Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:9–11—NKJV)

Being brothers is generally the quality of having at least one parent in common. The application of this definition in the Christian context reminds us that through the blood of Jesus Christ every believer is bought out of the family of Satan and is placed into the family of God, children of one parent. The simple association brought about by having one parent in common opens up an incredible world of possibilities for those who find themselves blessed with such a relative, either physically or spiritually.

While having one parent in common certainly does not guarantee unanimity, it is also true that the fact of having one parent in common is a solid foundation upon which to build. Being a brother, if handled with integrity, unselfishly, and with healthy purpose, fosters what is known as “brotherhood.” Brotherhood is the state or quality of being a brother, a bond; it is an association of men united in a common interest, work, or creed; friendly, kind, loyal. From a starting point of one simple identity held in common—a complex, durable, stable, powerful, mutually edifying, sanctified relationship is built with sturdy hands, trusting hearts, and clear eyes.

Now, if Paul had used the term “sisterly love” how would the meaning have changed? Perhaps not much provided you do not lose the virtues of association by working shoulder to shoulder, enduring the same testings, weaving the thread of loyalty to each other in both warp and woof of the relationship, and having such quality to the relationship that enduring periods of absence from each other causes no diminishing of luster. The band of brotherhood ceases to exist where competition, offended feelings, deception, suspicion, and disloyalty are tolerated.

Brotherhood must not be taken for granted as Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 17:19 and 24, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle,” and “a man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Solomon also states in 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Missteps in brotherly relations will take place (Matthew 18:7). Paul reflects on this problem in Galatians 6:1–9, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass (false step, single action of a fail and slip), you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ…. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” James likewise teaches us that upon the occasion of a misstepping offense, we need to confess to the brother we have wronged (5:16), “Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

With such a lofty code of conduct, is it any wonder that Paul has such harsh words for the Corinthians when one believer was suing another believer? 1 Corinthians 6:1–11 reads, in part, “it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do not rather accept wrong? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren!” In 1 Thessalonians 4:9–12 Paul states, “Concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” Hebrews 13:1 commands, “Let brotherly love continue.”

Are you sure you have been placed into the family of God through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus for your sins? Are you living as a good brother should, making the band of brotherhood in Christ possible? Trust and obey.