The Love of Brothers and Sisters in Christ

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.
– 1 John 3:14 NKJV –

The assurance of our salvation, to know that we truly belong to Him, is a precious gift from the Lord. Evidence of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ is one of these assurances. A sincere, spiritual love for one another affirms our profession of faith in Christ and confirms that we have passed from death to life. Our love for one another does not earn eternal life, but it certainly proves we have received it.

In one of his letters to a friend, John Newton reflects upon this profound verse in 1 John and mentions several kinds of love that may look like the real thing but fall short.

“There is the natural love of the brethren. People may sincerely love their relations, friends, benefactors, who are of the brethren, and yet be utter strangers to the spiritual love the apostle speaks of” (p. 68). He goes on to say, “There is likewise a love of convenience,” where our love for one another is conditioned upon getting what we desire in return.

Last, “a party-love is also common,” where we appreciate other Christians who share our style of worship, religious traditions, and other preferences that confuse mere spiritual alignment for actual brotherly love.

The true love of the brethren “is not greatly impeded by ignorance and bigotry … it extends to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, cannot be confined with the pale of a denomination, nor restrained to those with whom it is more immediately connected” (p. 70).

This love comes from Heaven, not from earth. It is compelled by the Spirit, not the flesh. It gives itself sacrificially, not conveniently. It looks to Christ as the common ground, not preferences and customs.

None of us love perfectly, but we long to. This is also an evidence of our salvation, of our union to Christ. We pray to love our brothers and sisters more sincerely, more constantly, more sacrificially, more freely, and more joyfully. We strive to walk more carefully in the Holy Spirit in order to bear His fruit, the chief of these being love (Galatians 5:22).

(John Newton quotes are from Select Letters of John Newton (Edinburgh, Scotland: Banner of Truth Trust, 2011).)