Let brotherly love continue.
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.