In Hebrews 13:1, there is a simple command that has a tremendous impact on how the church functions. Obedience to it provides something we need, something we desire. It is a command to love. The writer says, “Let love of the brethren continue.”
“Love of the brethren” is a compound word in the Greek. It is taken from the Greek word phileo — which carries the idea of having a tenderhearted affection — and the word adelphos — which means brother or from the same womb. Put them together, and you have a tenderhearted love and affection for the brethren, who are from the same family — from the same womb.
Phileo love speaks of the sweet love that you have for a brother or sister in Christ that stems from the fact that you both know him. As we look at the various passages where the word phileo is used in the Scriptures, we find such aspects as tenderness, sensitivity, understanding, thoughtfulness, consideration, sympathy, compassion, concern, mercy, kindness, patience, gentleness, warmth, care, friendliness, generosity and graciousness. All these words are synonyms of philadelphia love. Paul says in Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other — just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” The love of the brethren is to be commonplace in your practice as a Christian, no matter what walk of life or social structure you come from. If you both know Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you are to respond to one another in phileo love.
It sounds simple; however, it is not often applied. Let me explain. Too often in our crazy busy lives we miss opportunities to hear, see and act on certain situations that the Lord puts before us. I would call them divine moments. They are orchestrated by God to use you to further his kingdom by a simple act of love in someone else’s life. Think with me. Love comprises all that we are as Christians. We were saved through divine love, Romans 5:8. While we were sinners, Christ died for us. We are commanded to love God and to love others, Matthew 22:37–39. You have the ability to love through the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:22. This is part and parcel of the fruit of the Spirit. We are called, saved and commanded to love. You would think that love would be easy and that an atmosphere of love would prevail in church. But that isn’t always the case. Why? Because of our sin, selfish desires and pride. Yes, we prevent this from being the atmosphere of the church.
Now beloved, as life shifts and troubles and trials happen, there are many new opportunities to show expressions of love to the brethren. That is why I believe that the writer in Hebrews says let this continue. Let this be a constant act of living for God. It is that exhortation that I want you to consider. How can you continue daily in the love that God calls us to? As we listen to others, are we hearing with compassion and maybe pausing to pray when someone is pouring out their heart? That is love of the brethren. Are we regularly inviting others into our lives and those of our families because we have a love for the brethren? I know we won’t be perfect in this, but my desire is that we continue to love others because our Lord and Savior has loved us.
Look around, beloved, and listen — there are many opportunities to be involved in others’ lives. Let us purpose toward that. Let us excel all the more in being active listeners and doers when it comes to loving the brethren. See the impact that God has on you and on them as you obey this command from Scripture. May phileo love continue to be a characteristic of us as Christ-followers. Now go love your brethren!