Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Brotherly Love

This is the second post I’ve now written on characteristics that we should strive to possess, based on a series of sermons at church at the moment on 2 Peter 1. This post is about brotherly love:

“…add to your faith goodness;… and to godliness, mutual affection” 2 Peter 1:5-7a

In this translation, the word mutual affection is used, but other versions translate it as “brotherly kindness” or even ”warm friendship”. Perhaps a good way to sum up all of these various ideas is in the term ‘brotherly love’. This is also a literal translation of the Greek word that is used here: φιλαδέλφεια (philadelphia). It is in fact an amalgamation of two simpler words: philos meaning love and adelphi meaning brother.

What is perhaps interesting but not obvious is what words could have been used instead. For instance Peter didn’t write φιλανθρωπία (philanthropia) a word which was available to him (used in Acts and Titus) and from which we get the word philanthropy. This word might also translated as mutual affection but it has different subtleties. Philanthropia like philadelphia is derived from two words, the first of which is again translated as love. The second however is anthropos meaning humanity or mankind. So this word means love of humanity or humanitarianism.

In this light, the brotherly kindness that we are meant to add to godliness is not simply helping those in need but also conveys the sense of community. We need to grow closer together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. That we would resemble the family that we claim to be. This is a lot harder to do than to simply help those in need. For once you have helped someone you can remove yourself from them, but in a family you can’t remove yourself from any problems that arise. It is easier to love someone at a distance then to love your brother. Many people acknowledge this, even world renowned philosophers, such as Linus (from Charlie brown) who states:

“I love Humanity! It’s people I can’t stand.”

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