Finding the Key to Brotherly Affection
“Supply to your . . . godly devotion brotherly affection.”—2 PETER 1:5-7.
1. What is one of the main reasons why gatherings of Jehovah’s people are such happy occasions?
ONCE a physician who was not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses attended his daughter’s graduation from the Watch Tower Bible School of Gilead, where she had received missionary training. He was so impressed with the happy throng that he opined that there must be very little sickness among these people. What made that throng so happy? For that matter, what makes all gatherings of Jehovah’s people, in congregations, at circuit assemblies, and at district conventions, happy occasions? Is it not the brotherly affection they display toward one another? Without a doubt, brotherly affection is one reason why it has been said that no other religious group gets as much enjoyment, happiness, and satisfaction out of religion as do Jehovah’s Witnesses.
2, 3. What two Greek words deal with how we should feel about one another, and what are their distinctive characteristics?
2 We should expect to see such brotherly affection in view of the apostle Peter’s words at 1 Peter 1:22: “Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth with unhypocritical brotherly affection as the result, love one another intensely from the heart.” One of the basic elements of the Greek word here rendered “brotherly affection” is phi·liʹa (affection). Its meaning is closely related to the meaning of a·gaʹpe, the word usually translated “love.” (1 John 4:8) While brotherly affection and love are often used interchangeably, they have specific characteristics. We should not confuse them with each other, as so many translators of the Bible do. (In this article and in the one that follows, we will treat each of these words.)
3 Regarding the difference between these two Greek words, one scholar noted that phi·liʹa is “definitely a word of warmth and closeness and affection.” On the other hand, a·gaʹpe has more to do with the mind. Thus while we are told to love (a·gaʹpe) our enemies, we do not have affection for them. Why not? Because “bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Corinthians 15:33) Further indicating that there is a difference are the words of the apostle Peter: “Supply to your . . . brotherly affection love.”—2 Peter 1:5-7; compare John 21:15-17.a
Examples of Very Special Brotherly Affection
4. Why did Jesus and John have special affection for each other?
4 God’s Word gives us a number of fine examples of very special brotherly affection. This special affection is not the result of some whim but is based on appreciation of outstanding qualities. Doubtless the best-known example is that of the affection Jesus Christ had for the apostle John. Without question, Jesus had brotherly affection for all his faithful apostles, and that for good reason. (Luke 22:28) One way he showed this was by washing their feet, thereby giving them a lesson in humility. (John 13:3-16) But Jesus had a special affection for John, which John repeatedly mentions. (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2) Even as Jesus had reason to display affection for his disciples and his apostles, John most likely gave Jesus reason to have special affection for him because of his deeper appreciation for Jesus. We can see this from John’s writings, both his Gospel and his inspired letters. How often he mentions love in those writings! John’s greater appreciation for Jesus’ spiritual qualities is seen in what he wrote in John chapters 1 and 13 to 17, as well as by the repeated references he makes to Jesus’ prehuman existence.—John 1:1-3; 3:13; 6:38, 42, 58; 17:5; 18:37.
5. What can be said about the special affection Paul and Timothy had for each other?
5 Similarly, we would not want to overlook the very special brotherly affection that the apostle Paul and his Christian companion Timothy had for each other, which was, certainly, based on appreciating each other’s qualities. Paul’s writings contain fine comments about Timothy, such as: “I have no one else of a disposition like his who will genuinely care for the things pertaining to you. . . . You know the proof he gave of himself, that like a child with a father he slaved with me in furtherance of the good news.” (Philippians 2:20-22) Many are the personal references in his letters to Timothy that reveal Paul’s warm affection for Timothy. For example, note 1 Timothy 6:20: “O Timothy, guard what is laid up in trust with you.” (See also 1 Timothy 4:12-16; 5:23; 2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14, 15.) In particular does a comparison of Paul’s letters to Timothy with his letter to Titus underscore Paul’s special affection for this young man. Timothy must have felt the same way about their friendship, as can be noted from Paul’s words at 2 Timothy 1:3, 4: “I never leave off remembering you in my supplications, . . . longing to see you, as I remember your tears, that I may get filled with joy.”
6, 7. What feeling did David and Jonathan have for each other, and why?
6 The Hebrew Scriptures also provide fine examples, such as that of David and Jonathan. We read that after David killed Goliath, “Jonathan’s very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18:1) Appreciation for David’s example of zeal for Jehovah’s name and his fearlessness in going forth to meet the giant Goliath no doubt caused Jonathan to have special affection for David.
7 Jonathan had such affection for David that he risked his own life in defending David from King Saul. At no time did Jonathan resent David’s being chosen by Jehovah to be the next king of Israel. (1 Samuel 23:17) David had equally deep affection for Jonathan, which is evident from what he said when mourning Jonathan’s death: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.” Truly, keen appreciation marked their relationship.—2 Samuel 1:26.
8. What two women manifested special affection for each other, and why?
8 We also have a fine example in the Hebrew Scriptures of special affection on the part of two women, Naomi and her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth. Recall Ruth’s words to Naomi: “Do not plead with me to abandon you, to turn back from accompanying you; for where you go I shall go, and where you spend the night I shall spend the night. Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16) Must we not conclude that Naomi, by her conduct and her speaking of Jehovah, helped to evoke this appreciative response on the part of Ruth?—Compare Luke 6:40.
The Apostle Paul’s Example
9. What shows that Paul was exemplary as to brotherly affection?
9 As we have seen, the apostle Paul had very special brotherly affection for Timothy. But he also set a marvelous example of expressing warm brotherly affection for his brothers in general. He told the elders from Ephesus that “for three years, night and day, [he] did not quit admonishing each one with tears.” Warm brotherly affection? No question about it! And they felt the same way about Paul. Upon hearing that they would see him no more, “quite a bit of weeping broke out among them all, and they fell upon Paul’s neck and tenderly kissed him.” (Acts 20:31, 37) Brotherly affection based on appreciation? Yes! His brotherly affection is also seen from his words at 2 Corinthians 6:11-13: “Our mouth has been opened to you, Corinthians, our heart has widened out. You are not cramped for room within us, but you are cramped for room in your own tender affections. So, as a recompense in return—I speak as to children—you, too, widen out.”
10. What lack of brotherly affection led to Paul’s relating his trials in 2 Corinthians chapter 11?
10 Clearly, many of the Corinthians were lacking in appreciative brotherly affection for the apostle Paul. Thus, some of them complained: “His letters are weighty and forceful, but his presence in person is weak and his speech contemptible.” (2 Corinthians 10:10) That is why Paul referred to their “superfine apostles” and was driven to tell of the trials he had endured, as recorded at 2 Corinthians 11:5, 22-33.
11. What testimony is there regarding Paul’s affection for the Christians in Thessalonica?
11 Paul’s warm affection for those he ministered to is especially evident from his words at 1 Thessalonians 2:8: “Having a tender affection for you, we were well pleased to impart to you, not only the good news of God, but also our own souls, because you became beloved to us.” In fact, he had such affection for these new brothers that when he could stand it no longer—so eager was he to know how they were enduring persecution—he sent Timothy, who gave a good report that greatly refreshed Paul. (1 Thessalonians 3:1, 2, 6, 7) Well does Insight on the Scriptures observe: “A close bond of brotherly affection existed between Paul and those to whom he ministered.”
Appreciation—The Key to Brotherly Affection
12. What reasons are there for our showing warm affection for our brothers?
12 Indubitably, the key to brotherly affection is appreciation. Do not all dedicated servants of Jehovah have qualities that we appreciate, that elicit our affection, making us fond of them? All of us are seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. All of us are putting up a valiant fight against our three common foes: Satan and his demons, the wicked world under Satan’s control, and the inherited selfish tendencies of the fallen flesh. Should we not always take the position that our brothers are doing their best in view of the circumstances? Everybody in the world is either on Jehovah’s side or on Satan’s side. Our dedicated brothers and sisters are on Jehovah’s side, yes, our side, and therefore merit our brotherly affection.
13. Why should we have warm affection for the elders?
13 What about appreciating our elders? Should we not have a warm spot in our hearts for them in view of the way they labor hard in the interests of the congregation? Like all of us, they have to provide for themselves and their families. They also have the same obligations as the rest of us to do personal study, attend congregation meetings, and share in the field ministry. In addition, they have the obligation to prepare program parts for the meetings, give public talks, and care for problems that come up in the congregation, which at times involve hours of judicial hearings. Truly, we want to “keep holding men of that sort dear.”—Philippians 2:29.
Giving Expression to Brotherly Affection
14. What scriptures enjoin us to show brotherly affection?
14 To please Jehovah, we must express the warm feeling of brotherly affection for our fellow believers, even as Jesus Christ and Paul did. We read: “In [brotherly affection] have tender affection for one another.” (Romans 12:10, Kingdom Interlinear) “With reference to [brotherly affection], you do not need us to be writing you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (1 Thessalonians 4:9, Int) “Let your [brotherly affection] continue.” (Hebrews 13:1, Int) Surely our heavenly Father is pleased when we show brotherly affection for his earthly children!
15. What are some ways to express brotherly affection?
15 In apostolic times Christians were wont to greet one another with “a holy kiss” or “a kiss of love.” (Romans 16:16; 1 Peter 5:14) Truly an expression of brotherly affection! Today, in most parts of the earth, a more appropriate expression would be a sincerely friendly smile and a firm handshake. In Latin lands, such as Mexico, there is the greeting in the form of a hug, truly an expression of affection. This warm affection on the part of these brothers might help to account for the great increases taking place in their lands.
16. What opportunities do we have to show brotherly affection at our Kingdom Halls?
16 When we enter the Kingdom Hall, do we go out of our way to express brotherly affection? It will cause us to have encouraging words to say, especially to those who seem to be depressed. We are told to “speak consolingly to the depressed souls.” (1 Thessalonians 5:14) That certainly is one way in which we can communicate the warmth of brotherly affection. Another fine way is to express appreciation for a fine public talk, a program part handled well, the good effort put forth by a student speaker in the Theocratic Ministry School, and so forth.
17. How did one elder gain the affection of the congregation?
17 How about inviting various ones to our homes for a meal or perhaps a snack after a meeting if it is not too late? Should we not let Jesus’ counsel at Luke 14:12-14 govern? Once a former missionary was appointed as presiding overseer in a congregation where all others were of a different race. He sensed a lack of brotherly affection, so he set about to remedy the situation. How? Sunday after Sunday, he invited a different family for a meal. By the end of a year, all were manifesting warm brotherly affection toward him.
18. How can we show brotherly affection for our sick brothers and sisters?
18 When a brother or a sister is sick, at home or in a hospital, brotherly affection will cause us to let that one know we care. Or how about those living in nursing homes? Why not make a personal visit, make a phone call, or send a card expressing warm sentiments?
19, 20. How can we show that our brotherly affection has widened out?
19 When giving such expressions of brotherly affection, we can ask ourselves, ‘Is my brotherly affection partial? Do such factors as color of skin, education, or material possessions influence my manifestations of brotherly affection? Do I need to widen out in my brotherly affection, as the apostle Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to do?’ Brotherly affection will cause us to view our brothers positively, appreciating them for their good points. Brotherly affection will also help us to rejoice at our brother’s advancement instead of envying it.
20 Brotherly affection should also make us alert to help our brothers in the ministry. It should be as one of our songs (Number 92) puts it:
“Give kind assistance to all the weak,
So that with boldness they too can speak.
Never neglect those of tender years,
Help them grow strong and get rid of their fears.”
21. What response can we expect when we show brotherly affection?
21 So let us not forget that in expressing brotherly affection, the principle that Jesus stated in his Sermon on the Mount applies: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you in return.” (Luke 6:38) We benefit ourselves when we show brotherly affection, expressing esteem to those who are servants of Jehovah as we ourselves are. Truly happy are those who take delight in manifesting brotherly affection!
a See the succeeding article: “Love (Agape)—What It Is Not and What It Is.”
How Would You Answer?
◻ What Greek words deal with our emotions, and how are they distinctive?
◻ What is the key to brotherly affection?
◻ What Scriptural examples do we have of special brotherly affection?
◻ Why should we have warm affection for our brothers and for the elders?
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The apostle Peter urged his brothers to supply brotherly affection to their faith and other Christian qualities