Let brotherly love continue.
Love is one of the most important and distinctive of all Christian graces, and some of the churches seem to have been distinguished by a great abundance of it. Writing to the Thessalonians, the apostle says: "Concerning brotherly love, ye have no need that I write unto you." "I thank God for all the grace that has abounded in you; still let it continue." Let us now glance at the objects of brotherly love. In the first place, it must mean Christian brotherhood. Only as we love them for Christ's sake have we any true brotherly love. But what is to be the rule of our brotherly love? It is to be after the measure and the pattern of our Lord's love to us. This is the revealed standard, and it has been set before us most plainly again and again. When the Saviour announced it to His disciples He said: "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you," and very soon after He refers to it again and says: "This is My commandment, that ye love one another." Then He refers to the strongest proof of love: "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend." The Apostle Paul said: "Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us," and the Apostle John said: "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." Why, this laying down of His life is the mystery of redemption, the strongest revelation of the Divine compassion, the innermost sanctuary of the absolute goodness. How can we attain to this standard of love? It is a good rule — aim high, or you will never excel. Ay, and this, too, is needed — for brotherly love has a good deal to do, to endure, and to give — a heart divinely tender, a hand divinely strong, a soul divinely generous. And now consider some reasons why we should join the apostle in his desire: "Let brotherly love continue." First, it has a power of living and growing. Brotherly love is a living power. We may well and consistently say, "Let it continue." In the trials that will come of the furthering of the cause of Christ, let brotherly love ever continue. The want of it hinders more than almost anything else. Besides, the presence and power of it is mightily helpful. The Saviour prayed that His disciples might be all one — not in oneness of ceremonial and creed, but in character and life with the Father and with the Son. But that was only to secure another object — that the world might know, that the world might believe that the Father had sent the Son. This was the direct effect produced by the descent of the new Christian life on the Day of Pentecost. The primitive disciples were few and poor, unlearned and despised. Yet by moral force alone they emptied the temples and demolished the altars, vanquished Caesar, the philosophers and priests, and changed the aspect of the world. By what? Supremely by the vision of the Crucified — that manifestation of matchless love, which at once showed what love for sinners was and could do. And next to that was the image of brotherly love, a Divine creation, sent amongst men. In a world where the few were tyrants and knew no mercy, and the many crushed and toiling slaves that found no pity — lo! they looked up, saw this new creation — men loving one another — and they said: "See how these Christians love one another!" and their hearts were eased, and a new life began in them, and a new life was conferred upon them. Was it so? There is no question. Then "let brotherly love continue." Further, brotherly love is for the edification and establishment of the cause of Christ. Paul says: "Knowledge puffeth up; charity edifieth." The great appointed force for all Christians, where by each believing man may attain to a full salvation, is faith; but faith works by love. Christian fidelity consists not merely in speaking the truth — you only want a hot temper to do that sometimes — but in speaking the truth in love — a very rare and a very difficult thing. In the midst of all infirmities and sufferings to have a patience that never frets and an energy that never tires, forbearing one another in love — oh, there is the calm and glow of the divinest life that can possess the soul of a man I God grant that this grace of love may abide with you, because it edifies every way and everywhere. Let it continue in the midst of the infirmities and sufferings of life. One brother is rash, another sluggish; one vain, another proud; one rude, another sensitive; one shy, another forward. Amidst all imperfections there is nothing so good and nothing so helpful as brotherly love — meek, generous, thinking no evil, seeking not its own, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. And in one way or another all have their sufferings. These sufferings are to us a great mystery; yet one feels that they furnish a grand field for the exercise of brotherly love in which to speak its kind words, do its best deeds, win its triumphs, and shine forth in all its glory. Brotherly love is also a sign of grace, and a good one. A sign of grace, I say, and a blessed sign of grace, a mark of the true Church if you try to get it and keep it. Finally, "let brotherly love continue" until it return unto glory; for by Divine appointment it shall live in heaven and be perfect there.
Parallel VersesKJV: Let brotherly love continue.