By: Kenneth E. Hagin
A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. – John 13:34
In the world today we hear reports of famine devastating many countries. Yet while physical hunger is rampant in many places, the whole world is also starving for something beyond physical sustenance. People everywhere are hungry for love, acceptance, and forgiveness.
People of every age and walk of life – whether young or old, rich or poor – need genuine, caring relationships with other human beings. But many have given up the search for loving relationships
because of past disappointments and hurts.
These people avoid building close friendships. Instead, they build emotional walls to protect themselves from experiencing any more pain. Existing inside fortresses of isolation, they have learned to accept loneliness rather than risk the pain of emotional involvement.
But isolation and loneliness are not God’s will for man. God made clear in His Word the value He places on relationships, especially among His own people. In His divine wisdom, God provided an answer to man’s need for caring relationships with others when He said, “LET BROTHERLY LOVE CONTINUE,” (Heb. 13:1). God’s plan is for His children to love one another and to dwell together in unity.
1 PETER 2:17
17) Honor all men. LOVE THE BROTHERHOOD. Fear God. Honor the king.
1) …Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for BRETHREN TO DWELL TOGETHER IN UNITY!
The word “brother” appears in the Bible in some form about 952 times. The word “brother” means a kinsman; a fellow member; or one related to another by common ties or interests. It describes the
quality of a close-knit relationship. God wants His people to dwell together in true brotherly love.
You see, we’re all in the same family – the family of God. Through Jesus’ redemptive work, we have been brought into relationship with Jesus Himself, with God the Father, and with each other. Because Jesus redeemed us with His own blood, He looks upon us as His brethren.
11) For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause HE IS NOT ASHAMED TO CALL THEM BRETHREN.
Jesus Christ – the Redeemer of the world – is our big Brother. Think about that!
Romans 8:29 calls Jesus “the firstborn among many brethren.” You see, God raised Jesus from the dead so that we, too, could become children of God (Rom. 8:11-16). In that sense, Jesus is our elder Brother. And by studying the example of our big Brother, we can learn how to conduct ourselves in our relationships with others in every circumstance of life.
For example, the only reason you and I can demonstrate brotherly love to others is that our elder Brother walked up Calvary’s hill one day carrying a rugged Cross on His back. Roman soldiers nailed Him to that Cross, and He hung suspended between Heaven and earth.
In dying on the Cross, Jesus exhibited selfless, unconditional love. Regardless of the cost to Himself, Jesus considered our need above His own. He willingly gave His life so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. And in laying down His life for us when we were still sinners, Jesus showed us the kind of self-
sacrificing love He wants us to demonstrate to others.
God’s desire has always been for brothers to dwell together in unity and love. However, down through the ages peaceful relationships have not always existed between brothers, even within the family of God.
The Bible gives several examples of brothers in whose relationships hate and jealousy prevailed instead of brotherly love. For instance, things were not peaceful even between the first brothers, Cain and Abel. They didn’t dwell together in unity. In fact, Cain hated his brother so much that he killed him in a cruel act of violence and became the world’s first murderer.
3) And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.
4) And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And THE LORD HAD RESPECT UNTO ABEL AND TO HIS OFFERING:
5) BUT UNTO CAIN AND TO HIS OFFERING HE HAD NOT RESPECT. AND CAIN WAS VERY WROTH, and his countenance fell.
6) And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?
7) If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
8) And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that CAIN ROSE UP AGAINST ABEL HIS BROTHER and SLEW HIM.
Isn’t it interesting that the first murder the Bible records wasn’t committed by an enemy or in a battle! It was committed by a brother against a brother. Cain killed his own brother because he was jealous of Abel’s relationship with God. Cain resented the favor God showed Abel because Abel’s offering was acceptable with God and Cain’s offering wasn’t pleasing to Him (v. 4).
When God asked Cain, “…Where is Abel thy brother?” Cain answered, “… I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). By saying that, Cain showed his true feelings toward Abel. He wasn’t even concerned that he’d killed his own brother!
With the death of Abel, a new word – murder – was introduced into the world. That word wasn’t originated by an enemy; it was introduced by a brother.
I think that in the Church today sometimes believers commit “murder” in their attitudes toward one another. No, they aren’t guilty of literally murdering a brother or a sister. But many times Christians “murder” their brothers and sisters with malicious gossip and slander. What do I mean by that? They discredit and hurt others when they talk against them.
Also, some Christians don’t walk in forgiveness toward those who have made mistakes in life. Instead of restoring brethren who have missed it, some believers say malicious things about them and treat them like inferior members of the Body of Christ.
But there are no inferior members of the Body of Christ! We’ve all been redeemed by the same precious blood of Jesus. God has no second-class citizens in His Kingdom. God loves each one of His children the same. In His eyes, we are all precious and valuable to Him.
How it must grieve the heart of God when Christians disobey Him and hurt their brothers and sisters in the Lord! By failing to walk in love toward one another, believers turn God’s dream for brotherhood, love, unity, and friendship into a nightmare of jealousy, strife, and hatred.
Probably one of the most vivid New Testament examples of jealousy between brothers is found in the passage in Luke 15 about the prodigal son. The prodigal son broke his father’s heart by leaving home with his inheritance, only to squander his money on riotous living. The time came when the son had completely wasted away his fortune. He found himself destitute with nothing to eat and nowhere to turn for help.
Although the prodigal son had greatly disappointed his father, he decided to return to his father’s house and ask to be hired as a servant. At least his father’s servants were better off than he was in his backslidden state!
20) And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.
21) And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.
22) But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:
23) And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:
24) For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
Most people use this account to illustrate the mercy of God the Father when a backslider repents and comes back into fellowship with Him. And it’s true that God is always ready to welcome us home. He always leaves the door open to His house and to His banqueting table of blessings so we can enjoy our sonship privileges and take pleasure in our brotherly relationships with one another.
But this passage also illustrates the attitude we as believers should have when someone repents and “comes home” to Father’s house. Just as this father did, we need to welcome a repentant child of God back with open arms and an attitude of love and acceptance.
25) Now HIS ELDER SON WAS IN THE FIELD: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.
26) And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
27) And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.
28) And HE WAS ANGRY, AND WOULD NOT GO IN: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.
29) And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:
30) But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
31) And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.
32) It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
This father couldn’t contain the joy he felt when his prodigal son came home. Nothing less than a grand celebration would do to express this father’s gladness.
But in the midst of the excitement and the great celebration because the younger son had come home, there was turmoil in the heart of the elder brother (vv. 29,30). Notice in verse 30, the elder brother wouldn’t even call his own brother by the name, “Brother.” He wasn’t glad his brother had come back home – he was angry!
The Bible says that even the angels in Heaven rejoice when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10). Yet this elder brother didn’t rejoice; he harbored resentment and bitterness in his heart because his father had graciously forgiven his brother and had welcomed him home with open arms.
The elder brother wanted his younger brother to suffer and pay for his mistakes. He certainly didn’t, want his father to bless him and throw him a big party!
Some Christians are like that. When a sinner is born again or a backslider comes back home to Father’s house and starts getting blessed, some Christians get mad about it! For example, I’ve actually heard some church members complain by saying, “How come So-and-so got healed instantly when he just got saved last week? Why, I’ve been in the church a lot longer than he has! How come God is blessing him so much and not me?”
Christians with an attitude like that aren’t going to receive God’s best! They’re basing their confidence to receive God’s blessings on their own efforts and good works. But the Bible says faith is what pleases God (Heb. 11:6). It’s by faith – by accepting and receiving what God has already done for us – that believers are able to enjoy God’s blessings.
Friends, instead of condemning people who have sinned but repented, we need to have the same attitude of love and acceptance that Jesus shows toward them. When someone misses the mark but wants to be restored, Jesus lovingly welcomes him or her back into fellowship. Jesus said in John 6:37, “…him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” If Jesus doesn’t reject those who miss it but truly repent, why should we?
12) How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
13) And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, HE REJOICETH MORE OF THAT SHEEP, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
It is God’s will to restore everyone who falls away from Him and to bring them back into rightstanding with Him. We should have the same attitude toward one another in the Body of Christ. That is an important part of what it means to “let brotherly love continue.”
So let’s make sure we don’t ostracize and discredit people who have missed it in the past. When they come back to Father’s house, let’s freely restore them and welcome them back into the family of God. And let’s rejoice when our brothers and sisters in Christ are walking in God’s will for their lives and are receiving His bountiful blessings!
People in the world are desperately hungry for relationships that demonstrate God’s love. They’re watching Christians to see if there’s any difference in the way believers treat one another.
People need to see us demonstrating genuine brotherly love that is accepting, forgiving, gracious, and kind – not envious, jealous, bitter, or resentful- Jesus said the world would know we were His disciples by the love we showed to one another (John 13:35). What a witness of God’s everlasting love it would be to the world if we all endeavored from our heart to “let brotherly love continue”!
Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye LOVE ONE ANOTHER WITH A PURE HEART FERVENTLY. – 1 Peter 1:22. God wants believers to demonstrate His love to each other and to a lost and dying world. Where God’s love prevails, God prevails because God is love. And where God is, there is light, life, and liberty in abundance. It’s no wonder that God wants brotherly love to continue among the brethren and to be demonstrated to those without hope and without Christ in the world.
The Bible gives us many examples of relationships among believers. Some of those relationships exemplified God’s dream of His people dwelling together in unity and harmony. Other relationships
grieved the heart of God because they were filled with hatred and bitterness.
There are also many examples of relationships between brethren in the Bible: Cain and Abel; Jacob and Esau; and Joseph and his brothers, just to name a few. Unfortunately, in most of these relationships, instead of a loving bond of friendship existing between these brothers, there were problems.
For example, in Genesis 37 we read the story about Joseph and his brothers. Joseph’s brothers envied him because their father, Jacob, favored him above all his other sons. They also hated Joseph and were jealous of him because of the dreams God had given him concerning His plan for Joseph’s life (Gen. 37:4-11).
Because of their hatred for Joseph, his brothers plotted to kill him: “And when they saw him (Joseph) afar off, even before he came near unto them, they conspired against him to slay him” (Gen. 37:18). Finally, instead of killing him, they threw him into a waterless twenty pieces of silver (Gen. 37:28).
Instead of walking in love toward Joseph and rejoicing in the plan of God for his life, Joseph’s brothers treated him with contempt, hatred, and jealousy. They certainly weren’t walking in brotherly love! They mistreated Joseph, their own brother, and betrayed him.
Although Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, by the grace of God, Joseph endured severe tests and trials for many years. But Joseph stayed faithful to God, and God eventually promoted him to the position of prime minister of Egypt, the highest position of honor and authority next to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:39-44).
Some years later there was a famine in Israel, and Joseph’s father, Jacob, sent Joseph’s brothers from Canaan to Egypt to buy grain. Since Joseph was in charge of Pharaoh’s storehouses, he could have taken that opportunity to get even and treat his brothers as cruelly as they once treated him (Gen. 41:56). Joseph
could have chosen to harbor feelings of ill will and animosity against his brothers, but he didn’t.
Instead, Joseph was moved with compassion toward them. In the true spirit of brotherly love, Joseph not only forgave his brothers for what they had done to him, but he blessed them (Gen. 45:4-8).
You see, true brotherly love is demonstrated to others even in the midst of adverse circumstances and persecution. The Bible says, “…if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans (sinners) the same? (Matt. 5:46). In other words, as a believer, the attitude of brotherly love should be your way of life regardless of the way others may treat you.
In the New Testament, the relationship between two natural brothers, Andrew and Simon Peter, shows us an example of the brotherly love that God wants to see demonstrated among His Body of believers.
38) Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou?
39) He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.
40) One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was ANDREW, SIMON PETER’S BROTHER.
41) He (Andrew) FIRST FINDETH HIS OWN BROTHER SIMON, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.
42) AND HE BROUGHT HIM (Simon Peter) TO JESUS. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.
Andrew had been pursuing the things of God as a disciple of John the Baptist (v. 40), while his brother, Simon Peter, had busied himself with his fishing business. When Andrew found out that Jesus was the Messiah, he began to follow Jesus as one of His disciples (John 1:37,40).
Andrew was no doubt excited to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah. But instead of being lifted up in selfishness and pride, Andrew’s first thought was to go tell the good news to his brother. The Bible says, “He (Andrew) FIRST FINDETH HIS OWN BROTHER SIMON, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ” (John 1:41).
Andrew could have had the attitude, I found the Messiah first, and I’m not going to share this with anyone! Besides, Peter is too taken up with his fishing business. Let him find out about Jesus on his own.
But that wasn’t Andrew’s attitude. He wanted to share his new-found joy with his brother. Actually, Andrew’s brotherly attitude went beyond just sharing his blessing with his brother. Andrew’s genuine love for his brother was made even more evident when Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, and Jesus spoke to Peter about the plan of God for his life.
Jesus said to Peter, “…Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas (Peter), which is by interpretation, A stone” (John 1:42). In essence, Jesus was telling Simon Peter, “I’m going to greatly use you to help build My Kingdom.”
Andrew could have been very upset at Jesus’ statement! The Bible doesn’t indicate that Jesus said very much at all to Andrew, even though it was Andrew who had first followed Him. But Jesus went into detail concerning Peter’s calling.
Andrew could have been envious and jealous and said, “Why does the Lord want to use Peter? I was here first! Besides, I was a disciple of John the Baptist when Peter was just a fisherman, too busy to be interested in the things of God.”
But evidently, Andrew esteemed the things of God and the call of God on his brother’s life more than his own interests and personal ambition. As a result, Andrew was able to prefer his brother more than himself (Rom. 12:10).
John the Baptist also demonstrated true brotherly love. Since John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins, John could have been jealous of his cousin’s popularity. But instead, John preached everywhere,
“…There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose” (Mark 1:7). John showed brotherly love and kindness by deferring to Jesus and esteeming Jesus’ ministry greater than he did his own.
Huge crowds had followed John’s ministry as he proclaimed the Lord’s coming. But when Jesus began His earthly ministry, the crowds followed Jesus instead (John 3:26).
People began to tell John the Baptist, “This man, Jesus, is baptizing folks now. He’s taking your crowds and stealing your thunder!”
But John’s attitude was a demonstration of brotherly love and friendship. John rejoiced when Jesus began His earthly ministry, because John knew his own place in the plan and purpose of God. In other words, John’s greatest joy and contentment in life was to fulfill God’s will by being Jesus’ friend and forerunner. John’s greatest desire was to see Jesus fulfill the plan of God and be exalted as the Son of the Most High.
28) Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I AM SENT BEFORE HIM.
29) He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but THE FRIEND OF THE BRIDEGROOM, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
30) He must increase, but I MUST DECREASE.
John the Baptist’s attitude demonstrated his great love for God and for his fellow man as well. You see, we need to realize that every relationship is built upon attitudes. Godly attitudes cause relationships to grow and be strengthened, but wrong attitudes hurt and destroy good relationships.
In First Samuel 18, we read about a fellow named Jonathan who had the same attitude of brotherly love that John the Baptist demonstrated. Jonathan showed brotherly love and loyalty to David when Jonathan’s father, King Saul, wanted to kill David.
Because of Saul’s disobedience to God, God anointed David to take Saul’s place as king of Israel. Saul’s son, Jonathan, was next in line to his father’s throne. But because of Jonathan’s great love and friendship to David, Jonathan deferred to David as Israel’s next king.
Jonathan acknowledged that David was the Lord’s chosen king and sacrificed his own position as heir to the throne. The self-sacrificing love Jonathan showed David saved David’s life and rescued him from the hands of Saul. Jonathan’s loyalty to David prepared the way for David to take his rightful place as God’s
chosen king of Israel.
In our own lives, we can learn a lesson from Jonathan’s self-sacrificing love. For instance, when God promotes someone else, instead of being sad because we wish were being promoted, we can rejoice that God is fulfilling His plan for our lives and the lives of others so that people can be blessed and His Kingdom
furthered. Honoring others like that demonstrates the brotherly love and kindness God desires us to develop toward one another.
The world promotes the attitude, Look out for number one. Don’t let anyone stand in your way, and don’t let anyone take anything away from you!
Certainly, in one sense, there is a truth to that saying. In other words, we shouldn’t let the devil or anyone else steal from us. For example, you wouldn’t let someone just walk into your home and take your family and your possessions away from you. No, they belong to you, and you have the responsibility to guard and
But the world’s attitude of selfishness is exactly opposite of the godly attitude of brotherly love that believers are to demonstrate. The world’s attitude is based on hatred and fear. But the attitude of brotherly love is based on preferring others and putting them first (Phil. 2:3-7). That’s what builds strong
relationships among brethren.
A story is told of a fellow who passed by a neighborhood playground and saw a group of children playing. The man stopped and watched the children play for a while.
The man noticed one boy in particular, who was about twelve years old. The boy was carrying a younger, smaller boy on his back. Every time the children moved from one area of the playground to another, this boy put the child on his back and carried him.
Finally, catching the eye of the older boy, the man asked him, “Don’t you get tired of carrying that child’s extra weight on your back?”
The boy flashed a big grin and glancing affectionately at the little boy on his back said, “Oh, no, Mister. He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother!”
Every one of us in the Body of Christ needs to develop that attitude! That’s genuine brotherly love!
We need to understand that sometimes our brothers and sisters in Christ may need to be carried for a while spiritually. Maybe they’re going through a test or trial and have become weary in well-doing. We need to minister to others with brotherly love without any thought of what we are going to get out of it.
I heard another testimony about a minister’s encounter with someone, and it perfectly demonstrated the attitude of Christian brotherly love.
This minister had driven his brand-new car downtown and had gone into one of the buildings to conduct business. When he came out, he found a group of children admiring his new car.
“Do you like my car, kids?” he asked.
“Yes, Sir! It sure is pretty!” they replied.
“My brother gave it to me,” he told them.
At that, one of the boys exclaimed, “Wow! I wish…”
Attempting to guess what the boy was going to say, the minister finished the boy’s sentence: “You wish you had a brother like that?”
“Oh, no,” the boy said. “I wish I could be a brother like that!”
That attitude is the very heart of brotherly love. It is an attitude that asks, How can I be a blessing to others? Brotherly love is always more interested in giving than in receiving.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if each one of us in the Body of Christ maintained that kind of attitude! When the love of God prevails among believers, God is glorified and people are helped and blessed. So let’s make it our aim in life to let brotherly love continue!
(The above material appeared in the March 1993 issue of The Word of Faith.)
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