Paul is actually calling us to a deeper and more thoughtful relationship in line with Jesus announcing “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) The Greek word translated ‘affection’ is philostorgos, with the implication of the tenderest of love one has for children and spouse. ‘Brotherly love’ is from the Greek philadelphia or philos. In other words, Paul is saying we need to love those in the Family of God with the same deep familial love we have for those with whom we have blood ties.
Paul started out this series of guidelines for Christian living by telling the Romans that they should have genuine, honest, sincere love for each other. In this verse he expands the definition of that love to being loving all in the family of God just as if they were brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and daughters and sons. They are; you know…
But how DO you love those irritating neighbors who play loud music at all hours? Or that co-worker who takes all the credit? Or the driver who cuts you off in traffic? Or the murderer or rapist or abuser on the news or (for some) closer to home?
I don’t have the answer. It’s not easy to do as Jesus says and love as we are loved. Maybe it has to do with the lesson from last Sunday: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29) When we let go of our various ways of trying to control the outcome and allow Jesus to take the bulk of the load we/I might just find that it is easier to see Jesus in everyone. It’s also found in I Corinthians 13. “faith, hope, and love/charity abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love/charity.”
There was a brief time in my life when I really felt in charity with everyone in the world. It was following a Cursillo weekend and the Spirit’s glow from that experience helped me to see that the homeless man and I were kin. I was able to smile at the traffic snarls and even to offer prayers for those who brought evil to the world. It didn’t last, but every so often I do get a glimmer of that joy and peace. That’s when I can really feel yoked with Christ and ‘love with brotherly love.’
When that happens, it is a living out of Jesus’ words in the Beatitudes. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.” (Luke 6:27-30)
We see stories of ‘odd couples’ of animals who form friendships with species that they are supposed to hunt or be hunted by. Did you see the story about the cat who adopted some just hatched ducklings? Or the dachshund who lives with a lion? Maybe these ‘dumb’ animals have something to teach us about loving our enemies. We need to remember Whose children we are. You and me and the person who irritates or wrongs me are all God’s creation and beloved by God.
Paul’s instructions are not easy to live out. In the next few lines, and next few blog posts, we’ll get more concrete ideas for what it looks like to ‘love with brotherly affection’ according to Paul.
Let love be genuine (sincere, honest); hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are