WE LIVE IN A WORLD of instant everything that there is a tendency amongst many people to be judgmental of others. It seems so easy for some to assassinate the character or reputation of someone based solely on suspicions and phony concerns, without thoughtful consideration that the person may have a troubled child, a sick spouse, financial difficulties, job woes, or a nagging health issue.
In a perfect environment, everyone ought to be treated with kindness and respect. But reality paints a vivid picture of a society full of people who are just plain mean and rude, such that one finds it so hard and draining not to see them lift a finger to reciprocate the kindness shown unto them despite their boorish behavior. They will even bully their way to get what they want or act out in order to get attention.
Truly, man’s selfishness and ego brings him countless problems in almost every aspect of his life; family, education, health, finances, social, and most importantly, spiritual. The “me” mentality of always wanting more and more for one’s self only exacerbates the situation.
In such a sea of people with an everyone-for-myself mindset, Apostle Peter preaches a very contrasting doctrine: that we must “love the brotherhood”, thus: “Show respect for all men-treat them honorably. Love the brotherhood (the Christian fraternity of which Christ is the Head). Reverence God. Honor the emperor” (I Pet. 2:17, Amplified Bible).
What a disparity that in a society where vulgar, insensitive display of character is hailed in sitcoms, movies, and even in the halls of the academe, the apostles of the Lord Jesus instruct true Christians to show respect for everyone as well to love their fellow Christians. What they preach is not a slogan veiled with religious trappings and outward respectability.
Loving the brotherhood means to love our brothers and sisters in faith regardless of the color of their skin, their ethnicity, or status in society. True followers of Jesus ought to be people of order and discipline as well as righteousness and justice-demonstrating to the world dynamic examples of genuine love, compassion, and righteous living.
Digging deeper, it is not surprising at all that the apostles counsel Christians to love their fellow believers, for they learned this from the Savior Himself, hence: ”And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35, Today’s English Version).
A strong love for each other, compassion to everyone without discrimination, as Christ commanded proves to the world true discipleship of His. To express vocally one’s love is one thing, but to translate it into action is another. Apostle John taught: “If a rich person sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against his brother, how can he claim that he loves God?” (I John 3:17, Ibid.).
If someone who is supposed to be a Christian has this world’s goods-resources and money enough to live well-and won’t even help his brother in need, God’s love will not live nor remain in that person. He is no different from the biggest hypocrites and phonies in this world who dare to quote the Bible inside out yet hate their fellowmen.
The charitable help to be given to brethren in need was tempered by Apostle Paul by this exhortation: “Stay away from any Christian who spends his days in laziness and does not follow the ideal of hard work” (II Thess. 3:6, Living bible). He admonished lazy people to quiet down, get to work, and earn their own food and other necessities. Because if anyone will not work, Paul concluded, neither should he eat (II Thess. 3:11-12, Ibid.)
It is true that lazy people do not carry their own weight, much less carry someone else’s. They remain blissfully indifferent to all the industrious jobs everyone else is doing. They fail to fathom that laziness blocks their own wishes, opportunities, dreams, and aspirations. Worse, it makes them feel useless and unfulfilled.
Apostle James gives his take on genuine brotherhood by voicing this command: “Do not complain against one another, my brothers, so that God will not judge you. The Judge is near, ready to appear” (James 5:9, TEV).
Grumbling against each other is not healthy, for who among us is above criticism? Especially if the complaint that is spoken is coated with angry, hurtful words. Allowing negative emotions to overtake us, so as to be upset or frustrated, can only shorten our life. Besides, negative sentiments affect people around us; contributing not only to our miseries, but to the unhappiness of others too.
Apostle Paul chimed in on brotherhood by eloquently declaring: “Instead, one Christian goes to court against another and lets unbelievers judge the case! If such matters come up, are you going to take them to be settled by people who have no standing on the church? Shame on you! Surely there is at least one wise person in your fellowship who can settle a dispute between fellow Christian” (Cor. 6:6, 4:5, Ibid.).
We may be living in a litigious society, but still, true Christians must not sue one another and accuse their fellow Christians in front of unbelievers. Why go to outside judges who are not even Christians? Cases of everyday life among brethren in faith must be decided by people who have standing or authority in the Church.
The step-by-step Christian way of settling disputes was advanced by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 18:15-17, Ibid.). The wronged brother must first approach privately the offending one. If he listens and confesses it, then the case is closed. But if not, the process must be repeated-with witnesses. And if he still refuses, the case will be brought to the Church Administration. Refusing to listen still will result ultimately in expulsion in the Church. In the words of the Savior, “treat him as though he were a pagan or a tax collector”, meaning, he will not be saved on Judgment Day because God judges those who are outside the Church (I Cor. 5:12-13, New King James Version).
One of the most dangerous destroyers of love of brotherhood, because it is so subtle and ambiguous that many are unable to recognize it, is gossip. Apostle Peter vigorously says so: “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech’” (I Pet. 3:8-10, New International Version).
True Christians must love one another with tender hearts and humble minds. Snapping back at those who might have said some unkind things about someone-scolding, tongue-lashing, and berating him-is exactly what was prohibited by the Apostles. For no matter how some sugarcoat it, that’s returning evil for evil or insult for insult.
Likewise, telling lies and gossiping are both wicked and sinful, a seething disease of corruption from the mouth. The sad thing is, they often masquerade as “expression of concern” that make them seem palatable in the beginning. Gossip thrives on the negative, the controversial, and the sensational. It distorts and exaggerates the truth and can never be a reliable source of it. It also mutates with each retelling. Once started, it takes on a life of its own. Hence, gossip is evil. Apostle Paul even went at length to declare that gossips and badmouth are in the same league as murderers, sexual perverts, and haters of God (Rom. 1:28-32).
Hence, true servants of God are admonished to treat each other with genuine love-responding positively to kind communication and praising good behavior-there-by practicing true compassion. Amidst the cruel societies they are in, they remain true to God’s calling, living as examples of tolerance, patience, humility, and kindness.Let us, therefore, see life through our firm belief and conviction in God’s words and promises, allowing not our faithfulness in Him be exchanged for greed for money, success, or worldly riches. Let us follow the example of humility and obedience of our Lord Jesus to the Father by loving the brotherhood established by Him, fully believing that by sincerely doing so, we will see Him face-to-face in His holy kingdom.