Let Love of the Brethren Continue
The most enduring quality in this world is that of love. The great apostle who suffered so much at the hands of false brethren, who was repeatedly imperiled by the elements, who was savagely persecuted by misguided zealots, who was forsaken by fellow-workers, who languished in prison for the crime of preaching the gospel of Christ in an effort to save souls, could still write the moving words "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing... but now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
(I Corinthians 13:1-8)
The Jews had wantonly crucified his Lord. The Jews had hunted Paul as a criminal, with vows and plots to take his life. The Jews had devastated the redeemed body of Christ. And what did Paul, in turn, feel for them? "Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved" (Romans 10:1).
What does God have in store for those of us who violate the greatest command of all — the command of love? How is it that some of us "Christians" can harbor ill-will, bitterness, hatred, animosity, or any such attitude toward brethren in Christ and claim to be followers of the one who is love personified? Are we greater than the one who pleads for mercy to be shown to the very ones who drove spikes through his hands and feet? To be sure, we preach and listen to many sermons on first principles, the "Issues," giving, attendance, etc., but I am afraid we sometimes "have left undone the weightier matters of the law."
I have known of preachers who could hardly stand to be in the same room with other certain preachers, of preachers who have said of another particular fellow-soldier "I'm going to stomp him in the ground, " etc. Think, now, is there any room in that heavenly kingdom for those with such an attitude? Surely not! It matters not what may have occasioned such bitterness--whether personal injury, false doctrine, ungodliness, or what have you, the child of God cannot afford to reciprocate with such attitudes. It most emphatically does not "become the gospel of Christ!"
I have known of members of the church who have developed such animosity and bitterness toward another one of God's children that such statements as "there can never be a reconciliation," or "I can never feel right about that person again." Before God, brothers and sisters, can you actually imagine a child of God having such a disposition — especially towards another for whom Christ died, for whom Christ shed his own precious blood? Christ taught that there is no greater tie than the spiritual ties which exist in the family of God (Matthew 12:46-50). How can we so lightly consider them?
What do you think Paul meant when he urged "as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men... but if thine enemy hunger, feed him ... be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good?" (Romans 12) It makes not one particle of difference what someone has done to you, or what you "imagine" someone has done to you, there is no reason under heaven why you cannot act civilly to such an one, treat them with decency and courtesy, speak to them with kindness, pray for them, and help them when they are in distress, No reason, I say, if the love of God abides in your heart. The apostle of love put it very plainly: "But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and knoweth not whether he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes ... We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer bath eternal life abiding in him...but whoso bath the world's good, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?" (I John 2:11; 3:14-17).
Yes, others have betrayed me. They have lied about me. They have shamefully abused my own father in the flesh. But there is not a one of them that I cannot treat decently, nor one for whom I cannot sincerely pray. Why should I lose my own soul over them just because they might be lost? Seems rather like a high price to pay, doesn't it?
True, you may be a prince among preachers, a chief among men, a queen among women, but the word of God is still true. It says, even to this day, "In love of the brethren be tenderly affectioned one to another" (Romans 12:10), "but now do ye also put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth ... put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye: and above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness." (Colossians 3:8-14)
And we are still forewarned that those who practice such things as "enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings ... and such like ...shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:20-21). Take heed, brethren, lest ye be deceived and blinded.