fellowship

Philadelphia

Philadelphia_skyline_from_the_southwest_2015

Let brotherly love continue.

-Hebrews 13:1

Philadelphia. It’s probably the best known Greek word among Americans. Most know it as a city in Pennsylvania, where our founding fathers met and signed The Declaration of Independence. Others know the meaning of the name, brotherly love. Hence, Philadelphia is “The City of Brotherly Love.”

Known as the home of the Eagles, 76ers and Phillies, Philadelphia was named after a Greek word which means brotherly kindness. That word, Philadelphia, is the opening word in Hebrews 13.

Much has been made in theological circles about the different Greek words translated into “love” in the modern English language. Eros means romantic love, Phileo means brotherly love, or affection. Agape is the highest form of love. It’s the self-sacrificial love that has that redemptive quality.

Agape love is a fundamental doctrine of true Christianity. It was agape love that propelled Jesus Christ to the cross. It is agape love that a man is commanded to have toward his wife. It is agape love that Christ commanded his disciples to have toward each other. It’s agape love that we are to have toward our enemies.

This doctrine has been preached throughout the ages, from the Apostle John’s epistles to the 1st Century Christians, to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, efforts during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Agape is also a Spiritual gift, and should be a hallmark of the life of the believer in Christ. However, agape is not exclusionary. We are also to have phileo love toward one another.

Hebrews 13:1 begins with the word, philadelphia. This word is a variation of phileo. It carries the notion that brotherly love and affection is not merely a feeling, but an action. If phileo  is the feeling, then philadelphia is the action motivated by the feeling.

Scripture here commands us to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, not only in an agape manner, but also in a phileo manner. We are to truly love and appreciate each other, and if we have the opportunity, to do good for each other. That means either helping in a time of need, or simply doing something nice for one another.

One spring day, a church member of Life Point called and asked to meet with me and my wife. Often, when these calls come, bad news will follow. The church member is leaving the church, has been offended, or there is a personal crisis happening. Not this time.

Upon meeting with this church member, she asked us if we would like to attend an upcoming “Weekend to Remember” retreat in The Woodlands, Tex. This would be a three-day weekend retreat, just the two us us, with Bible sessions, marriage improvement classes, and date nights. No kids. In fact, she volunteered to keep our kids for that weekend, which is a really big deal if you consider how many children my wife and I have.

The church member offered to pay the tuition, but hotels and meals were on us. We jumped at the chance!

She did not see us as having marital problems, nor was she trying to rescue us from a major calamity. Instead, she saw an opportunity to bless us, so she did. Her action was motivated by the fact that she not only had agape love toward us, but phileo love as well.

God smiles when we express our affection toward each other in these ways. And you don’t have to drop several hundred dollars either. Simply stopping by for a visit, taking someone out to lunch, or sending a card count as philadelphia.

Hebrews 13:1 in its entirety reads, “Let brotherly love continue.” The word “continue” comes from a Greek word which means to abide. It is a permanent presence. Brotherly love and affection should be a permanent hallmark of our lives together in Christ, and should be expressed through fellowship, benevolence and good will toward each other.

The old phrase “I love him, but I don’t like him” should never apply to our brothers in Christ.

It is with this context that we will learn new insight on Hebrews 13:2, where the Bible discusses the concept of “entertaining angels.” We’ll look at that tomorrow.

May God bless you today. Call up a brother or sister in Christ, and go spend some time together.

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I’m fine! No, really, I am. Okay, I’m not.

How are you doing?

No really, How are you doing?

Nearly 100 percent of the time, when asked the first question, we say, “Fine.” Or, some of our more spiritually inclined brethren say, “I’m blessed.”

All too often, when we give those answers, we are not being truthful.

You see, we have been conditioned to think that any sign of distress, any sign of worry or stress is an indication that our faith is faltering. Somehow, by expressing heartbreak over the loss of a loved one, concern over a wayward child, fear over a pending financial disaster, uncertainty over the loss of a job, or anger over being mistreated, we are expressing a character flaw. We’ve “taken our eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves crashing all around us.” We’ve become Peter trying to walk on the water, but sinking because his faith failed.

Indeed, we don’t want to lose faith in the Lord, and we don’t want to be focused on our problems. However, in the real world, we do have problems. And those problems still exist when we enter the church doors. Therefore, there is no need for the church to become a fantasy world where problems don’t exist. They do. Therefore, one of the ministries of the church should be to help people through their problems.

This is not just a humanitarian position. It’s actually in scripture.

Galatians 6:2 says to “bear one another’s burdens.” While the greater context of that verse deals with restoring a brother who sins, it should be noted that sin is part of the lives of those who live in the real world. We all struggle. We all fail. We should be able to turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ for love, encouragement, and restoration as we repent from that sin.

The Bible also tells those who are afflicted to pray (James 5:13) and to confess our faults one to another (James 5:16). In fact, the church experience was designed so we could gain encouragement from each other while we walk this Christian life together. Hebrews 10:25 says that we should not forsake the assembly of ourselves together, but should exhort one another. That means to encourage each other to stay strong in the faith and to do great things for the Lord.

We cannot be encouraged if we are unwilling to address the things that burden our hearts. We cannot be encouraged if we are not willing to face our problems, and seek help. We cannot help each other with our struggles if we pretend they don’t exist.

The Lord knows we have problems. He knew beforehand that we would. Hence, He gave us the church to help us through those problems. The problem is, the church doesn’t do this because we fear being judged if we admit we have problems.

The Lord understands problems. He had a few of his own. Hebrews 4:15-16 says:

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

Do you know what that means? It means that the Lord was tempted… not only to sin by Satan after Christ spent 40 days in the wilderness, but also by the same struggles in life that we face: Not enough money, shortage of food, fatigue, being rejected and betrayed by others, being homesick and missing family, physical pain, emotional pain, bereavement, etc.

Yet, the Lord experienced all of this without sin. Therefore, He was uniquely qualified to pay for our sins on the cross, rise again to conquer the grave, open the gates of Heaven and plead our cases before God every single day.

Furthermore, these verses tell us He is sympathetic to our cause, because He has been through the same struggles we have.

Therefore, you are more than welcome to approach the Lord in prayer regarding the struggles you face. You should also be able to lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ for comfort and encouragement. If that’s not possible, maybe you need to find some other brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Lord understands our struggles, because He’s been here. We should understand each others’ struggles as well, because we’re still here. Love, help and encourage each other. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of God.