“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
~John 13:34-35 (NRSV).
Fratricide is the killing of a brother or sister, or in military terms it is friendly-fire of fatal consequences. Yet, as we’ll know, in Christian Sermon-on-the-Mount terms, anger is murder (see Matthew 5:21-26). So, it’s not too long a bow to draw to see that abuse of a Christian brother or sister — or even dissension in the heart of one — is tantamount to Christian fratricide.
We’re commanded not to do this. And still, we’ll have practical problems holding onto grief others have caused us, or unforgiveness we’ve harboured all our own.
What really is love? Many people are confused about it. Yet love is simple.
It’s more about giving to another, or in more general terms it’s acting in ways to bring others favour. It’s loyalty and grace and patience toward others. These are acts of kindness.
Love isn’t really a feeling. It’s an action and it can be observed as well as felt.
Where We Go Wrong
Sometimes we compare ourselves with others and we’re therefore given to envy. We go the opposite way from love. Other times we see what others have — which is just another form of comparison — and we covet these things. Mix in a bit of lust, impurity, enmities and strife and soon these issues are causing disdain.
Just like these things happen in our wider world they also happen in the Church. These things have always happened and they always will — until the consummation, that is. Our humanity has a lot to answer for.
This is why we’re blessed — in Church — to have systems of biblically-based accountability. The Church owes good leaders a debt for effectively dealing with issues. Of course, these leaders serve the true Christ.
The Function of ‘Church’
Beyond its inevitable and ultimate function, the Church is a safe place for believers — and those investigating faith, or those just simply seeking to be loved — to congregate and have loving fellowship.
This most important function of the Church — that to love people, as Christ does — requires support on the minuscule body-by-body level. It’s only as good as its weakest link. Deficient leadership will be found out as much as immature and self-serving congregants will threaten the life of any church membership — if it’s not firmly, promptly and lovingly dealt with.
A core function of the Church is to support and epitomise the command of Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Let’s watch for Christian fratricide, and when we identify with it, let’s repent of it as quickly as possible. It grieves God’s Spirit as much as anything else.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.