Alfred Place Baptist Church

12:10 Be devoted to one another in Brotherly Love

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

 

When Paul turns from the subject of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ and proceeds to deal with the relationships and attitudes of Christians one to one another he begins with the theme of love. Of course he must start there because the greatest grace a Christian can show is that of love. Paul has begun by insisting that our love for one another should be sincere and not a faked and counterfeit love, but he dare not stop there. The apostle opens up further this matter of Christian love and urges Christians to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love and honour one another.” The first word for love he has used in the previous verse (verse nine) is the Greek word agape, and the second word for love in our above text is the word philadelphia, ‘brotherly love.’ The Bible actually uses a couple of other words for love and it uses these words quite indiscriminately and not at all rigidly, so that, for example, the word agape, our love for God, is also used to describe Christians loving one another.

 

The word in our text refers to that tender affection that is displayed to those born from the same womb, and this is underlined by the adverb modifying it, translated in our version by the words, ‘being devoted to one another.’ That word is found only here in the entire New Testament, but it is not a rare word outside the Scriptures. When used it refers to sweet warm affection, particularly that of family love. I can easily understand why the early church adopted the word philadelphia to describe congregational affection. All Christians have been born of the same womb through the new birth; we have been given birth from the womb of God and we live by the life of God in us. There is particular affection which siblings have for one another. I have three daughters and they love one another deeply. I often slyly watch them over my book when we are all together on a holiday. I see them sitting down on a settee and listening to one another, giving one another complete attention, full of concern for one another. They visit one another’s homes almost every month (though they live at least an hour from one another); their children display the same affection for one another as if they were brothers and not cousins. There is a bond between them that I have been privileged to be drawn into. They are devoted to one another, and somehow I become a part of it. It is not a private, isolating relationship. It does not lock me out but locks me in with them. As an only child being now involved in that love is wonderfully enriching.

 

Now I have to take that picture of sibling affection and apply it to our congregation. We are to be a congregation of brotherly love, of sincere brotherly love, and then in our text there is the added exhortation of being devoted to one another. That defines how I am to behave towards my fellow believers. In other words, everyone who belongs to Jesus Christ belongs to me as my eternal brother or sister, and I am encouraged to be devoted to each of them in sincere sibling love. God’s kingdom contains new Christians and the corners have not been knocked off their lives yet. They have brought into the kingdom of God with them a lot of their old attitudes. Now they are showing the first beginnings of the life of grace, but they are my brothers and I am devoted to them in brotherly love. So I am saying that these two themes are being brought before us, the first that we are to be characterized by brotherly love, and then that this love is to be shown with the most tender affection.

 
  1. THE CHURCH IS TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY BROTHERLY LOVE.
 

That believers in the Lord are to be loving to one another is not a distinctive message of the New Testament. It is clearly evident in the Old Testament and there it is insisted upon, but brotherly love is not actually defined there, better it is illustrated very concretely in a score of examples. Nowhere is this shown more clearly than in the book of Leviticus and the nineteenth chapter. I want to show you ten examples of brotherly love from Leviticus 19:9-18, but first, to say two things by way of introduction. The first is the conclusion in the eighteenth verse, “love your neighbour as yourself”. It is quoted by Jesus in Matthew chapter 22 as one of God’s greatest commands. In this passage we are being taught by these ten concrete examples of what it means to love our neighbours as ourselves. The second feature of this passage I want you to notice is the refrain, “I am the LORD” which you see in verses 10, 12, 14, 16 and 18. It is there in fivefold repetition. You will see the gravity which this refrain gives to both the conduct encouraged and the sins rebuked in this section. God is standing here and speaking, and he is addressing us very seriously from the courts of heaven. Your Creator is speaking to you his creatures soberly, bringing his demands to bear on our consciences and lives. We are prone to brush the word of God aside and think that it is the preacher who is bringing these things to us. No. “I am the Lord,” he says now, looking us straight in the eye. If ever there were principles of conduct that God took seriously they were these principles. He is dealing with the greatest of commandments, loving our neighbours as ourselves. These are the stipulations of his covenant with us, and it is a fearful thing to violate them. God himself describes how we show brotherly love. You will see that it is not in some sentimental touchy-feely way of all of us holding hands, or giving hugs to one another during congregational hubbubs. So how are we to be devoted to one another in brotherly love? Let us examine ten examples.

 

i] In Concern for those in Need
. “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God” (vv. 9&10). There were people in need, the poor, the widow, the immigrant, the orphan. “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt” (Deut. 24:22) and weren’t you glad when at a time of special need someone gave you some money, food or warm clothes? Consider others in their ‘Egypt.” Remember that all you have is because of the love of God to you. You keep some of God’s wealth in your bank account; remember the needy. Do you know where the need is in the congregation? You say, “The minister knows.” Perhaps he does. “The elders and deacons know;” perhaps they do, but do you know and what are you doing to help the needy? If there were three sisters who loved one another and one of them was going through a tough time, her husband out of work, they had fallen behind with mortgage payments, then the two sisters would talk with their husbands and with one another as to how they could help at a sister’s crisis. So must you: “be devoted to the needy brother or sister in brotherly love.

 

ii] In Integrity in Business Transactions. “Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another” (v.11). Here is a Christian community and in it there are no shady deals whatsoever. You can get bargains down the pub – as long as you don’t ask where they obtained the DVD player, or the mobile phone, or the fridge – the back of what lorry did these things fall off? In the fellowship of the church everything is to be open and above board. There’s no fine print; there is no hidden agenda. We don’t ask Christian tradesmen to work for us at half price, and we don’t expect concessions. We enjoy getting the bill and paying our brother. We enjoy having Christian workmen in the home because we are relaxed and have much we share in common, but we do not steal from them by asking that they work for us to their own hurt. There is no falsehood between us, and no deception. If our doctor is a Christian we expect him to keep this commandment and not ever to deceive us as to our condition, and not lie to us. That is not displaying brother love.

 

Rowland Hill was impressing a group of theological students with the importance of this integrity in the ministry. He told of a barber who had done well in his work and retired early to become a preacher in a small chapel. Another retired man also moved to that church and he needed a new wig and so thinking he could help the preacher asked him to make the wig for him. He did so but it was a pathetic wig and double the price he would have paid elsewhere. The good man said nothing but when anything profitable was said by the preacher he said to himself, “Excellent, but, oh! the wig.” When the barber prayed with apparent unction he said to himself, “This should touch my heart, but, oh! the wig!” Rowland Hill said to the students, “Wherever you are placed, remember the wig!”

 

iii] In Observing the Sanctity of God’s Name.Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD” (v.12). As a former teacher of mine, John Sanderson, pointed out, “Israelites didn’t have many written documents to record their agreements and contracts. They resorted to oral statements, and, when the situation required it as the issues before them were long term and serious, they used vows and oaths. In particular, when a man or woman would say, ‘God is my witness,’ or, ‘As the Lord lives,’ or, ‘The Lord do so to me and more. …’ this was the end of all discussion. The sacred Name had been invoked and it was unthinkable that anyone could do that and still deceive his neighbour: ‘For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.’ ” To break a marriage vow or an ordination vow would be the collapse of the law of love to a spouse or to a congregation. So the sanctity of God’s name is included here among examples of a failure in brotherly love. Contemporary Christians are not apt to use God’s Name as an idle oath, but blasphemy rears its head in other subtle and insidious ways. We hear of people claiming the Holy Spirit’s approval as the reason for manipulating another member of the congregation, getting them to go along with a decision they have made, agreeing to what they plan while the whole scheme is all sub-Christian or rather dubious. They can solemnly adjure, ‘I (think, or feel, or know) that it is the Lord’s will.’ God’s name has been used to justify their own desires or their reasoning; it’s just been used vainly. Let’s talk in a manly truthful way to one another. Let’s say openly, “I don’t appreciate the pastor’s ministry. I am not getting much from it and am moving to another church.” Let’s not say, “The Spirit is moving me somewhere else . . .” Let’s be straight and honest and not profane the name of God by claiming that he sanctions our schismatic behaviour.

 

iv] In Promptly Paying What is Due.Do not defraud your neighbour or rob him. Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight” (v.13). Money matters are explosive in blowing apart friendships, families (over disputed wills) and church members. If there are tradesmen who are owed any money for work done in the church then they are to be paid promptly. Once a bill comes then it must be paid immediately. “Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight” if you love him with brotherly love. There are missionaries we have made commitments to who are relying on us and we are to keep paying them. Your contribution each week to the offering helps us to show our brotherly love for our missionary neighbour. I went one Saturday last month to a leading university Christian Union to speak for them. I still have not received traveling expenses. I should not have to write to them to remind them of what they are holding back. Their long delay is not showing brotherly love. I guess it is the changeover time; one student treasurer is following another, but this is not the first time there has been a changeover in the month of March.

 

I believe in private ownership; I do not believe in private motive. Our motive in everything we do is that God in all things be honoured by Jesus Christ. He loved and he gave himself, and so we love and we hold back nothing, not even our souls, our lives or our all. It is evident that a gospel congregation should not grow rich. There is no need for a hundred thousand pounds to be sitting in the church bank account doing nothing, kept ‘for a rainy day.’ There are the needs of the kingdom of God. There are poor people who need help. We have money in order to give to the one who is in need (Ephs. 4:28). The love of money in a congregation is the root of all kinds of evil in a congregation. It leads many astray, and causes many sorrows. It is not the way of brotherly love.

 

v] In Caring for the Less Privileged. “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling-block in front of the blind, but fear your God. I am the LORD” (v.14). Imagine the sense of shock in the congregation if we heard someone actually cursing a deaf brother, or sticking a foot out in front of a partially-sighted person so that they trip over, and then laughing at their discomfort. It was obviously a problem in Moses’ time or it wouldn’t have been mentioned here, mocking the handicapped. There are people with lea
rning difficulties and we have an obligation towards them because some of them are our own church members. “Fear God,” says Moses, “fear your very own God,” because to God his little ones are important. If we put a stumbling block in front of them it were better for us to have a millstone tied around our necks and be pushed off the end of the pier at high tide. Who will care for the less privileged when their Christian parents can no longer care for them? Do we love our brothers and sisters with learning difficulties as we love ourselves?

 

vi] In Judging your Neighbour Fairly.Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favouritism to the great, but judge your neighbour fairly” (v.15). It’s a most wonderful world to that Christian who has money, a big car, influence, power, youth, health, good looks and a big personality. It is a much smaller world to the Christian who is poor, sickly, without work and is an awkward personality. Even in the early church there was an enthusiastic welcome for the rich man who came to meetings while the poor widow was ignored. Is that brotherly love? One word of kindness; one greeting and a shaking of hands, a simple question as to how they were would mean a lot to people on the fringes of the church or to a visitor. The wealthy and powerful will never lack hangers-on. Rumours can emerge in a congregation. Have you asked all the people concerned concerning the truth? Hear also the other side. Judge your neighbour fairly, says the word of God.

 

vii] In Maintaining Integrity in Speech. “Do not go about spreading slander among your people” (v.16). I have exhausted a lot of emotional energy, lost sleep, traveled far overseas, and written many letters in the last year over a slander that has been told about an old friend of mine who’s been in the ministry for thirty-five years, a man of vast righteousness and integrity. It started in speech, in words, and then it was written in letters and sent round the world to all their supporters from a tiny group of unhappy people who had grown bitter towards my brother for different reasons, but mainly that he was not enthusiastic about their schemes and plans. That was the heart of the issue, and so they spread stories about his character, that he was a heavy shepherd who insisted that everything had to be done in his way, and so on. We have all heard that sort of disdain often enough. The impact of this campaign in the life of that church has been disastrous, and many have suffered hurt and grief and financial loss over it. It has severed friendships all over the world. In a family would a brother or sister talk of one of their own brothers or sisters like that? Wouldn’t they always put his or her behaviour in the best possible light? Then that is the way of brotherly love in the church, not spreading slander. Loose talking which leads to the discrediting of an individual is widespread in church circles. There should be scrupulous concern for the truth and for the sacred name of a person. That is the way of being devoted to one another in brotherly love.

 

viii] In Refusing to Harbour Hatred for your Brother in your Heart. “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbour’s life. I am the LORD. Do not hate your brother in your heart” (vv.16&17). Hatred is experienced first of all in the heart. A campaign can start about a man, an attempt to stir up hatred of him. It is a fearfully dangerous enterprise because it can result in endangering that person’s life. Where did it all begin? Before they started talking about in a corner of the pub where was this devastation nurtured? In men’s hearts, and justified as tolerated in the heart, and it put down roots of anger and contempt and bitterness in the heart, and as it was fed it grew. Someone was being demonized and then it could not stay in the heart. It ended with self-appointed vigilantes and in blood on the streets. It started in men’s hearts. Remember how it was with Jesus of Nazareth? Hatred in the heart led to plots to kill him and finally they murdered him. Remember the Pharisees who thought that as long as they had never plunged a knife between a person’s shoulder blades they had never broken the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Then the Lord Jesus opened up that commandment and told them, “I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother,`Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says,`You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:22). Do not hate your brother in your heart. You remember the great exhortation of James telling us to watch our speech, that the tongue is a little member of the body but it can light the fires of hell. It starts by harbouring hatred in the heart, and in ends in endangering your brother’s life.

 

ix] In Rebuking your Sinning Neighbour. “Rebuke your neighbour frankly so that you will not share in his guilt” (v.17). Our Lord picks this up in Luke chapter 17 and verse 3; “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Do not whine and feel sorry for yourself if a brother sins against you. Don’t get furious and kick the dog. Don’t tell the whole church what has happened. Tell him! Rebuke him frankly! Then if he says, “Sorry,” you have delivered him from the guilt of his sin. If you refuse to do it you are sharing in his guilt aren’t you, because you could be the means of delivering him. Why is it important to speak to that person about his action? Because you may have misunderstood him; there might be a perfectly understandable explanation for what he did. But if he has sinned, and you’ve spoken to him and then he says, “I am sorry” then you can say, “That’s OK I have forgiven you.” There is reconciliation rather than a grudge, and he will be more careful in the future. That is how you show you are devoted in love to your sinning brother. Rebuke frankly and then restore the repenting offender “in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”

 

x] In being Disposed to Bless your offending Brother. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD” (v.18). I was reading Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ studies on this verse and came across this incident; “An illustration came to my mind of a young lady I once saw as a candidate before a certain missionary society. She was eventually accepted and went out to work in the Far East, and this, in a nutshell, was her story. She had been a student in Cambridge where she was then the secretary of the Communist Party. She happened to be in Cambridge during the very severe winter of 1946 to 1947 when everything was frozen up, in Cambridge and in most other parts of the country. She lived in a room off one of the staircases in the college, and, of course, there was a terrible shortage of water. You could only have a bath once a week and there was always a queue. There was one girl on that staircase a Christian, the only Christian on the staircase. The Communist girl noticed that instead of asserting her rights, always going to the front and complaining as the others were, the Christian girl bore with it all. She allowed people to be selfish while she just went on quietly. She bore no grudge against them. This shook the Communist. She said, ‘Here’s someone who really is practicing and living what I claim to believe but do not do.’ The attitude of the Christian not only opened her eyes and made her think, it led to conviction, to repentance, and to conversi
on, and she went out as a missionary. The simple action of this Christian girl led to that great result” (Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans; Exposition of Chapter 12; Christian Conduct, Banner of Truth, 2000, p.510).

 

Our text tells us not to seek revenge, or bear a grudge, and that particular Christian student perfectly displayed that attitude. She was reasoning that she wasn’t the only one who needed a bath; in other words, she loved her dirty neighbour who needed a bath as her own dirty self, and God blessed her humble spirit so that the Communist was drawn to Christ. I have shown you ten examples from the heart of Old Testament religion which supply us with concrete examples of brotherly love.

 

Let me remind you of how perfectly our Saviour Jesus Christ loved his neighbour with this brotherly affection. He was concerned for the needy; he fed the five thousand. In all his business transactions as a carpenter he never cheated a customer; he never produced shoddy work. He promptly paid the men who provided him and his father with wood. He honoured God’s name whenever it was on his lips. He cared for the less privileged, the leper, the disadvantaged, the cripple and so on. He was absolutely straight with his neighbour; he did not judge him unfairly. He called Herod a fox because he was mean and cruel and ruthless. The Pharisees were a nest of snakes. He had total integrity of speech, but he rebuked his sinning neighbours. For his brethren there was no unjust hatred in his heart. He blessed his offending brethren; he prayed for those who crucified him. In the Lord Jesus Christ there is a perfect righteousness. It is a human righteousness and yet it is divine. In the gospel it is revealed as God’s gift to all who trust in him. It is freely imputed to all who believe. This righteousness of Jesus’ brotherly kindness is charged to our account, and for our failure to love our brothers he suffered and died. He took all our hard hearted lovelessness and he bore that guilt in his own body on Golgotha’s tree. That is our salvation, not in our good works in loving our neighbours like this, for we have all failed, but he never failed, and his perfect love and his atoning death is all our hope of salvation.

 

However the most challenging part is yet to come. We are not allowed to be satisfied with aiming at that level of moral and ethical perfection. It is possible to go for that lifestyle and attain some outward conformity to it, but in a merely respectful manner, coolly and competently, but that is not what God requires. Paul goes on to say that the whole spirit in which such brotherly kindness is to be displayed is one of devotion to one another. In fact we must go through that list of those ten principles of showing brotherly love, and we must preface each one with the phrase, “Be devoted to them.” “Be devoted to them . . . in concern for their need . . . in integrity in business transactions . . . in observing the sanctity of God’s name . . . in promptly paying what is due . . . in caring for the less privileged . . .” and so on. All our loving relationships with other Christians are in an atmosphere of warm devotion. So let us turn to our text again.

 
  1. THE CHURCH IS TO BE CHARACTERIZED BY A SPIRIT OF WARM AFFECTION AND HONOUR TOWARDS OUR BRETHREN.
 

All of us find it easy to show brotherly love towards those we feel close to, old friends, people of our age group, all-rounders in our estimation, warm-hearted, intelligent and sensible people whom we’ve got on with for years. We would be devils not to show affection towards them wouldn’t we? But God has put us in the family of faith, with those brothers and sisters whom he has chosen, and they are not all ‘our type.’ In God’s household there are some who appear to be almost weirdos, Christian cranks and misfits, people with a past, people who disappoint us. I have a pastor friend and he tells me that one of his members prays, “Please God, send some normal people along to our church, ‘for a change.’” I am sure that all church members can sympathize with that, but we are told in this text that we are under obligation to love all the family of God with a brotherly love. We are to be devoted to every one of our fellow believers, especially the awkward squad, and also we are told that we should honour them. Let’s look at these two clauses;

 

i] We are to show affectionate brotherly love to every Christian. It’s a theme of the New Testament. There are Peter’s words, “you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart” (I Pet. 1:22). Or again consider that in the New Testament we are urged on no less than five occasions to greet one another with a holy kiss. Then there is the example of Paul as he says to the Christians in Philippi, “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Phils. 1:8). Or again, listen to this exhortation to the Corinthians, “We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange – I speak as to my children – open wide your hearts also” (2 Cors. 6:11-13). If a professing Christian believed all the correct doctrines, and sought to keep the commandments of God concerning brotherly love, and even prayed for church members, dealing with them in a proper and decent way, while nevertheless withholding his affection from certain fellow believers, he would be a sinning Christian, a weak Christian, a carnal Christian in that important area of his life. Sincere love, loving one another deeply from the heart, and having an open heart is the language the Holy Spirit has chosen to describe to us how a mere believer is to act towards his fellow believers.

 

Remember that these are your eternal brothers and sisters, bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. That sentence – please listen to me – is not mere words is it? It is spectacular reality. How can you justify not loving every Christian warmly? Your heavenly Father takes very seriously your feelings towards fellow Christians. To be indifferent towards most of them, to be bored, to be deliberately disinterested so as always to avoid them and to be dismissive of them is to contradict who God is and what the God of love has done. It is to defy his mercy, and what we are. The issue facing us at this moment is whether we live by the truth of God’s Fatherhood or not. Will our affection for all believers be silently preaching the truth about the immensity of the love of God and what he has done for his people making us the family of faith? That is not a small issue. That focuses on the heart of Christianity. When they see how we behave to our fellow believers will people say, “See how God loves his people and makes them brothers and sisters?”

 

ii] More than that, we are to show honour to them, ‘above ourselves.’ Christian people get huffy and complain, “I am not being honoured in this church. I am not getting the respect and recognition due to me.” That’s very sad, I’m saying, do not wait for people to pat you on the back and say what a great chap you are. No, you take the initiative, and you tell your fellow Christians how much you appreciate them, that the church would be much poorer without them. You show them that you notice their presence and that you are really thankful that they are there Sunday by Sunday, and at the mid-week meetings. You honour them far above your own itch to be honoured by them. In fact, you love to honour others, in fact you consider othe
r Christians better Christians than you yourselves. You honour even the awkward and you honour the quirky. You treat them by your actions and words as worthy of your service. What better way is there of making them more all rounded and better integrated into the life of the church, not such oddballs, than by us all honouring them? I would think that there is no other way. You have to talk with them, and be patient with them, and listen to them. They may not deserve it; I don’t know. Perhaps they are extraordinary trophies of grace. Maybe if you knew more about the distance they’d traveled on the Christian road, the difficulties they have faced in getting so far, or if you could know what a mess they would be in today if it were not for the Lord Jesus Christ, then you would value them far more, warts and all, as trophies of grace. Certainly do not spend your energy in weighing them up and deciding whether they are worthy of your honour or not. You go ahead and honour them. Enjoy the experience of others being honoured; you enjoy that far more than in being honoured yourself.

 

Let me illustrate from the New Testament the importance of giving honour to one another. You imagine the plight of a Christian slave; how was he to regard his master? Paul says, “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect” (I Tim. 6:1). Their masters may be scoundrels but the Christian slave is to regard them as worthy of honour. You see men’s faults, and you may discuss their implications for the life of the fellowship, but still you pray for them. You act and speak with the utmost respect to them. Or think again of what Paul says about certain less attractive church members. He compares them to the less attractive parts of the human body, necessary but unlovely, and so hidden away. Paul is a realist; he doesn’t say that everyone is beautiful in the body of Christ. He says this, “the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other” (I Cor. 12:23-25). We do not turn the public spotlight onto certain church members, but we do love them warmly and honour them.

 

I am pleading with you to use your precious energy in trying to devise how you can honour the less attractive members of the church. What can you do? Can you take them for a picnic to Borth, or invite them for a meal, or remember their birthdays, or give them flowers or a book that would help them? “Honour one another above yourselves;” this is a commandment from God just as much a commandment as the Ten Commandments. You must never think, “I cannot love that Christian.” It is not hopeless. You can change. For the Christian love is not all or nothing, Love is a grace we grow in. Negative emotions are sins we steadily mortify. Married couples do not always feel tender affection for one another, but they come back together and aim for that love, again and again. We live together and love – both in the church and in marriage – in terms of rugged commitment.

 

So I have said to you today that every Christian is commanded by God to show to every other believer brotherly love allied to tender affection, and that we are to honour each other. This is a commandment; I am to preach this to myself as a divine obligation. I am not to say, “Yes, but . . .” I am not to use any energy in excusing myself from the divinely given obligation that these words impose on my life.  I am rather to be consumed by this thought, that Christ shed his blood for them; yes they do silly things; they are immature and annoying, but God has commanded me to love and honour them. I am to pray that God will move in power in my heart and enable me to be a doer of this word.

 

When grace enables me to behave like this then I may find some hope that the living God has been at work in my life, that I have been born again, that I am a partaker of the divine nature, that I am on my way to heaven. How we have been so incredibly honoured by God, to be called the sons of God and it does not yet appear what we shall be. Then it is natural for us to honour all who are the Lord’s people. So we honour our brothers and sisters. How did the early church make such an incredible impact in the world so that soon there would be gospel churches all around the Mediterranean Sea and throughout Europe and Asia? The answer is that the kind of community I have described to you was created, not in communes but in networks of loving, humble, accepting, mutually honouring relationships. The fearful pagans saw it, heard the explanation for what had done this, and deserted their gods and idols and temples in their droves. They left their shadowlands for the light of the presence of God. How will we recapture Europe again for the gospel? By living this way. There is no alternative to that. There are additions to that but no alternatives. “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.

 

22nd March 2009    GEOFF THOMAS