Session 12 - Man as Practicing Brotherly Love

"This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother." I John 3:11

  1. Brotherly love in our society today.
    1. We have become very confused about "love" in our society, especially the love by a man for his fellow men.
      1. Romantic love is still a big seller, but tends to blur with passionate sexual encounters.
      2. Erotic love is glorified but has become exploited to the point that "ordinary" sexual relations seem bland.
      3. Patriotic love was, until recently, very much out of vogue.
      4. Sacrificial love is a handicap in a competitive society.
      5. Love between male friends appears too much like homosexual love.
    2. The expression of love and affection between men takes on some strange twists.
      1. "Friendly competition" such as a weekend basketball game which may lead to a shoving match.
      2. Practical jokes which may evolve into overt harassment.
      3. Offering acceptance into a group which may lead to coaxing a friend into some type of dangerous or illegal activity (share the excitement).
      4. Sharing "dirty jokes" and off color stories.
      5. Telling "war" stories.
      6. Mutual admiration for a sports team or hero which may lead to hours expanding on the stories of others (fish tales).
    3. Men help other men, but there are limits. In general (unless you know the other man very well),
      1. It is OK to help a man fix a leaky faucet but not to help him get his finances into shape.
      2. It is OK to invite a man to play golf with you but not to "just go out to dinner".
      3. It is OK to share a joke or brief news article with another man but not a book (unless perhaps if you are an academic).
      4. It is OK to give another man a pep talk but not to listen in patient counsel.
      5. It is OK to share a drink but not to take a walk in the park together.
    4. Men are subsequently more lonely and less socially supported in our society.
      1. Men have a much higher rate of alcohol and drug abuse.
      2. Men (especially elderly men) have much higher rates of suicide (even though women are more likely to report depressive symptoms).
      3. Men adapt much more poorly to widowhood than women. Men are more likely to die within a year of their wife's death than women are to die within a year of their husband's death.
      4. Men report fewer social contacts and less social interaction than women.
  2. Brotherly love in the church.
    1. Perhaps the area where the church has been most responsive to the needs of men in recent years is providing brotherly love and support.
      1. Men's prayer groups and fellowships.
      2. Informal gatherings of men (a church golf day) where men not normally invited to activities are personally invited.
      3. Promise Keepers (a busload of men travel together to a rally which encourages men to bond as well as to rededicate their lives).
      4. Men work groups, such as Brooks Avenue's efforts in Grifton following hurricane Floyd.
      5. The emerging area of men's ministries.
    2. Yet these activities leave much undone and many men continue to feel isolated and lonely in group activities.
      1. Many men just do not fit the usual "male bonding" activities which are developed by the church.
      2. Work schedules and family responsibilities make it difficult for many men to participate.
      3. Single men often do not know how they fit into a group of married men.
      4. Men without children may feel somewhat uncomfortable when other men talk about activities with, especially, their sons.
      5. Men develop cliques (e.g., small prayer groups0
      6. Men are segregated by educational or socioeconomic barriers.
    3. Perhaps of more importance, our group activities do not necessarily lead to close individual relationships between men.
      1. Far fewer men than women have prayer partners.
      2. Men don't open up easily to other men for fear that they will appear weak.
        1. Men often feel that they cannot show certain types of weaknesses (such as problems with depression).
        2. Men do not wish to discuss their financial problems for fear that they will appear less capable than other men (and financial problems are near the top of problems which bother men).
        3. Men feel ambivalent discussing sexual temptations. On the one hand, it is "manly" to struggle with sexual temptations. On the other hand, that struggle may take some very unmanly turns (such as pornography).
        4. Struggle with sin and temptation for many men equates with the lack of respect as a spiritual leader.
        5. Men don't open up as easily across age groups when compared to women.
      3. Men probably have more difficulty being accountable to one another than women.
    4. Certain types of men may be valued (or understood) more than others in the congregation.
      1. The athlete may be more valued and understood than the intellectual.
      2. The businessman may be more valued and understood than the janitor.
      3. Men from some racial/ethnic backgrounds may feel more accepted than men from other backgrounds (and men probably don't break down these racial/ethnic backgrounds as easily as women).
      4. Depending upon the congregation, men from one age group may find many more peers than men from other age groups (Brooks Avenue is very much a 45 and under congregation).
  3. The apostle John and brotherly love.
    1. The apostle John is the apostle whom Jesus loved.
      1. He belonged to the inner circle along with Peter and James. Mark 5:37; Matthew 17:1
      2. He was the apostle specifically noted as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" John 13:23
      3. He was the apostle to whom Jesus entrusted the care of his mother. John 19:26
    2. The gospel of John is the gospel of love for one another.
      1. Love for one another begins with God's love for us. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
      2. John reports that Jesus wept when he found Lazarus dead. John 11:35
      3. John records the great prayer of brotherly love and unity by Jesus. "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
      4. John records Jesus' great message to Peter regarding love, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?…Feed my lambs." John 21:15
    3. The epistles of John provide us with some of our most important lessons about brotherly love.
      1. "This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another." I John 3:11
      2. "We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death." I John 3:14
      3. "This is how you know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." I John 3:16
      4. "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" I John 3:17
      5. "let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." I John 3:18
      6. "No one has ever seen God: but if we love each other, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." I John 4:12
      7. "Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him." I John 4:16
      8. "But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment." I John 4:18
      9. "We love because he first loved us." I John 4:19
      10. "For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen." I John 4:20
      11. "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth." III John 4
      12. "you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love." III John 5, 6
  4. Encouraging brotherly love among the brothers.
    1. Men in the church must work to form close relationships (but one size does not fit all).
      1. Some men will open up in small sharing groups.
      2. Some men will open up one-on-one once they trust the men with whom they are sharing.
      3. Some men will feel close and will open up only if they are working together.
      4. Some men need a common interest which is not personal as a channel through which they can open up about more personal matters.
        1. Sports.
        2. Academic interests.
        3. Building projects.
      5. Some men will open up in prayer groups (large or small).
    2. Women must encourage men (i.e., their husbands) to join group activities with other men which provide the opportunity to form close male relationships, such as men's retreats.
    3. Leaders in the church must demonstrate openness.
      1. Share personal experiences in classes or sermons (this can become excessive and also can become an ego trip). What is shared should be in the service of demonstrating that "I am like you" rather than "I am better than you."
      2. Leaders should share with men on the fringes (even when those men are not open). Leaders must take care, however, not to appear too open, which can be threatening to men who have a problem with openness.
      3. Leaders must keep private conversations private. Gossip can be deadly to male relationships.
    4. Love for one another among men should be highlighted by a willingness to "do something for" other men at least as much as openness.
      1. Male relationships in the church are the ideal opportunity to practice agape love.
      2. Using one's skills (or strong back) to help another man freely is one of the best means for developing a relationship with a that man.
      3. Actions truly do speak louder than words when considering brotherly love.
    5. Men must be willing to sacrifice for other men (the lay down your life principle). In our relatively safe world, the opportunities to risk your life for another are not that frequent. Nevertheless, we can exhibit sacrifice in many ways other than risk taking.
    6. Men must reach out to men on the fringe (the strangers) and include them. These "strangers" may not easily warm up to initial contacts but do so over time.
  5. The role of the church in fostering brotherly love.
    1. The church should encourage activities which solidify bonding of males.
      1. Prayer groups.
      2. Men's ministries.
      3. Activities such as Promise Keepers.
      4. Men's retreats.
    2. The church must keep in mind that men vary widely both in their temperaments and their opportunities for joint male activities. "Quality time" with another man every few months for a couple of hours may be more important than weekly meetings.
    3. The church should emphasize the sacrificial and "agape" aspects of brotherly love at least as much as the need for openness, bonding and fellowship.