“[Love] does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (1 Cor 13:4, NIV)
Our Lord Jesus Christ commands us to love one another. What is brotherly love? It goes beyond our affection for each other, our sense of belonging, or our social group. Biblical love is not envious, proud, or self-centered. The practice of brotherly love encompasses humility.
Love does not envy. Do we bicker out of jealousy? When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He addressed him as an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile. This is a compliment to the honesty and sincerity of Nathanael. We need to affirm the good qualities and achievements of our fellow believers. Rather than criticize each other, we should encourage and become advocates for each other. Furthermore, those who appear to be weaker in the church community should be treated with respect (1 Cor 12:22-23). Do we take actions to help the lesser ones – the young, the old, the cold, or the lost – to serve and grow in fervency?
Love does not boast, and is not proud. Haughtiness keeps us always craving for more attention and adoration. Pride makes us restless because it causes us to be dissatisfied with what we have and to be concerned about what others are doing. By contrast, humility puts others first. It allows us to be content with God’s leading in our lives. When we have this kind of contentment, we no longer have to prove ourselves to others. We allow God’s words, the Holy Spirit, and our clear conscience to guide our conduct. When people misunderstand us, or wrongfully accuse us, there is no need to defend ourselves as long as we have a clear conscience before God after self-examination.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. (Phil 2:3)
Let nothing be done through strife. In every church, in every generation, there are divisive issues and conflicts. It is easy to turn against one another. However, if we can esteem others in humility, we open up the communication channel for each other. Humility can also help us strive to agree with one another, to stop complaining, and to work together.
Therefore, the key to success in brotherly love starts from our humility. Humility, as mentioned, can be manifested by encouraging others rather than criticizing, allowing God to lead us rather than proving ourselves, and esteeming others better than ourselves. Since humility begins from our hearts, our love may not be obvious at first. But in time, this love will shine through in our practice of love as well.