is described as philia. However, it was Cain’s regard for his own happiness or advantage (philautia) that birthed hate in his heart.

Hate is the opposite of love and is the cause of disunity in society and in the church. Hate had manifested itself through lies and conspiracies during the global pandemic. Hate also evidenced itself in acts of violence and discrimination towards minorities and the disenfranchised. The author stresses that for God’s people, there is no place for hate, for we are united by the same Spirit who advocates for love of one another. In a world that promotes philautia love, it is our philia love that evidences we are God’s people (John 13:35). To act otherwise means we are lying to ourselves and others about the God we say we believe in.

Action: Ask God to search your life for evidence of strong dislike or conflict with a brother or sister, in your family, church, neighbourhood, workplace or school. Seek God for forgiveness and to make amends.

Prayer: Father God, grant me the Spirit to love my enemies, and be an agent of reconciliation where you have placed me.

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About the author

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Sherman Lau formerly served at Mission Central in the roles of Church Relations Coordinator and Manager of Agency Collaboration. He seeks to advance the development and praxis of intercultural ministry in the Canadian multicultural context by discipling Jesus followers to think and reflect theologically, grow interculturally as well as live missionally with boldness and grace. He serves as the Lead Pastor at Killarney Park MB Church, and directs the Intercultural Ministry program at Pacific Life Bible College.

Killarney Park Mennonite Brethren Church (Vancouver, BC)

Series: Unity 2023

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