"Love The Brotherhood"
Peter writes, "Honor all (men), love the brotherhood..." (1PE.2:17). The admonition is much like Paul's in GAL.6:10, i.e., "do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith". Note "brother" hood, not "church" hood. We are clearly taught to love all saints.
Is this admonition necessary? When you get on the receiving end of some "brother's" ire you will believe it. Repeatedly we have heard, and seen proven -- "earth hath no wrath like that of a woman scorned" -- or a saint turned devil. We won't attempt to explain it. We are simply making observations from life. Do we expect too much of brethren? Do we preach the ideal and forget that practice, at best, can be only an attempt at the ideal? Do we magnify the faults of brethren? Maybe there is some of all these explanations at the core of it.
The word for "love" is "agape"; the same kind of love God has for all men. It does not stop at being warm, friendly, responsive to like treatment; but is unselfish, outgoing, embracing friend and enemy alike. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; ... valteth not itself, is not puffed up," and so, on and on. How desperate is the need for brethren to study 1CO.13:, with "agape" translated "love" as it should be, and the application made to here and now.
It's about time for someone to say, "I can love my brother, and show him his error because I love him -- in an effort to save his soul". Yes, this is very true; but I fear we use this as a thin veil, to cover foul treatment and an uncharitable attitude. Is it love that makes us put the worst possible interpretation upon our brother's words and actions? Is it love that labels and quarantines our brethren without making a sincere effort to teach them? (A sharp retort at this point is, "You are judging my motives -- is that love?"). God knoweth! Examination and criticism are the life-guards of Christianity. It is extremely difficult to see oneself, and we must use other's eyes to help us stay on the path of truth. To be accurate and effective, the watchmen must be brethren -- "ye which are spiritual" (GAL.6:1) -- people who know the same truth and walk the same path. The overseers of a congregation are to "watch" for souls (a responsibility which I believe is pitifully neglected), but this does not relieve all Christians of individual responsibility along this line (JAM.5:19-20 and JUD.20-23). This article is not aimed at stopping criticism -- of conservatives, liberals, or even Plain Talk. It does plead with brethren to look into their own hearts and examine their motives and spirit.
The "agape" love of 1PE.2:17 involves the will -- it must be desired and cultivated. I must want to love brethren, and make efforts to this end. I should be more ready to love brethren; more fair, more considerate, than I would be of any other. But frequently I notice that when brethren cross swords the conflict is more bitter, the retorts more sharp, than we would think of being with a non-member neighbor. In our "family fuss" we may lose our home in heaven.