Showing affection and love to other Christians and treating them as brothers and sisters in Christ does not happen automatically. If it were automatic, we would not have so many exhortations to do so. Our first step must be to take seriously what the Bible says about brotherly love. Study carefully the following additional exhortations. Ask God to help you take them seriously as being a necessary part of walking in His will:
“Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:1-3).
“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, with all your hearts. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring Word of God” (1 Peter 1:22-23).
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9).
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
Evaluate your attitudes and actions toward other members of your “Christian family.” To what extent do you experience emotion and affection toward each fellow Christian? Note that Paul, in the context in which he exhorted Christians to “be devoted to one another in brotherly love,” also exhorted that we “rejoice with those who rejoice” and. “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). This, of course, involves emotion: deep feelings of joy as well as deep feelings of sadness.
Some Christians find it difficult to identify with other believers at the “feeling” level. There are reasons for this. And every Christian who finds it difficult to express emotion toward others should examine his life carefully, seeking to break the “log jam” that holds him back.
Consider the following questions:
1. Do I fear rejection? Some individuals have been so deeply hurt by others they are afraid to express their feelings.
They are not willing to take a chance of being hurt again. This, of course, is no excuse for not reaching out to others. We must work towards a mature perspective on human relationships. Christians must be vulnerable. And furthermore, most Christians to whom we reach out will not let us down. Don’t let a bad experience rob you of God’s best. Act on what you know to be the right thing to do
2. Have I had a poor family background? Some people grow up in homes where physical affection and love toward other family members are seldom or perhaps never expressed.
For example, Mary grew up in a home where there was little affection demonstrated among family members. This does not mean they didn’t love each other. They just didn’t demonstrate it outwardly or with emotion. Her husband Bill’s experience was just the opposite. Consequently, he has always found it easy to physically express affection to others. Mary, however, had to learn this process as an adult – which was often difficult, but she has done well. But, of course, it took time.
When people have been taught by example and practice to keep their feelings inside and to never express them, this attitude usually carries over in dealing with members of the family of God. It takes time to reverse such behavioral patterns.
Note: Some Christians also have difficulty expressing emotions to God because of negative experiences in the home – particularly with an earthly father. These emotions are very easily transferred to the “heavenly Father”- as well as to other members of the body of Christ.
If this explanation represents your situation, seek help from a fellow Christian you trust-someone who will not condemn you but will listen to you with sympathy and concern. Share your deepest and innermost feelings. Pray together.
A second note: Some people who have been severely repressed in childhood, and who have experienced unusual trauma, may need professional counsel. This kind of problem is not so much spiritual, but psychological in its roots.
3. Am I basically angry and resentful? Some Christians are controlled by deep feelings of anger and resentment toward other people. They are usually individuals who have repressed these feelings in early childhood. They find it very difficult to express positive emotions even toward fellow Christians.
4. Do I spend most of my lime thinking about myself? Some Christians are very selfish and self-centered. They think only about themselves. They could care less about their brothers and sisters in Christ. Naturally, they find it difficult to express “brotherly love.”
This selfish attitude is often expressed in prayers. Larry discovered how often he pleaded with God to give him things. Almost every prayer centered in Larry’s desires for himself. Fortunately he noticed how others in the church spent considerable time praying for those with greater needs. He decided to put others on the top of his prayer list. Life soon took on new meaning.
If you identify with any of the above, seek help from a fellow member of the body of Christ who is mature, someone you trust. Whatever step you take, begin to act immediately on what you know to be God’s will. For example, if you have difficulty telling a fellow Christian you love him, force yourself to act on what you know is the right thing to do. Start by sharing with that person a gift, a note of appreciation, an invitation to dinner. Frequently, feelings begin to follow actions-particularly when you are emotionally rewarded and appreciated for your acts of kindness. Expressing love in a tangible way will help you to eventually develop feelings of love which you can share verbally.
Note: If you’ve been deeply hurt and frustrated or repressed, don’t allow yourself to withdraw. You’ll only become more disillusioned. Your problems will get worse. Most people interpret one with reserved behavior as someone who needs little love or attention. Worse yet, they look upon such a person as someone who really doesn’t want to be involved with other people. One quickly becomes isolated from those who could offer the greatest help.