Love One Another
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Before the resurrection, the disciples had a bumpy relationship. They argued over who was the greatest among them (Mark 9:34) and over which of them would sit in the seats of honor at Jesus’s left and right in the Kingdom (Mark 10:37,41).
After the resurrection, their love for one another cemented. The ladies and the two Emmaus Disciples went first to the Eleven (LK 24:9, 33-34). The Eleven stayed tightly connected for 40 days, till Jesus ascended, and then went rejoicing as a group to Jerusalem (LK 24:52). The 120 prayed together as a unit for 10 days.
Christ-followers would still have their interpersonal problems from time to time, but the dye was cast. Years later their hearts were still knit to one other.
Hebrews 13:1 (Holman) Let brotherly love continue.
Decades after the resurrection, the love of Christians for one another was continuing. “Brotherly love” translates the word, “philadelphia”. “Phileo” means “love”. “Adelphos” means “from the same womb.” We could translate it brother-love, sister-love, sibling-love, or of-the-same-womb love. In other words, believers had for years loved one another as if brothers and sisters from the same womb.
The stark difference between before the resurrection, versus after it, had at least four causes. One, they did not have a clue as to how radically Jesus meant for them to love each other till after they saw it displayed at the cross. They were determined to obey their risen Lord, who had bluntly said, “This is My command; Love one another as I have loved you” (JN 15:12). Before the cross, they had no idea what the goal was exactly. Their notions were vague. After the resurrection, they had a precise prototype to follow. The bar had been lifted high. He had shown them in His own death what it entailed to love one another as He had loved them.
Two, on Resurrection Sunday night, Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit in fullness. No Pastor would ever dare challenge his people to love one another as Jesus loved us if Jesus had not commanded it. He was justified in giving this “impossible” command because He gave them the Holy Spirit to accomplish it in them. They knew they could not do this on their own. A miracle was required. Thus, they trusted in the only dependable power source available to them, the Holy Spirit. Let our failures drive us not to despair, but to prayer and deeper dependence on Him. His high standards are meant to waken in us a need to depend on His strength.
Three, Jesus’ death and resurrection proved how valuable believers were to Him. The disciples knew Jesus died and rose on their behalf, because He valued them. Thus they had to value each other. We treasure the lifeless objects, the trinkets and collectables, that belong to friends. If they love a treasured possession, we desire to protect it in their honor. We want to keep from hurting them.
If we are careful to regard our friends’ lifeless treasures, how much more care should we show for their living treasures? People are crushed when their loved ones are torn away from each other by hard feelings. Jesus grieves when His children are ugly to each other. When we hurt each other, we hurt Him.
We worship One who is resurrected, alive among us, who has feelings. He hurts if we squabble, like parents hurt when their children argue with each other.
As the spokes of a carriage wheel draw nearer the center, they come closer to each other. One way we know we truly love Jesus, and are drawing nearer to Him as the center of our lives is; we see ourselves being drawn toward each other.
Four, after the resurrection, the disciples knew what their assigned mission was, and how to accomplish it. They were to win unbelievers to their Master, and He had told them the best way to do this was to love one another. “All people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
They were willing to love one another, warts and all, due to their being desperate to accomplish their assigned task. Do we feel the same urgency? The first readers of Hebrews were part of a worldwide body of believers whose love exploded like dynamite in the Greco-Roman world, and pulled people to itself.
Love’s force emptied the temples, demolished altars, and pulled down pagan philosophers and priests. In a world where tyrants knew no mercy, and slaves found no relief, people looked up and felt the power of a new force, “philadelphia.” Their hearts were eased and their burdens lifted as a new love enveloped them.
Even the enemies of early believers were forced to confess, “See how these Christians love one another.” When the great plague raged in Alexandria, the heathen drove out their own loved ones at the first sign of infection. They threw their own family members half-dead into the streets, and left their dead unburied.
In contrast with this cruel selfishness, “The Christians,” Bishop Dionysius wrote, “in the abundance of their brotherly love, did not spare themselves, but mutually attending to each other, they would visit the sick without fear, and ministering to each other for the sake of Christ, cheerfully gave up their lives with them. Many died after their care had restored others to health. Many, who took the bodies of their Christian brethren into their hands and bosoms, and closed their eyes, and buried them with every mark of attention, soon followed them in death.”
The world could not resist the drawing power of this love. It grieves me that we who follow the resurrected One are not known for our love for one another.
John Owens, who lived in England in the 1600s, a time of terrible strife between believers, said love had forsaken the visible church and had returned to Heaven. I fear his sentiment also applies to our day. To describe Christianity in the United States today as a loving family would raise a howl of scorn from the world. We are known for our wrangling, not our love. We have done better in the past, though, and with God’s help can improve in the present, and into the future.
The nearest thing to heaven on earth is having a family life and church life in which love reigns supreme. If believers display these things, the lost take notice.
When well-planted, family love is the most fragrant flower in the Christian garden. It proves we are serious about obeying Jesus, shows we are filled with the Holy Spirit, proves we value each other, makes us attractive to the world.
Our main hope of keeping strong believers from weakening is Philadelphia, brother-love. Our finest chance of keeping the weak from straying is Philadelphia, brother-love. Our best hope for wooing back the wayward is Philadelphia, brother love. Thus, let brotherly love continue.
One, they did not have a clue as to how radically Jesus meant for them to love each other till after they saw it displayed at the cross. Two, on Resurrection Sunday night, Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit in fullness. Three, Jesus’ death and resurrection proved how valuable believers were to Him. Four, after the resurrection, the disciples knew what their assigned mission was, and how to accomplish it.