1 Thessalonians 4:9
But as touching brotherly love you need not that I write to you: for you yourselves are taught of God to love one another.…
Christianity introduced a new word into the speech of mankind - "philadelphia," "love of the brethren." This word distinguishes a remarkable characteristic of the early Church. It describes how the first Christians regarded themselves as the members of one family. It was no visionary socialism, no communistic scheme, that led them to have all things common. They felt like the members of one household, like the nearest kindred in one home, and in the spirit of home life they shared their possessions. This was only possible so long as the family spirit pervaded the Church. Circumstances altered the habits of the Church as it grew in numbers and spread over a wider area. But all through the Epistles of St. Paul the same family affection of Christians is apparent. Love of the brethren is a leading feature of Christianity.
I. ITS SCOPE AND AREA.
1. It is specially confined to fellow-Christians. It is to be distinguished from philanthropy. We should love all men. Our neighbor, be he of the house of Israel, a Samaritan or a heathen, has claims upon us. But love of the brethren is to be distinguished from this general love of one's kind. It is the Christian's love of the Christian.
2. It is due to all Christians. It should not be given to a particular chosen circle of intimates only, nor simply to the members of one sect, nor to those only who excite our admiration. All Christians, of all ranks and orders, rich and poor, cultured and ignorant, saintly and imperfect, orthodox and heterodox, in every branch of the Catholic Church of Christ, have claims upon our love.
II. ITS ORIGIN.
1. A common fatherhood. We all have the same Father in heaven. In proportion as we realize the broad fatherhood of God shall we enter into the brotherly love of his family. He is the Father of whom "every family in earth and heaven is named."
2. A common brotherly relation to Christ. Every Christian can claim Christ as his Brother. The great elder Brother binds all the members of the family together by attracting them all to himself. We learn to love our fellow-Christian by seeing the Christ in him.
3. Common interests. We share the same blessings, enjoy the same redemption, walk in the same pilgrimage, and are traveling towards the same home.
III. ITS INFLUENCE. True love of the brethren cannot be without effect. Only the lack of it could have permitted the fearful quarrels and enmities that have divided Christendom. Regard a man as your brother, and you will be loath to hound him to death. Were this love stronger many blessings would result.
1. Mutual forbearance. We permit our brother to hold his own opinion and follow his own conscience.
2. Mutual helpfulness. Selfish Christianity is a contradiction in terms. To bear one another's burdens is just to fulfill the law of Christ.
3. Power to influence the world. Civil war in the Church means paralysis of the army that should conquer the world for Christ. When Christians again learn the almost lost art of loving one another, they will attract converts from the world outside by better means than reasoning and preaching. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.