Familiarity Among Local Brethren
Consider for a moment the following phrases from Romans 12:9-21:
- Let love be without hypocrisy (vs 9)
- Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (vs 10)
- distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality (vs 13)
- Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep (vs 15)
- Be of the same mind toward one another (vs 16)
Earlier in chapter twelve, the apostle Paul wrote, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:4-5). A local congregation, a local church, is composed of individual Christians, members of the body of Jesus Christ. Each Christian is to work and grow with fellow Christians. However, there are areas of this growth which require a familiarity among fellow Christians. While there are Christians whom you may consider strangers, the brethren of the local congregation must not be strangers to one another.
The divine instructions found in Romans 12:9-21 rely upon a familiarity among local Christians. All of the above phrases rely upon Christians developing a relationship with one another, a relationship which goes beyond time spent at Bible studies and worship services. Our relationship as Christians exists every moment of every day. Allow me to illustrate my point:
- Our “love without hypocrisy” is to be present every day. When we see one another at a local store, this familiarity should exist. If we learn, during the week, of a local brother’s need, then our genuine love should drive us to do all we can to help that brother.
- Our kind “affection” towards one another “with brotherly love” is not limited to worship services and Bible classes. We should seek one another’s company. We should strive to develop a family-like relationship. Consider for a moment three different translations of Romans 12:10. The English Standard Version reads, “Love one another with brotherly affection.” The Holman Christian Standard reads, “Show family affection to one another with brotherly love.” The American Standard Version reads, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” We are a family of believers. Let us seek this brotherly relationship and show brotherly love towards one another.
- Our responsibility to distribute to the “needs of the saints” and show hospitality towards the saints cannot be accomplished by only attending worship services. We must develop a familiarity with one another so we will become aware of needs and always stand ready to render needed hospitality.
- Rejoicing with one another and weeping with one another demands a family type familiarity with one another. If our relationship is defined and established only by our presence at the building, then we will be unable to know one another well enough to genuinely weep or rejoice with one another.
- We cannot be of the “same mind toward one another” if we are not of the same mind. We must know one another in order to be of the same mind toward one another. This like-mindedness could be also viewed as being in harmony or being in agreement. Either way, our relationship with one another must grow if we are going to be of the “same mind” toward one another.
How can we develop this necessary familiarity with one another? The answer is simple. We need to be willing to spend time with each other outside of the worship services and Bible classes. When was the last time you invited members of the church over to your house? Not everyone, but someone or some family (and physical family does not count)? When was the last time you accepted an invitation to spend time at another Christian’s home? I recognize we have busy lives; however, if we are going to be as strong as we need to be as brethren, then we need to spend time together.
Keep in mind it is not the responsibility of the collective local work to create this familiarity. The work of the church is the spiritual welfare of the members, worshiping the Lord, the spreading of the gospel, and, when necessary, the physical care of brethren in need. The physical relationship needed to help develop this familiarity with one another is the responsibility of each and every individual Christian.
If there is a member of this congregation, or a family, with whom you are unfamiliar, then offer to spend time with them and get to know them better. Our tie as Christians goes far beyond a mere acquaintance at church services. We are members of a wonderful family and members of one another (Romans 12:5).