This begins a series on "Love of the Brethren."
What does it meant to love my brethren? What does it entail? "Do I really hafta?" (said in the best whine possible). The logical place to start any study of love would be 1 Cor. 13:4-7. In fact, this is an even better place to begin than some might realize, because this passage is NOT talking about romantic love, but brotherly love. It is often read at weddings and if a man endeavors to love his wife this way and his wife reciprocates the effort they are guaranteed a long and happy marriage. The context, though, is Paul telling the brethren at Corinth to stop fighting over who has the best spiritual gifts and learn to work together. Right in the middle of that he gives us this definition of love:
"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
The first thing you should notice is that love, as defined by the Bible, is not an emotion. Love is not warm, mushy feelings, nor is it wild, passionate desires. Love, as defined by the inspired Apostle, is action. Love is what I do, or refrain from doing, for the one I love. If I say I love someone but I am not patient and kind, but, rather, arrogant and rude toward them, then I don't really love them. This is not the way the Bible describes love. According to Paul, I can have warm, mushy feelings towards someone and not love them, while disliking someone else and still loving them. This is how we can follow Jesus' command to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). I don't have to like them -- if they are my enemies and "spitefully use" me, I probably don't like them -- but I can love them by treating them as described above.
A second thing to notice about this list is how often patience of one kind or another comes up. "Love is patient" or long-suffering, as older translations say. It is not irritable but does bear all things and endure all things. That's four out of fifteen descriptions. How much of loving someone is just putting up with them? Honestly, you people married 30 or more years, how much of the reason you are still together is you've learned just to put up with each other? Sure, you are fond of each other and do nice things for each other and rely on each other, but if you hadn't learned to overlook certain things over the years, you wouldn't still be together, would you? If that is true of a marriage, wouldn't it also be true of my relationship with my brother in Christ? Be patient.
Finally, "believes all things, hopes all things" means that I don't automatically assume that everything my brother says or does is mean-spirited and meant to hurt me. Instead, I believe the opposite: that my brother would never intentionally hurt me or undermine me. "He must have misspoken." "I must have misunderstood his meaning." We are going to give every possible benefit of the doubt. If more Christians believed and hoped all things about their brethren, there would be a lot less fighting in the church.
Love of and for the brethren is a concept much discussed in the New Testament. Learning to live the concepts in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 is a good way to begin.
Phil._1:9 "And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment"