The Bible teaches us that we must love our brethren. Jesus told His disciples after He washed their feet, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (Jn. 13:34-35)

The one who says he loves God but hates his brother is a liar – “or he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20) The argument here is from the lesser to the greater. If you cannot even do the lesser, how can you do that which is greater? This line of reasoning is often employed in the Scriptures. For example, Jesus taught in Luke 16:10, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Concerning the qualification of elders, Paul wrote, “For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?”

The Negative Example of Cain (1 John 3:10-12; Genesis 4:1-15)
The lack of love for brothers and sisters in Christ is no light matter. “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1 Jn. 3:10-12)

The love for brethren is presented as a litmus test. He who hates his brother is not abiding in the works of righteousness. Therefore, those who keep hating their brother are not the children of God but the children of the devil. By their fruit you shall know them (Matt. 7:16, 20)

John proceeds to quote an example from the Old Testament to show that hatred for the people of God is a characteristic of those who are the children of the devil – the example of Cain, who stands in contrast with the godly and faithful Abel. Cain hated the righteous works of his brother because it exposed the wickedness of his heart. Thus, he proceeded with the first murder to be committed upon the earth.

The offerings of Cain and Abel revealed their contrasting attitudes towards God. The Lord required a blood sacrifice. In Genesis 3:21, the Lord made clothes of skins for both Adam and Eve, making it clear that the shedding of blood was required for the remission of sins (Heb. 9:22). However, Cain’s heart was revealed when he offered up something that was right in his own eyes but not what God had commanded. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.” (Heb. 11:4)

Cain’s killing of his brother begun even before the physical act of murder. The Bible teaches us that we kill fellow men when we are angry with them without a just cause. “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matt. 5:21-22)

Why was Cain angry with his brother? 1 John 3:12 gives the divine interpretation – “Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” Despite God’s warning that sin is desiring to control him, Cain succumbed to sin. He committed murder with little remorse. When God enquired Cain of Abel’s presence, Cain retorted, “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). He has no love for others but only self-interest in his heart.

Through his evil act, Cain becomes an example of the rebellious nature of an unbeliever. They will do anything to quell the righteous witness of Christ. Thus, they will hate those who represent Christ. Why will you hate your brother if he is a fellow member of the heavenly family, unless you were not part of the family in the first place!

The Positive Example of Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 19:1-6; 20:1-42: Psalm 133)
The love that Jonathan had for David is an example to us all. The Bible tells us that Jonathan loved David as his own soul (1 John 20:17). David himself confessed that Jonathan’s love for him passes even that of women (2 Sam. 1:26). Why did David say so? Because Jonathan was ready to lay down his life for his friend. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 Jn. 3:16) Are we ready to lay down our lives for our friends?

Jonathan’s love for David was most extraordinary, considering that David was to replace him as king on Israel’s throne. Yet, Jonathan as a spiritual man was able to set aside all jealousy and was only interested that God’s will be fulfilled in the life of David. This was something that Saul, a man after his own heart, will never understand. “Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness? For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.” (1 Sam. 20:30-31) Despite Saul’s protestations, Jonathan helped David to escape from the clutches of his father.

In the end, Jonathan died clinging on to his stand for David (1 Sam. 31:2). Jonathan’s life encapsulates the principle laid down in Proverbs “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Prov. 17:17)

When David penned Psalm 133, he was probably thinking of brethren like Jonathan who stood alongside him in love and truth despite adversity. Love in truth brings about a unity which pleases God, which we must all regard as extremely precious. Two illustrations are used to describe this unity. The first illustration is the high-quality fragrant oil that is used to anoint Aaron, the high priest. The second illustration is the life-giving dew that falls on Hermon. This dew will melt and flow down the slopes of Hermon into the river Jordan, bringing precious water that gives life for the whole of Israel. When there is love in truth, it leads to a well-knit unity in the Lord.

A church which consists of brethren hating and tearing one another is a divided church with no life. On the other hand, a church which has brethren loving one another in the truth will be a united and lively congregation.

Therefore, dear readers, let us follow the positive example of Jonathan, and not the negative example of Cain. When we love one another in the truth, all men will be able to see that we are disciples of Christ.

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew