Room for more. We may say it after a serving of delicious pie or cake. But do we say it about our brotherly love toward our fellow Christians? “We already love one another,” we might respond. The Thessalonian Christians were taught to love one another, and they were practicing it: “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more” (1 Thess. 4:9-10). There was room for more. Our capacity for brotherly love has no limit. It grows as we practice it. Later, Paul commended these brethren because “the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other” (2 Thess. 1:3). Fraternal affection in the body of Christ is a mark of our mutual purposes, shared salvation, and common faith (1 Pet. 4:8-10; Jude 3; Titus 1:4). The next time you have room for more pie or cake, remember to make room for more brotherly love. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom. 12:10).
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. 3 Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also. (Hebrews 13:1–3, NKJV)
It is easy not to have careful concern for those we do not know personally, and who are out of constant view. Today’s text exhorts us to be driven by brotherly love to remember both. Brotherly love expresses itself through hospitality (love of strangers). The hospitality enjoined here is far different from inviting friends and brethren over for coffee and cake. While this is a worthy kindness, the hospitality we are not to forget (v. 2) is showing fraternal kindness toward Christians who are strangers to us (“I was a stranger, and you took Me in,” Matt. 25:35; cf. 3 John 5-8). To do this was not without personal danger at a time when being a faithful Christian could imprison you, or worse (Matt. 24:9-13; Heb. 10:32-36). Brethren so mistreated should be remembered through our prayers and our provisions (“I was in prison, and you came to Me,” Matt. 25:36). “Out of sight, out of mind” does not characterize the faith of Christians who love their brethren as themselves (Jas. 2:8). May we commit ourselves to “increase more and more” in brotherly love through practical expressions of service to our fellow Christians (1 Thess. 4:9-10).
9 But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more; (1 Thessalonians 4:9–10, NKJV)
The apostle uses two words for love in this passage; philadelphia (brotherly love) and agape (love). We are to have both warm affection and the abiding welfare of our brethren in our hearts and in our lives. There is always room for improving our brotherly love. God teaches us to love one another, and so we must earnestly strive not to take each other for granted. Brotherly love holds its brethren in high regard and responds with kind consideration toward them. Such love is not confined to our own circle of saints, for instance, just the local church to which we belong. The Thessalonian Christians’ love included the saints in the surrounding area. Furthermore, there is no limit to love. While Paul commended them for loving their brethren, he urged them to increase their love abundantly. The warm affection of brotherly love (philadelphia) must be coupled with the love (agape) that selflessly attends to others before itself. Agape is an exercise of the will, and so are commanded to “love (agapao) the brotherhood” (1 Peter 2:17). Let us strive to mature in love (agape) and in the warm affection of brotherly love (philadelphia).
7 For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. (Romans 14:7–8, NKJV)
Your life affects many others, and they also affect you. To borrow from the 17th-century English poet, John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less…Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” Even more than being members of the human family, Christians are “members of one body” (the church). Our lives impact each other. Therefore, our choices must honor God as well as bless others. God does not teach us to isolate ourselves. Indeed, the very essence of brotherly love is outward-looking “for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). In the body of Christ, when one suffers, we all suffer; when one is honored, we all rejoice (1 Cor. 12:26). No one is an island.
Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; (Romans 12:10, NKJV)
The regard and treatment of Christians toward one another is discussed here under the figure of a family. Brotherly love is to be marked by warm, familial affection. That is, we are to hold each other close like members of our family. Instead of clannishly separating from other Christians, we are to express warm affection for each other that grows out of family togetherness and familiarity. So, instead of jealously seeking honor for oneself above others, consider the needs and circumstances of other Christians first. We are a spiritual family, and that is what family does.