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The Beauty of Brotherly Kindness (2 Peter 1:7)
Growing by Addition
The Beauty of Brotherly Kindness
2 Peter 1:7
 
While searching the internet for some information regarding today's subject of "brotherly love", I came across the blog of a woman named Susan that was titled "Eat Clean, Live Dirty."  Come to find out, me and ol' Susan have a lot in common, not the least of which is she and her husband are the parents of multiple sons. 
 
I found her humor, at the same time both familiar and humorous.  She describes her family in this way:
 
I am a stay-at-home mom to three active boys.  I am a referee, housekeeper, counselor, taxi driver, list-maker, and personal chef.  The majority of my time is spent in the kitchen trying new recipes and revising old favorites to be as healthy and wholesome as possible.  I love good books, strong coffee, and $10 wine.  If someone told me a decade ago I would be into potty humor, rely on Facebook for grown-up time, and drive a minivan, I would have sobbed uncontrollably.  These days, it’s just part of the job.
 
Abe, Age 7:  Abe is a rule follower.  He has been coloring in the lines since he was 2.  He talked early and often. He would be a near-model child if he would stop using corporal punishment to discipline his younger brothers.  He can be recognized on the street by his Mr. T-sized necklaces he creates on the Rainbow Loom.
 
 
 
Gus, Age 4:  Gus is our daily alarm clock and resident Drama Queen.  He is a fast-talker, but still can’t pronounce his “L’s.”  He runs.  Everywhere.  And is responsible for the constantly changing graffiti on our walls, floors, and furniture.  He’ll either be a Rhodes Scholar or jailbird. It’s yet to be determined.
 
Ben, Age 4:  Ben is sensitive, kind, and quirky.  He is a physically-gifted, gentle giant.  He loves books, sports, and trains.  He gets along with everyone.  And he has a special fondness for processed foods and Japanese stink bugs.  I wish I was kidding.
 
Listen to this recent post from her blog:
 
"I was at the park when a woman commented on my sweet boys – especially the oldest who had just given his brother a kiss in the stroller. Obviously, she witnessed the events unfold from the wrong angle. Abe had actually placed his head forehead to forehead with Gus and pushed as hard as he could. He then proceeded to spit in his hair. Sadly, I just let her believe I have this mothering thing all figured out."
 
As I thought about what she wrote, I thought, "That describes the church!" 
 
Those who may peek in from the outside or look from the wrong angle, might come away thinking we are the happiest people in the world.  And what they don't see or know about is how much spit is flying!
 
That churches and Christians fuss and fight is well-documented.  And unfortunately, far too many of us have either witnessed it or been involved in it. 
No wonder, when Peter recorded his second letter, the Holy Spirit instructed him to include this admonition to add "brotherly kindness" to our faith.
 
It's a part of growing to be like Christ.  In addition to virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance and godliness, we are to learn how to love our brothers and sisters in the family of faith.  Obviously, that is an age-old challenge.  To consider the If you think about
 
1.  The Background
 
of brotherly kindness from a scriptural standpoint, you have to travel all the way back to the very first brothers ever born on the face of the earth.  And unfortunately, Cain and Abel were no role models for how to do it successfully.  As you know, the very first "brother" relationship ends in tragedy when jealousy prompted Cain to kill his brother.
 
Perhaps the best way to view brotherly kindness in the Old Testament is to think about the instruction given to the Jews in
 
Leviticus 19:18
 
Now that phrase, "you shall love your neighbor as yourself" actually comes on the heels of ten specific commands the Lord gave to His people about how to treat their neighbors. 
 
And don't miss that it these things are to be done because, God says, "I am the LORD."  And that phrase is repeated five times, in verses 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18.
So this is Creator God, the LORD speaking about how He expects His people to treat their neighbors.  So, if ever there were principles of conduct that God took seriously they were these principles. He is dealing with the greatest of commandments, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
 
So how are we to be devoted to one another in brotherly love? Read through the next verses and you will find God calling His people to have concern for those in need.  They were to display integrity in their business transactions.  They were tohonor God's name and pay their bills.
 
God instructed them to care for the less privileged among them and not take advantage of their neighbors.  They were to maintain integrity in their speech and refuse to harbor hatred for a brother.  Loving a neighbor as yourself even called for rebuking a neighbor's sin and being willing to bless your offending Brother
 
Those ten specifics cover virtually every area of social life for the Jew.  And God says, because I am the Lord, here's what I expect when it comes to loving your neighbor.  Most of that is familiar to us because it is repeated in the New Testament and given a Christian emphasis. 
 
But there is an added dimension in the New Testament and that is the setting of the church and our relationship as family in the faith. And the word that is used to describe that relationship is the word "philadelphia".  Most of us know, because of the American city by that name, that it means "brotherly love". 
 
In the Old Testament setting, this idea of a neighbor was in the context of the Jews.  But the New Testament focuses on our relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ.
 
That's not to say we don't express our love in other ways to other people, we do.  But different words are used to describe those relationships.  We are told to love our wives, love the Lord and even to love our enemies, but the idea of brotherly love is centered on our relationship if the family of God.
 
Here in our text, we are told to add "brotherly kindness".   John reminds us, "since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:11-12)
 
Jesus tells us, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). John says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words and tongue, but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:16-18).
 
The early church practiced that kind of love in a spontaneous way under the Spirit’s direction: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. . . All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possession was his own, but they shared everything they had . . .
There were no needy persons among them, for from time to time those who owned lands and houses sold them and brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32, 34).
 
Such unity exists because of philadelphia.  Paul says we are to consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4) and honor one another above ourselves (Rom. 12:10).  And to the Thessalonian church he writes, “Now about brotherly love, we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. “And in fact, you do love all brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10).
 
In Hebrews 13:1, we read let brotherly love continue.  Where the Spirit of God is, there is love and unity. If there is no brotherly love in a church, it has ceased being a church of Jesus Christ and is a synagogue of Satan.
 
2.  The Definition
 
So what is the definition of "brotherly kindness" or "brotherly love"?  A literal understand of the word implies a relationship by physical blood.  In the Old Testament that blood relationship was limited to the twelve tribes of Israel. 
 
But in the New Testament, it is the relationship made possible by the blood of Jesus Christ.  And brotherly love is a reference to the kinship that we share by the new nature that lives within us. 
 
So by definition, brotherly kindness is the attitude and action that Christians develop and maintain for each other based on the love God has shown them.
And the truth of the matter is you can't have one without the other.  We love because God has first loved us.  John reminds us if we say we love God and don't love others we are liars and don't speak the truth.
 
It is our love for God that motivates and compels us to share that love in the church.  Jesus said this would be our primary distinction in the world. We would be known as His disciples because we in the church love one another.
 
As Christians, we understand we are not merely the recipients of the love of God, we are the channels and instruments of that Love.  We serve each other in service to God. 
 
And in reality, is that not why Christ loved you?  Did He not come to this earth and serve others so we could understand and know the love He had for God and that God had for us?  He said, "I have come, not to be served, but to serve and give My life a ransom for many."
 
He is
 
3.  The Example
 
Let me remind you of how perfectly our Savior Jesus Christ loved his neighbor with this brotherly affection.  Just consider those ten responsibilities we looked at in the Old Testament. 
 
Compare His life to those and you will find He was concerned for the needy, in all his business transactions as a carpenter he never cheated a customer; he never produced shoddy work.
 
He honored God’s name whenever it was on his lips. He cared for the less privileged, the leper, the disadvantaged, the cripple and so on. He was absolutely straight with his neighbor; he did not judge him unfairly.
 
He called Herod a fox because he was mean and cruel and ruthless. The Pharisees were a nest of snakes. He had total integrity of speech, but he rebuked his sinning neighbors. For his brethren there was no unjust hatred in his heart. He blessed his offending brethren; he prayed for those who crucified him.
 
In the Lord Jesus Christ there is a perfect righteousness. And therefore, in Him we find a perfect example of brotherly kindness and love.
 
A couple of examples in particular come to mind.  Certainly we see that "phileo" love in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  In the story from John 11, Jesus hears that his friend Lazarus is seriously ill. Two days later, Jesus brings His disciples to visit Lazarus's home in the village of Bethany.
 
Unfortunately, Lazarus had already died. What happened next was interesting, to say the least:
 
John 11:30-37
 
 
I think it safe to say that Jesus and Lazarus, along with Mary and Martha, shared a close and personal friendship.  You can see in the emotion, the honesty and the concern that they shared this "brotherly love" that Peter is writing about. 
 
But the primary example I want us to see is between Jesus and Peter.  And the best example comes in an exchange between the two of them that occurred after the resurrection.  It's recorded in the 21st chapter of the book of John.
 
While you're turning there, I'll refresh your memory on what's going on.  This hotshot disciple of Christ named Peter had boasted after the Last Supper that he would never deny or abandon Jesus, no matter what may come. Others might, but not him.  But before that night was over, Peter did abandon the Lord.  In fact, he denied Him three times. 
 
Now keep in mind, they are friends, Jesus and Peter.  That sometimes gets lost in the details.  Yes, Jesus is Savior and Lord and God in the flesh.  But He's also a human with relationships and some of those relationships are friendships. 
 
And that is true of Peter. They are as close as two human friends can get. He, along with James and John, are the inner circle.  They've had the privilege of seeing and experiencing things the others didn't. Peter had trusted Him with his life of more than one occasion.  Peter was willing to put his life on the line for His friend  And yet, in spite of all the bragging, Peter denies his friend. 
 
And to make matters worse, it was all instigated by a little girl.  She initiated the conversation and confrontation that ultimately led to his denial. 
 
And now, after the resurrection, Jesus is going to force His friend to deal with what he's done.  Here's what happened, and pay special attention to the Greek words translated "love" throughout these verses:
 
John 21:15-17
 
There are a lot of subtle and interesting things going on throughout this conversation. First, Jesus asking three times if Peter loved Him was a definite reference back to the three times Peter had denied Him. That's why the interaction "grieved" Peter -- Jesus was reminding him of his failure. At the same time, Jesus was giving Peter an opportunity to reaffirm his love for Christ.
 
Speaking of love, if we were reading this text in the original language, we would see that Jesus started out using the word "agape", which is the perfect love that comes from God. "Do you agape Me?" Jesus asked.  Do I have your absolute commitment?
 
I think Peter must have been very sorrowful.  And now, having been burned by his boasting, and now confronted by the Lord, he is not so quick to answer.  He responds by saying, "Jesus, You know that I phileo You." 
 
In other words, "You know we are close friends."  But he wasn't willing to go where Jesus asked.  He was aware of his failures and shortcomings and loving someone with a God-like love is a big deal.  He would have been a hypocrite to say yes to that question.  Jesus knew better.  So he answers very honestly.  You say, “Well, that’s a sad thing to have to admit."  Oh, I don't think so. I think it's a moment of sweet release and blessing for Peter.  He knows the Lord knows everything about him and what he's done.  But He also knows Peter is His friend. 
 
And I don't know about you, but personally, I’m glad that the Lord knows all about me because that means even when I don't do everything I should, He knows I love Him. I don’t love Him as I should. My love isn’t everything it should be, but it’s real. And that’s what Peter’s saying.  "I know you know I don't love you like I should, but I love you!"
 
And Jesus affirms that love by giving him care of the lambs of God. He's saying, “You’re accepted."  Even after all the ridiculous things that Peter has done, the friendship is intact. And from there, the relationship begins to grow.  Jesus asks a second time, "Do you love me?"  Same question.  Peter gives the same answer, using the same words as before.  "Then shepherd my sheep."
 
Third time, Jesus drops down to Peter's word and repeats the question.  He is now at the very core of Peter's soul.  This is a spiritual biopsy.  He is now questioning even the lower level love that Peter thought he could get away with.  "Peter, are we really friends?"
 
How agonizing this must have been for Peter.  This really hurt. This probes into Peter’s heart. This is a spiritual biopsy.  And we are told that Peter was grieved.  Not because the Lord asked three times.  After all, he denied the Lord three times. 
He was grieved because the Lord questioned his friendship and love.  And when Peter affirmed that love on that level, the Lord said, "Okay, we'll start there. Feed my sheep."
 
I don't know about you, but I find great encouragement in the fact that Jesus is committed to Peter's friendship.  He could have said, "Fine, you denied Me, then I'll deny you."  He could have turned His back on not only Peter, but the whole bunch, gone back to heaven, and said, "To hell with them!"
 
But He lived out the proverb that reminds us there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. In fact, Jesus said, "No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends..  Then Jesus called us His friends and went to a cross and died. 
 
So how do we live out that kind of brotherly love?
 
Let's make
 
4.  The Application
 
Romans 12:10
 
New Century Version:
 
Love each other like brothers and sisters. Give each other more honor than you want for yourselves.
 
Listen to how the Holman Christian Standard Bible handles this verse: 
 
Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.
So there are two exhortations given in the verse, and remember, they are addressed to the church. 
The "each other" and "one another" is not just somebody off the street, this is how we are to love our fellow believers in the church. 
 
That's not to say you can’t have affection for an unbeliever. You can and should.  But the focus here is on the church. Wherever else you show love, show it here in the church to your brothers and sisters in the faith.  So how do we apply that?  Let me give you a what, a why and a how. 
 
There are two things involved in the
 
- what
 
First, we are to "love each other like brothers and sisters."  And second, we are to try and outdo one another in showing honor. 
 
So this "brotherly kindness" we are to add to our faith is then to be shared with others in the family.  We are to take this unconditional family affection that comes from long familiarity and deep bonds and pass it around. 
 
That doesn't mean you won't have a fuss or squabble from time to time, it means we love each other in spite of that.  Let some bully pick on your little brother or sister, and the family affection shows a powerful side. Or let one of the family members get a life-threatening sickness or even die, and there will be a kind of tears that do not come for others.
 
This is what we are supposed to have for each other in the church. Don’t react by saying, “I can’t do that. There are too many weirdoes and goofballs and emotional misfits in the church.” After all, that's what somebody thinks about you also!  Just love the brothers and sisters in the family.
 
What about showing honor? Verse 10b says, “Outdo one another in showing honor.” What is that? Honor is different from affection. You can honor a person for whom you have no affection. Paul doesn’t want you to choose between these. Do both he says. But they are different.
 
Honoring someone is treating them with your deeds and your words as worthy of your service. They may not be worthy of it. But you can do it anyway. Some honoring means treating people better than they deserve.
 
Paul told slaves to honor their master and he instructed the church in Corinth to give honor to those that are weak.  So showing honor is not always a response to something or someone being honorable.
 
And notice, we are to “outdo one another in showing honor”.  That means we choose to honor others rather than seeking to be honored yourself.  It means you love to honor more than you love to be honored. Don’t be giving energy to how you can be honored, but how you can honor.
 
So
 
- Why?  Why would we do that?  Why is this so important? Why does it matter that we have affection for each other and that we prefer to honor each other?
Well, I would assume it matters because the Bible tells us to do it. That means this instruction comes from the heart and mind of God.  And God commands that we love with affection and that we honor each other because these two experiences show the reality of our new nature in Christ.
 
In other words, there are behaviors that are natural and fitting for those who are born again and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are justified by faith and are treasuring Christ and are hoping in the glory of God. These are behaviors that are fitting and proper. That's why we are instructed to add it to our faith. 
 
But I would think God demands that we love with affection and prefer to honor each other because it strengthens and confirms the faith of those we love affectionately and honor.  When you are on the receiving end of affection and  honor in the body of Christ, it just does something to our faith.  It encourages us to keep going!  It builds us up and helps us realize we are not alone in our struggles. 
 
Third, God demands that we love with affection and prefer to honor over being honored because it reflects well on God.  When we do those things we are just like God. 
 
That's what Paul wrote in  Ephesians 4:32 when he says, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
The tenderness of our relationships with one another is rooted in the tenderness of God in Christ.
 
 
And when we elevate someone by becoming their servant, we are painting a picture of the way Christ was among us. So loving affectionately and preferring to honor displays the glory of Christ.
 
And finally, God demands that we love with affection and honor each other because this captures the attention of the world and draws them to Christ.
 
When you magnify Christ by loving Christians affectionately and outdoing each other in showing honor, the world will see and be more inclined to glorify God.  That's what Matthew 5:16 means when we are instructed to let our light shine for others to see. 
 
That's the what and the why.  Let's take a moment to think about the
 
- How
 
How do you have affection for a believer you may not even like? How do you honor a believers who may do dishonorable things?
 
Everything in the Bible is written to answer this question. Everything I preach is aimed to answer this question. Because everything God does he does to make his children what we ought to be.
 
Theologically, I do it because of what we've just discussed.  It is who I am in Christ, it encourages others, it brings glory to God and becomes a means of evangelism. 
 
But on a more practical note, I would suggest
 
- remind yourself every day that, no matter how imperfect you may be, you are a child of God and as such, you are in a family with brothers and sisters in Christ. Remind yourself that Christ shed his blood for them. They are forgiven for all the things about them that make you upset.
 
And if God has clothed them with the righteousness of Christ, you clothe them with the righteousness of Christ. Yes they do bad things. Yes, they have bad attitudes. Yes, they are immature and annoying. But don’t dishonor the blood of Christ that covers all that. Glorify Christ’s finished work by the way you apply it to them. And then let affection grow.
 
Second, look for evidences of grace in their flawed lives.   Every believer has evidences of grace. God is at work in every saint. Don’t dishonor the work of God by only complaining about the works of the flesh. Look for the evidences of grace. This is what God is going to do for you at the last judgment. He is going to gather up all the Ds and Fs in your life and burn them. Then he will spread out your Cs and Bs and rejoice over the evidences of grace in your life. (I don’t think there will be many As and certainly no A+s). Do for others now what God will do for you then.
 
Third, remember you once were and what God ahs done in forgiving you.  In Philippians 2:3 Paul says humility or lowliness is the key to “counting others better than our selves”—that is, counting them worthy of our service. “In humility count others more significant than yourselves.” So never forget your undeserving position. It’s the seed of true affection for others.
 
Perhaps the most important answer to the question How can I become this kind of person? is: Wake up and realize and feel the preciousness of God’s mercy to you personally.
 
When a person has been plucked from a burning building, or from a sinking ship, or from a dread disease, everything looks precious, especially people. How affectionate we are to the people on the shore where we have just been saved. Well, that is our true condition. Wake up to it. Revel in it. Revel in mercy. And affections for God’s people will grow and you will love to honor them.
 
One person who wrote much about Christian love was Francis Schaeffer. Much of his life was caught up in church disputes that were quite divisive. Schaeffer was known as a powerful defender of Christian doctrines, yet at the same time he strove to maintain love within the body of believers. One of his books begins with these words:
 
“Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks in the lapels of their coats, hung chains about their necks, even had special haircuts. But there is a much better sign.
It is a universal mark that is to last through all ages of the church until Jesus comes back.”1
 
That mark is love among Christians, and Schaeffer proves it with Jesus’ teaching of John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is a conditional statement predicated on the reality that if we love one another, the result will be that people will see this as the mark identifying the disciples of Jesus.
In another of his excellent books Schaeffer writes, “Evangelism is a calling but not the first calling. A Christians first call is to return to the first commandment to love God, to love the brotherhood, and then to love one’s neighbor as himself.”2 This means we are to show love as an essential part of our witness, but more importantly because God is love and we are called to be like Him in the world. The Apostle John puts this in challenging terms:
 
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
 
Simply put, loving others is an outflow of our relationship with God. It is how we show gratitude for His love to us.
 
Brothers and sisters, let’s love one another because of the great work of God’s grace. The Christian who has been born again can’t help but love his brothers and sisters in Christ because they know it is the love of God in Christ that has wooed and won them over. The world doesn’t get this. They are greatly confused about love. So let us all the more love one another as Jesus has loved us and demonstrate His love within the confines of our local churches and to a watching world to the glory of God.
 
Let's pray.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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