Love one another with brotherly affection.
— Romans 12:10a —
Brotherly affection not only relates to purity, but also to provision.
When I moved to seminary, the Lord impressed on me the importance of working harder and longer. Impelled by Ephesians 4:28, I realized that I needed to work more hours so I could eat, pay for school, give to others, and not be a “mooch.”
I would suggest that this attitude of laboring for the sake of others is part of what it means to love one another with brotherly affection. In the context of Romans 12:10, brotherly affection is followed by the command to “Outdo one another in showing honor.” This doesn’t directly apply to money or giving, but certainly we honor one another with our wealth—with the ability to give to others.
With brotherly affection, we are to look out for ways to meet the needs of our family. Just as we defend the weaker sex in the family of faith, we also ought to look out for younger, weaker brethren. Following in the footsteps of our elder brother, Christians should take up the mantle of meeting the needs of others, as much as they are able (2 Cor 8:3). This principle of generosity goes back to the collection of manna (Exod 16:18) and continues in the New Testament church. Citing Exodus 16, Paul the Corinthians prove the genuineness of their love by their giving.
But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also. I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. . . .
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. As it is written [in Exodus 16], “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.” (2 Corinthians 8:7–10, 13–15)
In his second letter, Paul called the Corinthians to exercise brotherly affection by giving to their brothers in need. Just as they received grace from Christ, they show their love by gracious giving to their brothers. Such giving doesn’t undermine the call to work—if you don’t work, you don’t eat (2 Thess 3:10)—but it does call for charity within the household of faith and from one church to another (the actual situation in Corinth).
To love one another with brotherly affection means that we do not fall into the trap of James 2, telling our brothers to be warm and well-filled and ignoring their physical needs (v. 16). The test of our faith and the measure of our love is how well we provide for the family of God. As Paul says in Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
To be members of a local church is to have regular opportunities to meet the needs of others. And this is one reason why membership is not optional. There will be times when we need to support of others and there will always be members of the body in need of your support.
Loving one another with brotherly affection means committing ourselves to our local church and looking for ways to provide for others. Just as we would care for the weaker members of our biological family, so we must care for the brothers and sisters in God’s household.
May God grant us eyes to see his family and strength to love them with word and deed.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
[photo credit: Blue Letter Bible]