Posts Tagged ‘brotherly affection’

Of course, not all brothers love each other (or sisters either for that matter), but there is something indelible there. The Amplified translates this phrase: “loving [each other] as brethren [of one household].” The root of believers — operating as a family.

I Peter 3:8
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

For some people, the idea of family is riddled with issues, either because of brutal or emotionally handicapped parents or destructive behaviors by individual siblings. These are not people who will gravitate readily to the idea of a “church family.”

Others have close family relationships and they have a different problem: they know the wonder of strong familial ties and often find a group of believers can rarely engender that kind of closeness or trust.

I guess I’m somewhere in the middle, but probably leaning to the first example. My mother was mentally unstable and I never knew from one day to the next what I would awake to. My father died when I was child and I only had one sibling, five years my senior who left the family home for college and never returned in any kind of meaningful way. It was not until we were adults that we developed a truly mutual relationship. So, I confess, I’m not quick to embrace people with whom I am thrown together because we are affiliated with the same church body. It’s a trust issue, I know. I know.

Here’s what should happen anyway (in theory . . . in my mind): believers are bound to one another by their faith in God. This is actually a blood bond because of the nature of the Christ. It does not flow through our veins, but through our Spirit selves.

According to Peter, spiritually-based relationships should have harmony, sympathy (empathy), compassion, and humility. In general, this means deference to the other, concern for the other, sensitivity to the other, and willingness to compromise.

Wait a minute. We could be doing this all the time, church or no church; family or no family; believer or no believer.

These are the basics of “human.” These are the essential ingredients to relationships of all types: with strangers, lovers, or even casual acquaintances. Basics. Love of the first order. Love without strings. Love without labels.

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I wonder if I would be a nicer person if I honestly considered that the person driving that car that just cut me off or the person who insisted on paying with coins in the checkout line or the huge person who just sat in front of me at the movies was an angel?

Hebrews 13:2
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

All right, I know that’s far-fetched, but isn’t it unfortunate in our current age that strangers equal danger? All children are told to avoid them; women fear them in parking lots while men suspect nefariousness or come-ons. Most strangers are wearing black hats.

And of course, I understand that “stranger danger” is very real, but have we overdone it? Have we extended this assumption to regular people who might be visiting from out of town or drop by our church one Sunday or just want to help with directions–have we demonized them all?

I don’t know the answer.

We have a family friend who is very quick to speak to strangers. He usually feels led of God and because of that, he has no fear. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and something terrible to happen, bu nothing has endangered him in the last ten or twenty years (both in the U.S. and abroad). On his way to visit us (driving up from Georgia with another friend), they picked up a hitchhiker (as is his custom). They talked at length and as he got closer to our home, he telephoned ahead and said we would have an extra guest.

When I found out it was a young man, generally high on something and recently out of jail, my heart skipped a beat. All I could envision was a complete takeover at knife point. My fears were over the top, but for safety’s sake, I did insist that they all crash in our basement guest room.

The boy was not an angel but he was in need and in the end, the two friends took him all the way to New York and got him connected with Dave Wilkerson’s ministry.

I am embarrassed that I was so afraid. I will never be like my global traveling missionary, but I do think I could be generous with my eyes, my voice, and my mind. I could be more interested in the stranger. I could be kind. I could be willing to help.

Something to think about.

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So let’s talk about families and relationships. What is the expectation? While we are still children , we certainly expect our parents to be safe. We expect our parents to know what is best. We expect them to love us and take care of us. If this expectation is broken, for whatever reason, we are already at a disadvantage as we move into adulthood. If we have lost our ability to trust, we have lost one of the key elements to love.

Love requires an exposure of the heart and the ability to tolerate a bit of heart stomping. But there are limits to what a heart can bear.

Children are extremely resilient. They can forgive “absent,” “bad,” “neglectful,” and even “brutal” parents for a long time, but eventually there is a toll that is extracted from the heart. So often, these broken experiences with a parent are stumbling blocks on the path toward hearlthy adult relationships not to mention a relationship with Christ.

But perhaps the parents are not cruel, but simply broken themselves. The cycle often goes from one generation to another. They may have never experienced unconditional love, trust, encouragement, praise, boundaries, instruction, or anything else that is part of the growing up process. They cannot “miraculously” pass these elements down to their own children. They must learn them themselves first.

There are ways to repair the damage to the heart and to learn new behaviors and attitudes. In the secular world, it is usually through counseling or, if the person is lucky, through an extremely well-grounded, patient, and healthy mate who can model love (but this opportunity is rare since most broken adults are rarely attracted to healthy adults… but gravitate to the familiar).

In the Church, this healing should come through our interactions with Christ and the family of Christ. First of all, we have Christ’s sacrifice [symbolized by the cross] whose blood insures we have access to God Himself … we have access to the holy of holies where there is healing for all. And so, we should be able to appropriate this power, to place the cross between ourselves and others, and to connect heart to heart, soul to soul, spirit to spirit. The past should no longer have such a great influence over us.

Instead, we forget what is available to us. We shield the heart from further hurts. We create our own version of the “holy of holies” and only allow others into the “outer court.”

I’m thinking it’s time to take down the veil between my personal “holy of holies” and the outer court. It’s time to stop requiring all kinds of sacrificial proofs from people I encounter… prove to me that you won’t hurt me, take these litmus tests to prove your worthiness or compatibility quotient to be my friend, be sure you are “like” me before you enter or you’ll be cast aside.

Earlier I said that the heart must be able to tolerate a little stomping. I know this to be true because Jesus himself alluded to it… the forgiving of others seventy times seven for starters.

When I came to the Lord, it was through a young man who initially hid his Christianity from others because he was afraid that people wouldn’t like him. Instead, they didn’t like him anyway because they believed he was “faking” and hiding something. They even thought he was “gay” and encouraged to “come out.” In the end, he did come out… he came out as a Christian. Did it turn things around? Did he suddenly have great numbers of friends? No, not really. But he felt better about himself. And, in the end, because he came out for Jesus, his testimony brought me to the Lord. That was almost 30 years ago.

Friendship, marriages, families, churches … all relationships must be based on truth. There are no guarantees in relationships. When the heart is injured by another, it is only Christ within who can heal, protect and renew. But we should not ask Him to insulate us from pain. The butterfuly that does not struggle to emerge from the cocoon is not strong enough to survive. Life has pain. Relationships have pain. Love has pain. We grow stronger through experience if we choose it.

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I’ve been putting off writing again. I know it’s because of the topic. Pastor Craig’s posts are all about “learning how to love one another” in the Church … and I assume he means church with a capital “C” … not just our little version of church at Mt. Zion.

And I really cannot fault him for anything he is saying. I even agree. But I am nagged by a different perspective. I am nagged by a stumbling block I see in this loving process that is undoubtedly of my own making. Bottom line? I think so much of our “loving” is superficial.

I’m not saying there isn’t caring… there is. People are kind and thoughtful and concerned. And there is even “love” for the needy or those who come to the church in emotional turmoil or illness or personal chaos.

But I’m not so sure the “church” as I experience it would love me if they knew the “real” me. There is a lot of lip service to acceptance, but I don’t really believe it. I still edit myself as soon as I discern the crowd or individual with whom I’m interacting.

One of the most blatant areas of disconnect is when politics crosses over into the body of believers. There still remains a pervasive idea that a “real” Christian (i.e. conservative) would have to be a republican or some such nonsense. Or, should I mention other hot potatoes like abortion, sexuality, or “worldly” entertainments. There are some people who would be appalled if they knew what books are sitting on my night stand. They would no longer trust my faith but more likely, consider me “off the path.” They would discredit me to others. And so, to keep the peace, I don’t discuss what I read. I don’t discuss the movies I go to see, I don’t talk politics, I don’t talk about my past or some of the people I count as friends who may not fit the “norm.”

And so I ask, if I can’t talk about anything or everything that I am interested in … if I can’t really be “me” … what kind of “marriage” is this? What kind of family is this? Just a macrocosm version of all the other dysfunctional families we have in this country.

So, I am full of sorrow this week. I pray the Lord will give me a “contentment” ….

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Pastor Craig taught that the Greek word used in II Peter 1:7 for brotherly affection or brotherly kindness is “philadelphia,” which describes a type of “love” that exists between good friends and family. He then went on to say how important this familial relationship is in a church to support our walk in Christ and how critical an element it is to add to the many qualities we have studied so far in II Peter 1.

So why am I so sad? This should be an easy one. But no, I must confess, I don’t always feel it. There have been times in my Christian walk where I have felt very connected to the body of believers with whom I worship. Back in my early days when Mike and I attended our church in Atlanta… those people held place in my heart for years and years despite time and distance when we moved to Maryland. And there have been seasons where individuals within this church have been significant, perhaps moreso when we were dynamically involved in a cell or small group. And then, there was Emmaus and Tres Dias and Cursillo. I would have to say I experienced “philadelphia” in that setting the most and when those relationships carried into the church, there was love.

But what about today? Where has the love gone? It is true that we are no longer active in Emmaus. Is that the only way to nurture brotherly affection? What was it about Emmaus that brought out these feelings and commitment to one another? What other ways are there to nurture philadelphia in a church? It’s more than just a decision… there must be focus.

Help me Lord to discover the root of my discontent. I have a suspicion I’ll pursue tomorrow.

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