Devoted to One Another


Rom 12:9-10  [Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good. Love one another with brotherly affection [as members of one family], giving precedence and showing honor to one another. AMP

The longer I am in the ministry the more evident it is to me that the family is under attack I am so thankful for my parents and  for the home I grew up in.   Of course many of you have heard me share of my tough beginnings, my Blood Father left my mother and four kids when I was six years old.  Thankfully my mother married a true man, faithful, and committed man.  Some refer to him as my “step- Dad” I refer to him as my “Dad”—they provided a secure environment for my brothers,  sisters and for me. Though they never had a course in child psychology and yet they met our emotional needs far more significantly than many college-educated parents do today.

Though my parents were never overly demonstrative, yet we knew we were loved.  Now even though I am 61 years old I still hug them and tell them I love them.  This is simply an extension of my appreciation for their love as I grew up.

In my early childhood we went to church.  But after my mother remarried we  did not and yet they taught me personal integrity , hard work, and commitment to the people you love.

Did this family environment make a difference when I became a Christian at age seventeen?  Absolutely! After I came to Jesus I immediately felt at home in the family of God.  The security I experienced in my family immediately transferred over to my brothers and sisters in Christ. I felt accepted and loved!

Furthermore, because I trusted my parents, I immediately trusted the leaders—my spiritual parents—in the church.   And because I had learned to be affectionate with my family members, it was very natural for me to be affectionate within my new and larger “family.”  What a great heritage!  Though I didn’t understand all of these dynamics until much later in my Christian experience, I came to realize how fortunate I really was!   And, of course, this has become increasingly true as I interact with people on a regular basis who do not feel secure and safe among Christians because they have never felt secure and safe within the family unit.

When Paul told the Roman Christians to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love,” he introduced us to another  metaphor to illustrate the church. The term  philadelphia, translated “brotherly love,” refers to family relationships. Applied to the church, Paul was referring to the love brothers and sisters in Christ should have for one another.  The term “brother” or “brothers” (adelphos), which in essence is part of the word philadelphia, is used by New Testament writers to refer to the “Christian family” approximately 220 times throughout the New Testament beginning with the Book of Acts.

The word literally means “from the same womb”—and in its generic form, includes both “brothers” and “sisters.” It is distinctly a “family term.”

As Christian’s we have all been “born again” into God’s eternal family. We are vitally related to each other through a common heritage.  God has “adopted” all of us “as [sons and daughters] through Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:5).

Paul used the “body” metaphor to illustrate that Christians are “members of one another.” It serves as a beautiful illustration to demonstrate how the church functions. Every believer is necessary and vitally important in God’s plan. However, as with all analogies, the “human body” can go only so far in describing reality. The “family”—as God designed it to function—gives us an even greater appreciation of what a healthy church should be.

This metaphor adds a dimension of warmth, tenderness, concern, and loyalty—in short, human emotion and devotion. Put another way, when Paul used the “body” metaphor, he used the physical aspects to illustrate the necessity of every member’s participation in the church. But when he used the “family” metaphor, he was illustrating the  relational aspects of Christianity.

The family illustration introduces us to both “bad news” and “good news.” The bad news is that children often grow up not knowing what it feels like to be accepted, loved unconditionally, and made to feel secure. They’ve not learned to trust others. They develop habits that are anything but Christian—learning to lie, cheat, and manipulate. Their values are based on relativism rather than on the absolute standards outlined in the Ten Commandments. They’ve learned to be selfish rather than benevolent and giving. Unfortunately, becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically change these attitudes and actions that have been developed over a lengthy period of time.  Consequently, when they join the “family of God,” they have no idea what it means to be a loving, caring, trusting, and sincere brother or sister in Jesus Christ.

But this introduces us to the good news. God designed the church—the family of God—to be a “re-parenting organism” to bring emotional and spiritual healing to people who have grown up in unhealthy families. Many people today need to learn for the first time how to love and care for others. They may never have experienced this kind of environment except in the church. When the church functions as God says it should, they can see it modeled in their new, extended family.

Think what this means to a young man who has never seen his father love his mother. Think what it means to a young woman who has never seen her mother love her father. A dynamic, healthy church may be the only place these young people will see what God really intended a marriage and family to be! This is indeed good news.

Can the church bring healing and health to people who have been thoroughly secularized?  The answer is a decided yes.  It happened in the world of the New Testament, and it can happen in our own society that is still no match for the decadence in the Roman Empire.  However, we will never help people become mature spiritually and psychologically if our church is not functioning as God says it should. We must “be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” We must be devoted to it and we must display it!