"A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." — John 13:34
When I traveled with the Graceland Ramblers more years ago than I care to admit, we sang a Bill Gaither song called "Family of God." It touched me then as it does now and captures the essence of what Paul was saying with his simple yet profound words in Romans 12:10. Look it up and listen. Here is the first verse and chorus:
You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here--
It's because we're a family and these folks are so near;
When one has a heartache, we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory in this family so dear.
I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family, the family of God.
As members of the household of faith, the family of God, we belong to one another. No longer need we "go it alone." Instead, we are part of a fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
And as members of the same family, we are to love one another and to be completely devoted to each other. We should consider each other over our own interests and give precedence and honor to our brothers and sisters in Christ. There should be no quarreling or factions between us, and we should consider how to build and encourage each other continually in the Lord.
"Brotherly love" is translated from the Greek word philadelphia, which itself is a combination of philos meaning beloved, dear or friendly and adelphos meaning fraternal love. In its common usage, it refers to the love that biological family members have for each other. For example, the love that a mother and father feel for their children. It is this kind of love that Paul is saying should be among the members of the family of God.
What about showing honor? Honor is different from affection because you can honor a person for whom you have no affection. Paul does not want us to choose between these. He says do both. But they are different. Some alternate translations say; "Outdo one another in showing honor," and "showing eagerness in honoring one another." We should prefer to honor rather than be honored and love to honor more than we love to be honored.
Other places in scripture teach us also to "serve one another" (Gal 5:13, Mos 1:50), "forgive one another" (Sec 64:2d), "bear one another’s burdens" (Gal 6:2), and "impart one to another" (Mos 9:64). These are just a few of many scriptures that describe our relationship to each other in the family of God. We should always "consider one another" and encourage one another to love and good works. (Heb 10:24) And never forsake gathering together (Heb 10:25).
While catching up on the news of the day over a meal together, a warm handshake, and a friendly pat on the back are all part of the social interaction that is important and needed, God has called us into a fellowship that is much deeper than just socializing.
When we move the center of attention from ourselves to others, we show the reality of our new nature in Christ because these are the behaviors that are natural and fitting for those who are born again and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They are the fruit of the Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that knits us together in this brotherly love. Our natures would not allow such to happen.
As the world steams towards God inevitable judgement, it is important and necessary that the family of God, our family, grows closer and closer together. It is also important that we invite as many as will come to join our family.
As I look to 2020 and beyond, I’m so glad to call each of you family and pray that we grow closer to our God and His Son and to one another, preferring, loving and honoring one another and by so doing demonstrating to the world the love and mercy and grace that God has shown us through His Son and the gift of His Spirit.