Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
Philadephia is the literal pronunciation of this word in the Greek text, meaning love of the brethren, which certainly includes brothers and sisters. Phileo is the word for love here, and can mean affectionate love for a friend. Agape is another word for love, which refers more to a self-sacrificial kind of love, both ascribed to God, as well as human beings.
It’s interesting, the injunction or directive here that the Christians addressed are to “let love of the brethren continue.” I have found that it’s certainly not automatic, and this text bears that out, because it’s something we’re responsible for. What I have struggled with is either people disliking me, or a few intensely disliking me, probably something we all more or less struggle with. I have wanted to simply give up, knowing that for some reason I don’t measure up to their criteria or standard, or somehow fail their test. And if you’re around such people and no matter what you do and what friendly exchanges occur, this time and again comes to the surface, I am coming to the place where I’m not sure that I have to work at helping someone to like me. That can be exhausting. Of course I have to be careful not to be offensive, to be aware of what might be rubbing them the wrong way concerning myself, but if they don’t like me simply because of who I am, or with reference to my normal activities, I’m not sure what can be done. Or if I really have to worry about it, except to pray and be open to anything I might be able to do which might help.
Back to the text: I wonder what holds us back from continuing this kind of love. It’s not like it’s an option to us in the text, either. We either so love, or we are disobedient, one of the two. It’s a given that we will love imperfectly, and the need for forgiveness will occur over and over again.
Judging others along with grumbling about each others’ faults can contribute to the default all too common among us. Being too busy, or occupied with other things, so that one doesn’t have to bother with the messiness of relationships can be another, I myself can be all too guilty of. I was raised to work, work, and keep working, to get the job done, so that I’m much more at home with a job, than with another human being, as a rule. That’s a weakness on my part, since actually it should be the opposite. Not to say that getting the job done and done as well as we can isn’t important. But more important still is to hold on to the love that is to characterize our life with others in Jesus. The latter should have priority, without neglecting the former.
If we love God, if we love Christ, then we will love each other who are in Christ. But again, it’s not something that’s automatic, even though it’s given to us by the Spirit. It is something we must practice, or essentially lose. It can’t be on the back burner, but it must always be present in the main dish, and in every fixing.
Something I’m aware of and concerned about lately, what the writer to the Hebrews addresses, as well, which can all too easily be seriously lacking.