Sunday, March 4, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Love for the brethren

Love for the Brethren

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 Jn. 4:20-21)

The Scriptures are clear that we are to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. The problem comes however as to what this love means.

In most of popular Christianity, love is defined by being warm and affirmative of the other. Over potlucks and celebrations, being open in sharing one's personal struggles, praying and offering support both material and/or emotional is seen as vital to loving others. However, is that what the Scriptures call us to?

Love is defined by God who is love (1 Jn. 4:16). Love therefore is whatever that is done for the good of the other as defined by what the Scriptures call good, not what we think is good.

It is certainly nice, warm and fuzzy to have "fellowship" with one another. But this by itself is mere socializing. Even prayer support does not necessarily mean anything truly spiritual.

Love desires that we want the growth of the other in Christ. Therefore, it is intricately tied up with the issue of growth in knowledge, affection and being/doing. In the area of knowledge, love means that one should seek for the other to grow towards greater knowledge of God and an embrace of the doctrines taught by Scripture. In the area of affection, love means that one should seek for the other to grow to love and honor the God of the Scriptures, and not the "god" created by one's own mind. In the area of being/ doing, it means that one should seek for the other to know and trust in Christ, in their identity in union with Him. From there, love seeks for the other to produce good works issuing from the gratitude that one is already saved by faith in Christ.

Love does not rejoice in what is wrong. It is not loving to tolerate serious errors of doctrine and life in another. It is not loving to celebrate their errors. It desires the godliness of our fellow saints, and as Christians, we should be thus loving to them.

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