In the same context where Paul speaks of doing good to everyone (Gal 6:10), especially to those in the church, Paul says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).
To exercise brotherly affection is exhausting, and the authors of Scripture know it. To crucify the flesh and resist the pull towards impurity is hard. To give one self for the spiritual and physical needs of another is even more grueling.
For that reason Scripture commands us to “let brotherly love continue” (Heb 13:1). Knowing the weakness of our flesh, God commands us to press on and not give up in brotherly affection. Since taking care of our neighbor takes time, money, effort, and intention (see the parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25–37).
In context, the letter to the Hebrews has just reminded us of the spiritual reality that takes place when the church gathers (see Heb 12:18–29). Now in chapter 13, as the sermonic epistle concludes, the author lists a number of practical strategies for loving and serving one another in the church.
He speaks of showing hospitality to strangers (v. 2), remembering Christians in prison (v. 3), and remembering Christian leaders, some of whom may be suffering for preaching the Word (v. 7). Each of these subgroups are members of the body of Christ to whom we must show love. However, in various ways these groups and others are difficult to love.
Strangers are unknown and love for them must be based on something other than mutual affinities or personal history; those in prison were hard to love because of how much it takes to get to them and threat of being thrown in jail with them; and leaders can be hard to love because they are the ones who God’s call to watch over us. To draw near to them requires a willingness to see them as a brothers (not just teachers), even as they have been delegated authority to be your overseer (13:17).
In these relationships, and any relationship not based upon personal affinities, endurance is required. The call to brotherly affection rejects the idea of loving those who love you, and it stalwartly refuses to take advantage of others for personal gain. Rather, with the mind of Christ, we take our joy in seeing the purity of our sisters protected, the strength of our brothers supplied, weaker and awkward siblings being honored and included, and stronger siblings being respected as godly leaders.
In short, the command to love one another with brotherly affection is a call for each member of God’s family to participate in the life of the church. And since there are all kinds of crazies in the family, it is helpful to know up front, that such love requires divine assistance. Which is one more reason why God calls us to love one another with brotherly affection.
Therefore, like the brothers in Corinth may we plead for the opportunity to provide for one another and like the saints in Thessalonika may we labor to protect our brethren with brotherly affection. And in these pursuits, may God be pleased to fill our hearts with love and endurance.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss