Be Sincere In Love
Brotherly Affection

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 61c of 83


9a Let love be without dissimulation. 9b Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Romans 12:9-10).

[Our text contains a trio of general instructions by the apostle Paul on how the believer should conduct himself in the church as part of his reasonable service towards God for salvation so rich and free. We have already considered how we must love sincerely and love good while hating evil. In this final instalment, we must consider how we are to love with brotherly affection. —JJL]

3.   Love with Brotherly Affection

10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;

We noted earlier that this verse speaks of two kinds of love. Well, the words, “be kindly affectioned,” translates only one word in the Greek (φιλόστοργος, philostorgos) which combines the word ‘philos’ which speaks of the bond between friends, and ‘storge’ which speaks of warm feelings for one’s kindred.

And the words “brotherly love” translate the Greek φιλαδελφία (philadelphia), which is also the name of a state in America. This word speaks of a love of friendship between brothers.

Paul, in other words, is calling upon us to love one another as brothers and friends. But now he is adding another dimension to our relationship of love. He is saying, we must aim to have warm feelings one towards another. We must not be cold. We must not be formal towards one another.

In order to do so, we must seek one another’s honour. Paul says: “in honour preferring one another.” What is he saying?

A common thinking of what he is saying is that we should seek the praise of another more than the praise of ourselves. So if I do something together with another person, and we are both praised for the work, then I should say: “Oh, he contributed the larger part of the work. He is the one who deserve the honour, etc.” Of course, this is right thing to do if it is sincere. But is Paul really saying that?

What he is saying may be literally translated: “In honour, one another, going forward.” That is, what Paul is saying is: in terms of respect and kindness, seek to go before others. In other words, we are to try to outdo others in terms of honouring one another!

Let me put it this way: Paul is not merely teaching us to acknowledge that others deserve more honour than ourselves. He is teaching us to show by practical acts that others deserve more honour than ourselves.

There is a very insidious problem in fallen human nature. We have a tendency to do unto others what they do to us. And so if someone is kind towards us, then we will in turn be kind towards them. If they honour us, then we will in turn honour them. But this is an unchristian attitude.

The Lord Jesus says:

32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same” (Lk 6:32-33).

What should we rather do? We should run ahead of one another to do good to one another. We should take the initiative to honour others—considering that they are more worthy than ourselves.

The Lord teaches essentially the same thing when He says:

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt 7:12).

Take note that the Lord is not teaching us to do good so that we can receive good in return. He teaches us to give without expecting return. What he is saying is that we must consider what we would be thankful for if others were to do it to us, and we should then do these things to others.

So, for example, if you drive a car, you must pause for a moment and think: If I do not have a car, what would I appreciate from those who have? If you so consider, you will realise quickly what you should do to others. You will want to give a lift to others. Whether or not, you would ever be given a lift by others, is out of the question. The question is if you do not have a car, would you appreciate a lift?

We must prefer one another in honour. We must consider others to be more important than ourselves, and therefore run ahead to do good to one another!

But of course, as we learn to run ahead to do good to one another, we must also learn to receive good from one another. So for example, if someone offers to give you a lift home, you should not turn it down for fear of inconveniencing him. We must not take one another for granted, but at the same time, we must not be so ‘paiseh’ and ‘kek ki’ that we will always remain formal to one another. We are in a family.

We must encourage one another to give by receiving graciously. You may not feel comfortable asking help from someone you are unfamiliar with. But if you know that he really loves you in the Lord, you should really be quite comfortable asking him for help. Conversely, if you are offered help by a brother or sister in Christ, you must refrain from turning it down. Remember that it is better to give than to receive.

If we will all learn to give and to receive, then we will, —as a church, —develop a warm feeling of love one towards another.

Coldness in a church is a common complaint. Ever so often believers will leave their church complaining that the church is cold. But is that really the right thing to do?

What is the right thing to do if we feel that the church is cold and lack brotherly affection? Not leaving the church, but beginning to do what we would that others do to us!

·        If you think the church is cold because no one calls you on the phone, then begin to call others.

·        If you think that the church is cold because no one talks with you on the Sabbath day, then begin to talk with others on the Sabbath. Look out especially for those who are alone and seek to converse with them.

·        If you think that the church is cold because so few in the church visit you in your hours of need, then begin to be fervent to visit others in their hours of need.

·        If you think that the church is cold because no one shares their prayer requests, then begin to share your requests for prayer the way that the apostle Paul does in his letters.

Dear reader, seek to be kindly affectioned towards others in the church with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another. Resolve to treat others as kings and queens. Refuse to think of yourself as the king and queen deserving to be served by others. Seek, rather, to serve others.

Christ Jesus our Lord sets us an excellent example in this regard: for though He is the king of kings and Lord of lords, He humbled himself and laid down His life for us, who are unworthy sinners.

Did He ever think: They do not deserve my love? Did He ever think: they will not be grateful? Did He ever think: they never did the same to me? Did He ever say: It is tiring always to give?

No, no; our Lord gave of Himself sacrificially, not expecting return. Let us learn to do the same one to another. Let us learn to love one another as Christ our Lord loved us.

Conclusion

Let us no more think of our own needs but of the needs of one another.

Let us seek to love one another that the name of Christ will be magnified in our midst as we paint a picture of love and compose the music of love that the world may see and hear.

O beloved brother or sister in Christ, it is possible! Seek this day to think about what you can do for others that you may show love to your brethren in Christ. Hasten to put your plans to action for the glory of Christ our Lord. Amen.

—JJ Lim