BROTHERLY KINDNESS; BROTHERLY LOVE
1. As Moral Ideal:
In the Revised Version (British and American), "love of the brethren" in all places, and so in the King James Version of 1 Peter 1:22, thus defining the disposition as love, and its objects as brethren. Since God is Father and men are His sons, they are therefore brethren of one another. As sonship is the most essential factor in man's right relation to God, so is brotherhood in his relation to his fellow-man. Brotherhood is first known as the relation between sons of the same parent, a relation of tender affection and benevolence. It becomes gradually extended to kindred, and to members of the same tribe or nation. And the Christian ideal of society is that a similar relation should exist between all men without limit or distinction. Agape, "love" (see CHARITY), is the word in the New Testament that generally denotes this ideal. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" is the whole law of conduct as between man and man (Matthew 22:39,40); and neighbor includes every man within one's reach (Luke 10:29), even enemies (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:35). Without the love of man, the love of God is impossible, but "he that abideth in love abideth in God" (1 John 4:16,20).
2. As Actual Between Christians:
But man's sonship to God may be potential or actual. He may not respond to God's love or know His Fatherhood. Likewise love to man may not be reciprocated, and therefore may be incomplete. Yet it is the Christian's duty, like God, to maintain his disposition of love and benevolence to those that hate and curse him (Luke 6:27,28). But within the Christian community, love should respond to love, and find its fulfillment, for there all men are, or should be, God's sons actually, "because the love of God hath been shed abroad in our hearts, through the Holy Spirit which was given unto us" (Romans 5:5). And this mutual love within the Christian brotherhood (1 Peter 5:9) is called philadelphia.
3. Stoic Teaching:
This twofold ideal of social morality as universal benevolence and mutual affection had been foreshadowed by the \STOICS\ (which see). Men as citizens of the world should adopt an attitude of justice and mercy toward all men, even slaves; but within the community of the "wise" there should be the mutual affection of friendship.
4. Christian Advance on Heathen Thought:
Christianity succeeded in organizing and realizing in intense and practical fellowship the ideal that remained vague and abstract in the Greek schools:
"See how these Christians love one another." It was their Master's example followed, and His commandment and promise fulfilled: "Love one another .... as I have loved you ....; by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples" (John 13:14,34,35). Paul in his earliest epistle bears witness that the Thessalonians practice love "toward all the brethren that are in all Macedonia," even as they had been taught of God, but urges them to "abound more and more" (1 Thessalonians 4:9,10). For the healing of differences, and to build up the church in order and unity, he urges the Romans "in love of the brethren (to) be tenderly affectioned one to another" (Romans 12:10). Christians must even "forbear one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2) and "walk in love, even as Christ also loved you" (Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:1,2). It involves some suffering and sacrifice. The author of the Epistle to the He recognizes the presence of "love of the brethren" and urges that it may continue (Hebrews 13:1). It is the direct result of regeneration, of purity and obedience to the truth (1 Peter 1:22,23). It proceeds from godliness and issues in love (2 Peter 1:7). "Love of the brethren" (agape) is the one practical topic of John's epistles. It is the message heard from the beginning, "that we should love one another" 1 John 3:11,23. It is the test of light and darkness (1 John 2:10); life and death (1 John 3:14); children of God or children of the devil (1 John 3:10; 4:7-12). Without it there can be no knowledge or love of God (1 John 4:20), but when men love God and obey Him, they necessarily love His children (1 John 5:2). No man can be of God's family, unless his love extends to all its members.
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