Real Christian discipleship will include practical brotherly love.
A genuine love for God will invariably lead to a love for others. That’s what Jesus said of the two great commandments (Matt. 22:36-40) that summarize the Ten Commandments. The apostle John also related love for God and love for others: “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).
The kind of love that’s called “brotherly kindness” in today’s verse is very practical. It’s a translation of the Greek philadelphia, which might best be rendered “friendship.” We are to be affectionate toward one another. But that does not always happen, especially for those attending big churches. There I fear many people sit on the periphery without developing any relationships. They come to the morning service and then go their way. But that’s not Christian discipleship; we’re to add friendships to our faith and be involved in others’ lives.
People in many different churches want to know more about discipleship, as if it were some complex program surrounded in mystery. But discipleship is simply friendship with a spiritual perspective. Disciples will talk about God, the Scripture, ministry opportunities, and prayer requests—not merely sports, the weather, gardening, or home remodeling. Each is concerned how the other handles the daily affairs and important matters of life. I would encourage you to build friendships and be a part of a Bible study and fellowship group—but make sure your small group does not become exclusive and keep out newcomers.
I once talked to a pastor who had attended one of the annual pastors’ conferences at my church. I asked him what impressed him most about the conference, and he said, “The love of the people for each other. I was drawn to tears when I sensed them worshiping God in the midst of genuine love.” He had seen an application of Jesus’ words, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). You can’t get more practical about Christian love than that!
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for other members of your small group. If you’re not in one, ask God to lead you to a group.
For Further Study
Read 1 John 4:7-19.
• With whom does love originate?
• What are the results of that love?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997.