By T.M. Anderson
"Giving all diligence, add to your faith ... brotherly kindness."
Brotherly kindness is the kindness of kinship. It is that brotherly love peculiar to the children of God. It is a fruit of holiness. It has that faculty of spiritual insight which sees the worth, value, and good qualities that lie beneath the surface of the rough exterior of a redeemed soul.
Brotherly kindness possesses a kindred sympathy with each member of the body of Christ. It rejoices with them that do rejoice, and weeps with them that weep. It has that rare quality of affection which can put itself in the other brother's place and from his viewpoint see things that affect him. It can enter into a brother's privations, wants, sacrifices, sufferings, afflictions, and distresses, and help such a brother carry his load with greater ease.
To see this fruit of holiness in practice is to witness the beauty of holiness with which the Lord is worshipped. Surely nothing is so needful among the people of the Lord as this grace of brotherly kindness.
The redeemed family of God is made up of persons out of every nation, kindred, people, and tongue under heaven. They represent all walks of life, every stratum of society, and are taken from all classes of the human race. There are no two of them exactly alike in every respect. They are all blood-washed but vastly different in many other ways. Their diversified gifts, manners, lives, temperaments, spirits, and mental conditions cause a peculiar situation that only brotherly love can meet with fortitude. The eccentricities of this mixed company create a problem, the solution of which is possible only by love.
Holiness has made of all these persons one body in Christ. It has made them members one of another. Christ is the head: "From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love."
But brotherly love is the bond of perfectness which keeps the whole body intact, and supplies each member with the proper lubricant to prevent friction.
Brotherly kindness is the only thing at the command of a holy person that can be brought into use, and by so doing can assure a blameless life among this mixed multitude of personalities. It is imperatively necessary to every man's eternal well-being that he add brotherly kindness to his faith. Without the practice of this grace such a one can never live a holy life.
The lowest level of brotherly love is as high as the love of Jesus Christ "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
The standard is Christ's love: "As I have loved you." Brotherly kindness must ever be kept on this level. It must consider every other brother as Jesus Christ considers him. The same compassionate love which Christ shows must be also shown by every act, word, and deed. The proof of the indwelling of God in the sanctified is by their love for the brethren. "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." The consummation of the divine affection was the gift of Himself to us. The proof of this is in the love we have for one another. Love becomes the very essence of the nature of the sanctified, even as it is the essence of the nature of God. If it is in the nature of God to love all men, so also is it within the new man's nature, who is a creation after the image of God, to love all men, especially the family of God.
Brotherly love being so essential to the life of holiness, it is only fitting that we specify some ways in which it is expressed. Let us keep in mind that this grace is a fruit of holiness. It is pure and perfect in that it is without any mixture of sin. But this does not imply that it cannot be developed and intensified. It can be so developed that it will abound yet more and more in all wisdom and spiritual understanding. Furthermore, we are unwilling to credit every unbrotherly act so often seen among the brethren as being the result of carnality. Sanctified persons can improve in their outward love -- life by knowing and learning how to express love toward one another more perfectly. May the Lord give us all understanding!
Brotherly love is sacrificial.
This does not mean that it can become vicarious in its sacrifice. It cannot atone for the sins of any person. That can be done only by the Christ, who loved us and gave himself to be the propitiation for our sins and the sins of the whole world. But there is a love that lays down the life for the brethren. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
There are a great many ways in which one may lay down his life for the brethren. One of these, as John shows it, is to minister to a brother in temporal affairs when it is seen he hath need. To have this world's good and see the brother has need, and shut up the heart of compassion from him is not consistent with brotherly love. To love in deed and in truth is to make sacrifices in giving -- not gifts that come out of a abundance, but those that come like the mite of the widow, who gave her living; to do without some things in order that some needy brother may have relief.
Such sacrificial love on the part of the Church as a whole will forever solve the financial problem of that institution. Loving in word and in tongue is not sufficient. It must take the active form of deed and in truth. "Hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him." If in these matters our hearts condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. Nothing so enhances the value of holiness as the sacrificial love that lays down the life for the brethren. Nothing gives quite so much pleasure to the sanctified as the practice of this grace of love.
Brotherly kindness restores the brother overtaken in a fault.
"If a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."
These instructions are explicit. The duties of the brethren are clearly stated. Love must extend a helping hand to the fallen one, and restore him to his place in the body.
The picture is that of a member of the body which has been thrown out of joint. The violence of the temptation has dislocated the member. Such a one was overtaken, whether by subtlety or by storm. The result of the attack was to pull him out of joint and fellowship. Brotherly love and kindness must now restore this one to his place, so he may properly function in the whole body. How tender, then, must be the touch of the hand of love to handle such a sore member of the body! Love is such that the whole body feels the acute pain.
Would to God this grace were more in evidence! How few would be the backsliders who would be left to perish with no hand of love outstretched to help them recover themselves out of the snare of the enemy!
Holiness means more in this case than a complacent enjoyment of a blessing. It hurries to the rescue of those who have been swept from their moorings by the wiles of the devil. It seeks with a Christlike love those who have been enticed from the path of virtue by the cunning craftiness of men who lie in wait to deceive.
Various things may result in a brother's being overtaken in a fault. Men and women have gone down through the vilest sins, and through the most subtle errors. Anywhere between the extremes of gross evil and plausible errors one is liable to be overtaken in a fault.
Each offense demands a tactful show of kindness and wisdom that taxes the ingenuity of the sanctified. But love will find a way, and prove equal to the occasion. To recover a brother who has gone down in gross sensuality and recover another from extreme fanaticism requires different phases of loving-kindness. One feels the enormity of his sin, and is often so overwhelmed with shame that he is ever discouraged from even trying to return to God. The other feels no guilt, and probably believes everyone else is wrong who does not see as he sees. No fixed rule can be given as to the methods to employ in dealing with them. It is simply given in order to emphasize a phase of brotherly kindness often overlooked. To restore such a one in the proper spirit, put yourself in his place and try to feel as he does. What love and kindness would you want?
Again, brotherly kindness must make the restored brother feel that he is really restored. That is, he must be made to feel that he stands as though he had never sinned. Not the slightest difference must ever be made to appear in fellowshipping him. We recall an instance where two preachers met on the same camp-meeting platform as engaged workers. One of these men had been recently recovered from a fallen state. His sin had been terrible. But he had given every evidence of having been reclaimed and sanctified since that fall. The other brother refused to sit on the same platform with him. This is not a show of brotherly love and kindness. Consider thyself, lest thou be tempted to display such a want of this grace. Help bear the other brother's burden, and so fulfill the royal law, "Thou shalt love thy brother as thyself."
Brotherly kindness is without dissimulation.
"Let love be without dissimulation." That is, let love be pure. Never permit it to appear otherwise in any acts of life. "Abhor that which is evil." Let love be so refined as to be utterly adverse to anything evil.
The plain inference is that it becometh the duty of a holy people to be refined lovers of one another. Brotherly love is to move on the highest plane of action, never stooping to that which is little and small. It must show consideration for others. Their feelings, their interests, their reputations, are highly respected. Abhor any show of disrespect. Refuse even to criticize when it might be done in truth. Even telling the truth on some brother may do him an irreparable injustice, and evil may result.
The family of God is comparable to the family life of a man. The members of the family are all different. They have different likes and dislikes. They have their disagreements as well as they have their agreements. They make many mistakes, and have innumerable faults. It requires time, and patience, and much love to get so adjusted to one another as not to sever relations. It takes pure love to aid in the things that grate on the nerves, and wear on the dispositions of one another. Here is where the kindness of kinship comes in. Even if a family does suffer these things among themselves, they do not tell it all over the neighborhood. It is none of the neighbors' business to know it. It does not concern them. To tell it will only add embarrassment to the other members. Love that is love keeps all this at home.
So also is this the right spirit of brotherly love that is kept pure. It never relates the many faults and failures of the brethren to the ears of the wicked. It is not for them to know. It is a family affair that is kept in the privacy of the family. Holiness is love acting holy in that it takes no pleasure in speaking of the faults and failings of the brothers of the family of God. It places the mantle of charity over the whole family, looks for the best in each, and prays over the faults of all.
After sanctification, what? Here is something that can be added which will assure an abundant entrance into the everlasting Kingdom. Holiness supplies the will to do this, and the motive; but it is the duty of every sanctified person to give all diligence to add it to his faith as a necessary precaution against a moral collapse resulting from brotherly love not being kept pure in all the demands made upon it. To keep love pure and unsullied while one lives among all the classes of persons that constitute the visible Church demands watchfulness over every member of the body, every faculty of the mind, and every volition of the will. To maintain spiritual existence and live a blameless life, this must be done.
Accord no treatment to your brother that you would not accord to your Christ. Love him despite his faults, as the Christ loves you despite your faults. Mention not his failings and judge not his motives; he must stand before the Judge even as you must stand. Let your love overflow all human bounds. Let it cover all human infirmities and sins with the mantle of pity. It will inundate the lowlands of human life like a flood, covering the unsightly snags with the waters of a placid lake. It will smile back to God while He pours out the torrential rains of His grace upon your soul to keep you always at flood stage. Let love be pure. Cleave to the good in all the brotherhood of saints. By so doing you shall add brotherly kindness to your faith.