by Joe Thorn
Consider what follows as a simple encouragement to press into a life of love in practical ways. A life God has called us to, saved us for, and modeled for us. Here is what gospel affection looks like, presented practically in 10 Ways to Love Your Brothers and Sisters.
1. Put Them First
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Phil. 2:3)
Self-denial lives at the center of love. True love denies self and supports another. Putting others first should be more than an act of humility, but an act of affection. It's not that we think so little of ourselves, but that we feel so warmly toward our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are happy to lay aside our interests and preferences so that another may experience blessing.
2. Seek Their Good
"always seek to do good to one another" (1 Thess. 5:15)
Love does more than put someone else first. One's desires may be destructive, or their path may lead to danger. Love will seek their good, their betterment, their advancement. The questions we ask must be, "How can I personally help my brother do well?" "How can I serve my sister so that she prospers in faith and life?"
3. Ask For Their Forgiveness/Forgive Them
"forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (Col. 3:13)
If you love your fellow saints then you will ask for their forgiveness when you sin against them, and will freely forgive them when they sin against you. Sin grieves the heart of a believer for in it we know we have sinned against the Lord, hurt someone made in the image of God and recreated in the image of Jesus Christ. And as a people who have been forgiven of far worse crimes than have been committed against us, we must also forgive those who sin against us.
4. Listen to Them
"be quick to hear" (James 1:19)
Love listens. Just as God hears us when we call to him, so must we listen to others. We need to listen in order to gain understanding either of truth, or of the one speaking. Until we listen to another we are ill-equipped to know their needs and seek their good.
5. Include Them
"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling." (1 Pet. 4:9)
Hospitality is a welcoming of others into your life. Love includes; it draws near to others and invites them in. It will not dismiss people because they are different or difficult, but will pursue them and offer them a place at the table. Love looks around, sees the uninvolved or unknown, and extends a hand of welcome.
6. Be Generous
"You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way." (2 Cor. 9:11)
God has given you what you have for more than your own personal enjoyment. You are called by God to steward what he has entrusted you by sharing it with others. Love seeks to give, and give big. As John Calvin said, “the legitimate use of all our gifts is a kind and liberal communication of them with others.”
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (Jn. 15:13)
Generosity is important, but it's easy to pick and choose what we will be generous with. Many today have an easier time parting with their money than their time. They would rather be generous with their wallet than their calendar. Such "generosity" is giving without real sacrifice. Love, in denying self, goes farther than an easy offering. Love gives untill it hurts. If you love your brothers and sisters it will be seen in your willingness to sacrifice what you have, and even yourself, for their good.
8. Tell The Truth
"let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." (Eph. 4:25)
Love doesn't lie. In fact, it speaks truth. This isn't about offering true opinions, but truth itself. It is willing to offer hard words when needed. Love corrects, rebukes even, but not from a mere love for truth. It is also connected to a sense of concern and compassion for people.
9. Encourage Them With The Gospel
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (1 Thess. 5:11)
Love doesn't flatter, but it does encourage. Biblical encouragement is a kind of preaching; a gospel word offered to those who need it. Love points people to Jesus Christ, in whom we see love in its brightest display. Those around you need to hear how the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, remains good news for them today. It's not just for the lost. It is for the found. For without it we drift back to false hopes, doubts, and fears.
10. Pray For Them
"pray for one another" (James 5:16)
If you love your brothers and sisters you will pray for them. It is sad that we so often quickly;y promise, "I'll pray for ya!" only to walk away and never approach God on their behalf. Even sadder is that those who need the prayer are happy enough with the false promise. They appreciate the nice thought, and think it's better than nothing. But it's not. It's just nothing. Love prays. It seeks God's action in their lives. It pleads with God for greater grace on behalf of others. And to this God responds.
There are many other ways in which we should be loving one another in the church, but here's a start. Let us love not "in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1Jn. 3:18) We can do this because we have come to know the love of God through the death of Jesus Christ. We have been saved by love (Rom. 5:8) and for love (1 Peter 1:22).