By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3:16–18
This is what I’m chewing on today and I hate to admit it but one of the first questions that popped into my mind when I read this verse today was, “who is my brother?”. I don’t think my motivation is the same as the lawyer in Luke 10:29 who asked, “who is my neighbor?”. After all, we’re told that his motivation in asking that question was to justify himself. I’m asking the question because I really want to understand so that I might submit to, and obey, the Lord.
My understanding of this verse is that the word “brother” is referring to a fellow believer; a fellow member of God’s family. And so this makes me wonder whether there is distinction to be made as it relates to the “family” universal versus the local “family”? As an example, within my own family there is somewhat of a hierarchy that informs my priorities. For instance, although it can be influenced and informed by need and urgency, I typically tend to care for my immediate family more comprehensively and more immediately than caring for my extended family. Although there may be sacrifices made at some points the reality is that I typically ensure my children have food, clothing and shelter before seeking to meet the needs of my nieces and nephews. Now, this may be a really bad analogy but I’m wondering if there is a similar approach to loving and caring for my “brothers” in the Lord? Is my first priority to care for the brothers in my immediate (local) church family before extending love and care to my brothers in the extended universal family of God?
I have some ideas about this but I worry they may be more influenced by my own “wisdom” than anything else. And so, I submit it to God and ask the Holy Spirit to lead me into His truth and that, by His power, I might respond in obedience.
In the meantime, I seek to be available, willing and faithful to respond to those whom the Lord brings before me. That I might be a good steward of the material and spiritual blessings He has graced me with and that I will use them liberally to love (practically and tangibly) others in deed and in truth.