This first verse of Hebrews 13 is under the title “Sacrifices pleasing to God”, and I can imagine that brotherly love (of course this applies to sisters too, as in Christ there is no male or female) is a sacrifice in some cases, probably in many!
There are many notions of love, so I wondered what this love is that Paul is speaking of here. Apparently, (when I check my friendly concordance), in the ancient Greek that the New Testament was written in, there were four words that would/could be translated as love.
“Eros” – erotic love, referring to sexual love.
“Storge” – Family love. The love there is between a parent and child, or other family members.
“Agape” – Ah what a word! It is the most powerful word for love in the New Testament, and is often used to describe God’s love towards us. This is the love to be rooted and grounded in. It is a love that loves without changing. It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment. It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is love that loves even when it is rejected. Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given – it gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive.
“Philadelphia” – the word used here in Heb 13. This ancient Greek word speaks of a brotherly friendship and affection. It is the love of deep friendship and partnership.
When Paul was writing to the Hebrews he was talking to a CHURCH, a fellowship of believers who had all things in common, they shared and loved and gave so much that it was exclaimed “Behold how they love one another”. Who lived Jesus words in John 13:35 “By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love toward one another.” Paul was calling for this to continue, this self sacrificing, all embracing deep friendship, partnership and affection to grow deeper and stronger.
Of course this had to be a love growing out of the Agape love received from the Father, from His Son now fully present in this body of believers. No one could manufacture brotherly love to this magnitude without there being a fundamental shift from self. A shift that crucifies, kills, puts to death that old occupying force of self to be fully occupied by Another. Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ, but I live!!; yet no longer I, my ego, but Christ, as Himself, lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, the One who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Ah, out of that explosive exchanged life comes this awe inspiring love for those amongst them. The 120, who waiting in that upper room for the Spirit to come, had no idea who they were waiting for, what that waiting would precipitate and how it would resound still around the world all these thousands of years later. LOVE.
Really though? Brotherly love continues amongst those who call themselves the church today? I dont hear “Wow, look how much they love each other” from people observing the fellowship of believers 2000 years down the line. Nope, I hear the opposite. I watch a generation of idealistic, hot headed, radical, whole hearted human beings eschewing anything to do with “church”. Not only do they not see brotherly love, or any love, they see corruption, judgement, hypocrisy, hate. Law based, angry judgemental religion that has removed all and any sense of Grace and the Agape Love of God from its buildings and people. They portray a god in their denomination box religion that has no sense in any way of the Jesus who said “If you have seen me you have seen the Father”.
Funny how it does not sound any different to the religious world that Jesus came into. Where he called that “church” white washed grave tombs, white and clean on the outside but full of bones and decay and corruption. Where he went out and called those who were idealistic, hot headed, radical, wholehearted human beings to come and see a Kingdom that was totaly upside down and opposite to the rabid widow and orphan abusing system they had been sold into. A kingdom of Love, a kingdom of Peace, a kingdom of Joy, a kingdom that is again being raised up today, but in the places you would not expect for there is no home for it there. But you find it amongst the poor, the humble, the contrite of heart, the wounded, the failures and the broken. Amongst these brotherly love is continuing and growing fueled by the Agape love of a God who is truly among us, within us and beside us.
1Co 1:26 For you see your calling, brothers, that there are not many wise according to flesh, nor many powerful, not many wellborn.
1Co 1:27 But God chose the foolish things of the world that the wise might be put to shame, and God chose the weak things of the world so that He might put to shame the strong things.
1Co 1:28 And God chose the low-born of the world, and the despised, and the things that are not, so that He might bring to nothing the things that are,
1Co 1:29 so that no flesh might glory in His presence.
1Co 1:30 But of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
Eph 3:16 (I pray) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power by His Spirit in the inner man;
Eph 3:17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
Eph 3:18 may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height,
Eph 3:19 and to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, that you might be filled to the measure with all the fullness of God.
Eph 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think or imagine, according to the power that works in us,
Eph 3:21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, forever. Amen.