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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30am service, 2000-09-10

Text: Romans 12:10

This title is actually derived from the first part of Romans 12:10. The words 'kindly affectioned' refer to an attitude of 'warm and loving devotion' and 'tender affection.' The word that it is derived from is actually a word that was often used to describe the mutual love and affection between family members, such as parents and children, husbands and wives. And so, this verse is saying that the devotion that Christians should have toward one another should be like the devotion that members in a close-knit family have for one another.

I thank God that I had the privilege of being brought up in a close-knit Christian family. I was the youngest child in a family of five, consisting of my parents, my brother and sister, and myself. My dad and mum married when they were young and had 42 years of happily married life together. Dad worked as a draftsman but was never too busy to spend time with the family. He provided very well for the children and was always there to help, advise and encourage us or discipline us when necessary, as we were growing up. Mum cared for us wonderfully, getting up very early in the morning to get breakfast prepared and she never complained at all about anything. At times when one of us got sick, she would stay awake to nurse us and brew all kinds of cooling herbs. And although my brother and sister were much older than me, we shared a lot of good times playing games together.

My best memories of my family are of the things that we used to do together. Each of us had our assigned duties at home. We took turns to lay the table for mealtimes, to wash and dry the dishes together, to help mum in the kitchen or to help dad in the garden. And about once a month we would all take out pails and brushes and clean the whole house together. Since I was the youngest I had the smallest brush. We were basically a close-knit family, though we were not perfect.

There were some tense moments in our relationships. And there were some crises and moments of anxiety that we went through together like when dad suffered a stroke and an ambulance was called to bring him to hospital. Today all the children are grown up with homes and families of their own. My parents are now with the Lord. But we are still a family and are still keeping in touch with another. Although we do not see each other very often now, we can still rely on each other for help. And when we do get together at Christmas or New Year or to celebrate a birthday, we enjoy being together again, especially when we reflect on our past and on God's grace in allowing us to be together as a family.

I trust that each of you have had your own unique experience of tender affection and mutual love in your own family. Being a part of a family is something that most of us can identify with. This is why the apostle Paul chose to use the family term, 'kindly affectioned' when he was writing about the way we should relate to one another in Romans 12. He wants us not to think of the church just as a group of people who trust in the same God, and gather together once a week to worship Him. He wants us to think of the church as a family. This concept of the church as a family adds to it a dimension of warmth, tenderness, care, concern and loyalty. And this concept is not only taught in Romans 12:10.

There are numerous passages of scripture that teach us that the church is actually a family of God. In Ephesians 3:14,15, the Apostle Paul said, 'or this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, . . .' The whole family in heaven and in earth refers to the universal church, which comprises of all born again Christians of every age. In Ephesians 2:19 the church is described as the household of God. 'Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;' The word 'household' here means 'family.' This is the more common term that is used in the New Testament for families.

Other verses tell us that we who belong to Christ are now God's children, and that we can address God as our Father in our prayers. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, we are told to treat the older men in the church as fathers, the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers and the younger women as sisters. We notice that these are all distinctly family terms.

One of the most common ways in which the biblical writers addressed the Christian family is the term 'brethren' and this term means 'brothers and sisters.' It is used in the Bible approximately 230 times and literally means 'from the same womb.' This implies that we are vitally related to each other through a shared Christian heritage and a common birth and more precisely, the experience of being born again. The word 'brethren' is found in Psalm 133, where the psalmist describes 'how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.' It brings great joy to the heart of our Lord to see us together as one. In 1 Peter 2:17 the command is given to us to 'love the brotherhood.' The term 'brotherhood' refers once again to the church as a closely knit family.

And so we have seen that the Bible teaches very clearly that the church is a family. But while the church is meant to be a family, family life does not just happen automatically or effortlessly. In some families today the members hardly talk with one another. Father, mother and children all lead their own lives separately. In at least one family of Life Church that I know, when the father leaves the house for work, mother and children are still asleep. The mother leaves for work shortly after that. The children are left in the care of the maid. By the time father gets home at about 10 pm at night, his children are all asleep. They don't eat their meals together because of their conflicting schedules. In some homes children may even need to make an appointment to see their parents! Isn't it ironical that in an age of advanced telecommunications where we can keep in touch with people through pagers, handphones, and email, communication within families is actually deteriorating. Family life does not develop spontaneously. Family members need to be committed to cultivating it.

The same thing is true of the church family. We need to be committed to cultivating our family life. We need to keep on functioning together as a family and loving one another as a family. We need to make a conscious effort to regard one another as our own brothers and sisters, and grow in love and devotion to one another. This is why the Bible constantly repeats the specific commandment for us to love one another, like the one in our text of Romans 12:10 'Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.' Some of these commandments are accompanied with a reason given for us to love one another.

In John 13:34,35 Jesus Himself said 'A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.' Then the reason is given: 'By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.' In this instance the reason is evangelistic. When brotherly love is evident in our church, then those who are outside Christ who are able to see this love will identify us as disciples of Christ. What they see in our church must not be the same as what they see in the world. The world is characterised by hatred, hostility, backstabbing, criticism, envy, competition, and exploitation. Our church should not be characterised by these things at all, but rather by mutual love, giving, appreciation, thanksgiving and praise for one another.

Another instance of this commandment is found in 1 Peter 1:22 and here we find the third reason for loving devotion 'Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:' This verse teaches us an important principle, the principle that if we have been saved, we now have the ability and power to love one another. Before we were saved, it was not possible for us to show sincere love for the brethren, because our lives were controlled by self and sin. It is only through the Gospel of Christ, the truth that has purified our souls and cleansed us from sin, that we now have the power that comes from the Holy Spirit who indwells us, to love the brethren fervently.

And so dearly beloved, we have now seen three good reasons why we should love or be kindly affectioned to one another: Firstly, because this is what it means to be a part of the family of God. And secondly, because by this love for one another, the world may know that we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ. And thirdly, because we now have the ability to love one another, by virtue of the salvation we have received in Jesus Christ. But now comes the hardest part of all - How do we put this into practice? It is easy just to give lip service to this commandment, and say, yes, I fully agree with that. But how in actual terms do we carry out this commandment to love one another and be kindly affectioned to one another? Let me outline some steps. The first step is to:

I. Take God's Commands Seriously.

Carefully consider the verses we have mentioned earlier. And let this cause you to develop a new personal conviction: the conviction that you must love one another. Then commit yourself to do it. Make it your fervent prayer to God that you want to become kindly affectioned to others. Ask Him to help you apply what you have learnt from His Word. When you have done this, proceed to the second step which is to:

II. Evaluate your present attitudes and actions toward others.

What are your feelings toward Christian brethren? What are the barriers or hindrances that hold you back from being kindly affectioned toward them?

1. For some of us the greatest hindrance may be self-love. A love for self makes it impossible to have unselfish affection for others. In Philippians 2:3,4, Paul said, 'Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.' These verses make it quite clear that Christians should not be self-centred, thinking only of themselves or loving themselves alone. There is one way that you can tell if you are self-centred or not. What do you usually pray for in your prayers each day? Do you find yourself only praying that God will give you the things that you want for yourself? Are your prayers always self-centred?

Now if we have made the diagnosis that self-love is the main cause for our lack of love for others, how to we deal with it? The cure for self-love is to see ourselves as sinners who are saved by grace alone. If not for what God has done in our lives, we would not be what we are right now. We must realize how graciously God has dealt with us to give us eternal life and a glorious home in heaven, when we really deserved is eternal death in hell. When we understand how much we have been loved and saved by God, then we will become more willing to show that same love to those who are around us.

2. Another hindrance to being kindly affectioned to one another the fear of being rejected. Some of us may have gone through the unpleasant experience of being misunderstood or deeply hurt by people. Then we may feel tempted to withdraw ourselves from others and to be afraid to show love toward others again.

Such fear causes us to keep a distance from them. But this would go against the God's commandment to us, to love one another and be kindly affectioned to one another. So, in order to be obedient to God's commandments we must overcome such fears.

There may be a risk involved whenever you endeavour to show love to others: the risk that someone will let you down, or take advantage of your kindness. Whenever you show love, you make yourself vulnerable to being hurt either by someone who coldly refuses to receive your love, or worse still by someone who abuses your love. But please remember that this will not happen very often. The majority of Christians will not let you down if you take the initiative to reach out to them with love and kind affection. All of us who are truly in Christ should be able to trust one another with our love and with no fear that the love we share will be refused or abused.

3. A third hindrance to being kindly affectioned to one another is having an inaccurate estimate of the worth of fellow Christians. If we do not regard them as being precious, valuable and worthy of our devotion, it will be tremendously hard for us to love them. How should we then see them? Exactly how valuable are the lives of people around us? The Word of God teaches us that each and every person has priceless value because each person is created in the image of God. Each and every person also receives life, health and sustenance from God and if God considers them as being worthy enough to receive all of these things, we would be insulting God if we did not value them too.

In addition to these, God has considered our Christian brethren to be valuable enough to send His only begotten Son to die for them. They have been bought with the precious blood of Christ. They are therefore very precious in God's sight. Let us learn to appreciate the infinite value of our fellow Christians, and regard each of them as an important, special person who deserves our attention, interest, love and devotion.

When you have evaluated your present attitudes and actions toward others then you can go on to the third step, which is to:

III. Act upon these things. 

Do not stop at just resolving to be more loving, and identifying the hindrances in your life. Nothing more will come out of all that, if we do not start to act upon them. Get yourself to begin applying these things immediately. God's Word in 1 John 3:18 tells us 'My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.' Think about what you can do for the rest of today that will enable you to reach out to others in the church. Be more attentive, more alert, more sensitive to people around you. Get to know more church members. Enlarge your circle of friends here. Get to know the person sitting next to you. 

Our church has nine thriving fellowship groups as well as 11 Neighbourhood Bible Communities where members can find opportunities to develop meaningful relationships with like-minded brethren. Make an effort to join one of them. Get involved in the life of Life church. 

According to our church membership roll there is a total of about 1,600 people in Life Church. And yet if we add up the numbers of those who are having any formal fellowship with other Christians in one of our ministries it would be less than one third of that number. 

Dearly beloved, my prayer for our church this morning is that Life church will become a closely-knit community of believers, who love the Lord and love one another and are growing together in spiritual maturity into the image of Jesus Christ. Let this prayer become our vision, a vision that we will all labour and pray for together. May the Lord help each one of us to do our part in fulfilling this vision.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25