A helpful, biblical reflection on loving our true brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, reposted with kind permission from Eliza at Holding Forth His Truth.
We are commanded in God’s Word to love the brethren, and love of the brethren is one of the identifying marks of a true believer in Jesus Christ.
1 John 3:23 and 1 John 2:3-11 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. and Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hate his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
We know, as believers in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, that we are to love one another, but what does that love look like? There are numerous passages within the epistles that clearly define the love we are to share with one another.
In Ephesians chapter four Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, fills in the outline given by the parameters of the command, love. Ephesians 4:1-6 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, Who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
Paul continues this theme in Ephesians 4:20-32 But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Paul, again gives a clear picture of regenerated love inspired by the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5:1-6 Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
Notice that the Holy Spirit, through Paul, exhorts us to a holy love that has nothing to do with demonic driven deeds of the flesh. Peter, likewise, points us to the love of God in Christ as the standard by which we are to live, 1 Peter 3:8-9 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another, love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
We have to keep in mind, however, that the love we share as believers in Jesus Christ is different than the love that we hold forth to a world dead in its trespasses and sins. The above passages are tied to the truth and doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ and those who abandon the truth of the Scriptures are not our brethren.
Why is it so important that we make a distinction in our love towards those who are purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, filled with His Spirit, and obedient to His Word, and those who are dead in their trespasses and sins and under the just wrath and judgment of God? Because as Peter warns us in 2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought, them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. These are those who blasphemously say faith in Christ is insufficient and we must do something.
Philippians 3:2-3 Beware the dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. These are those who blasphemously say the work of Jesus Christ is insufficient for our salvation and we must do something.
Colossians 2:8-10 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. These are those who blasphemously deny the truth of the Scriptures and try to turn many away from the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
1 Timothy 6:20-21 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge-by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. Such people are not our brethren even though there are many who affirm them to be within the evangelical church today. Watch out!
Modernists, Catholics, the Orthodox, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, those in the Emergent Church, those in the Contemplative Movement, those in the Church Growth Movement and those in the Neo-Evangelical movement are not followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because they take away from Who He is and what He has done for us, and add man made doctrines that are driven by demons. Our response to such should always be to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them in love,by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the clear declaration of God’s Word, but we are never to consider them brethren for the sake of the purity of the Body of Christ and our clear, uncompromised, unfettered declaration of the truth of the Word of God.
Standing fast and true to the faith and truth of God is a very loving thing to do for our brethren, as it is loving to share the gospel with those who do not know Jesus Christ. We must be well acquainted with the Scriptures so we can tell the difference between genuine and false brethren relying upon the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.
To Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior be all praise, honor and glory!