By: Gary L. Hutchens
On the night of His betrayal Jesus issued “A new commandment…that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jn. 13:34-35). On this occasion Jesus was speaking specifically to His apostles, but the intended application to all who would become His faithful followers is obvious. Why is loving our brothers and sisters, our brethren, in Christ so important?
Some folks may get somewhat irritated at hearing a continued emphasis on our need and responsibility to love our brethren. They might snap back with something like, “I don’t have a problem with loving my brothers and sisters in Christ!” But their tone of voice and their voice inflection may convey something other than love in that statement. In action they may exhibit love for an exclusive number of their brethren while having virtually no interaction with others, even shunning them.
We need to remember that Jesus did not suggest loving our brethren, He commanded it. That theme fills the New Testament scriptures specifically addressing the church. From the apostle Paul: Rom. 12:9-10; 13:8-10; 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:1; 13:1-8; 14:1; 16:1, 14, 24; 2 Cor. 2:4, 8; 6:6; 8:7; 11:11; 12:15; Gal. 5:13-14, 22; Eph. 1:15; 4:2, 16; 5:2; 6:23; Phlp. 1:17; 2:2; Col. 1:4; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 5:13; 2 Thess. 1:3; 1 Tim. 4:12; 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22; 3:10; Tit. 2:2; 3:15; Phlm. 1:7, 9. From the Hebrews writer: Heb. 10:24; 13:1. From James: Jas. 2:8. From Peter: 1 Pet. 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 4:8; 5:14; 2 Pet. 1:7. From John: 1 Jn. 3:10-11, 14, 16-18, 23; 4:7-8, 11-12, 20-21; 5:2; 2 Jn. 1:1, 5; 3 Jn. 1:1, 6. From Jude: Jude 1:2.
These references specifically use the term “love” in relation to brothers and sisters in Christ. They do not include numerous passages that teach on such love without using the word itself. And, they do not touch on all that Jesus personally taught on love between brethren.
Why all the emphasis on love between brethren? Why would the Holy Spirit guide the New Testament writers to include in their writings so many passages on love between brethren? Why would Jesus instruct such love in the form of a commandment?
Jesus said that brothers and sisters in Christ sincerely loving each other would be a powerful reflection of Him in their lives: “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” People will get a positive impression of Christianity as they observe the love between brothers and sisters in Christ.
But there’s another important perspective to this. Who were the greatest critics of Jesus during His ministry on the earth? Who wanted to kill Him? Who engineered His execution? Who put Him on the cross? His Jewish brethren!
We must purposefully love one another as brethren, because we don’t want to be like those Jewish brethren of Jesus who acted like anything but His brethren. Let us never present to the world around us an image of strife, anger and animosity between us. Let us show the world the love of Christ in us, “for we are brethren.” (Gen. 13:8)…
Gary L. Hutchens