From the standpoint of being on earth, we are equal. We are from the same ancestor, Noah. Noah came from Adam, who was created in the image of God. We have the same potential to be received by God. We have the same requirements for life in the body: air, water, food, clothing, and shelter. We have the same needs of the spirit: to be loved and to practice love. All have the same weakness of sinning and the same responsibility to repent. Within the scope of repentance, the same capacities exist: to evaluate our behavior by the standard God has set forth, regret, and turn to God for mercy.
What a challenge this must have been for patriotic Philippian citizens who had spilled their blood for the glory of Rome, or who sat at dinner tables with empty chairs where fathers or sons or husbands should be, or who grew up with the pageantry and pride of the national festivals. How might one feel if he had fought valiantly for Rome in the past, but in the present, he must decide, “Shall I serve Caesar or Christ?” Imagine how natural feelings of patriotism, fraternity, and national identity might complicate matters when the local magistrate took notice of the Christian assembly and applied passive or aggressive pressure. If you were a Christian and a Roman citizen of Philippi, you might well feel your allegiance torn in two.
Brotherly love and loving our neighbor as ourselves seem close, almost the same. There is a distinction, in that brotherly love is a direct result of salvation. It comes from our being a part of God’s family, “the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). We have a shared identity and appreciation. Whereas loving our neighbor is the ministry of Christ to a world in need: “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). For the sake of all, love means appreciating others for the goodness they possess, or the potential for goodness which everyone has. It means trying to understand others – to see their point of view, then to act accordingly. We must leave the condemnation of others to God. It is not our place. In light of the ministry of Jesus, we can say that even Jesus sustains the hope of reconciliation to all without condemnation. Don’t you think His intent was on what we could become (our potential) rather than what we were? Didn’t that make our salvation possible? “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world” (John 12:47).
It is true that some people may have a greater sphere of influence than others, but there is no one who has no influence at all. We all have some influence or effect on other people. That influence can take different forms as we live our lives. We influence others with our speech, with our actions and with our lives. People listen to what we say and how we say it and what kind of person we are. They see what we do and determine what is important to us. They may look at our lives and modify their lives based on what they see in us. We will have an influence on others.
“Let Brotherly Love Continue,” by Louis Garbi; “Election Year,” by Rick Sparks; “Influence,” by Tom Allen.