I am an only child, but I have brothers.
Some brothers are born by blood, but others are born of a different bond. The Bible says that this type of bonded brother is a special relationship. Proverbs 18:24 says that you can have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
How does that happen? It happens when we “love one another.”
Love is one of the most misunderstood concepts in our culture. Our culture understands love to be emotion and sexual expression. In the Bible love is not sexual expression, it is covenant commitment. Scripturally, love is not an emotion you feel. It is a command you obey.
In 1 John 3:11-18 the Bible tells us to “love one another. The passage then gives us a negative example and a positive exhortation. The negative example is the tragic story of two brothers, Cain and Abel. The positive exhortation articulates the familial bond that love creates. And in these 8 verses, the Bible uses the word “brother” in reference to “love one another”, 7 times. If we love one another we can become more than friends. We can be like family. If we love one another a group of players can become more than a team. They can become a band of brothers.
But why? Why be brothers? Why do what it takes to love one another? I want to share three reasons from 1 John 3:11-18.
Basic Need (1 John 3:11)
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”1 John 3:11
“That you have heard from the beginning.” Love is something the Bible stresses as early as Genesis. The phrase appears 12 times in the New Testament. Love one another is one of the most basic themes in Scripture. It is one of the most shared messages of the church. You have been told to love one another since kindergarten.
But the reason “love one another” is so often repeated is not because it is an elementary theme, but because it is a basic need. In the same way that your body needs food, air, and water, love is vital to every human relationship.
We are in week 4 of the season, game 3. Counting this week’s game we are assured of 8 more regular-season games. We do not want to regress over those 8 weeks. We are committed to progress. We have determined to get better and better together.
But what will make the biggest difference? The weight room is critical. Guys will continue to work at getting bigger, stronger, faster. But in 8-9 weeks, you will not make the same massive gains that you made in the offseason. it isn’t realistic to expect that we will be exponentially stronger and faster by November than we are right now.
We will continue to practice. The coaches will make adjustments. You as players will feel more and more confident in the schemes. We will get better at playing “our game” but it is unrealistic to think that we will become exponentially better than we are right now at running our offense or defense. There is no way you will advance in the execution of our gameplan in the next 8 weeks than you did over the spring and summer.
But there is something that can make an exponential difference. What is it? Love. A greater commitment to one another will make an exponential difference in the advancement of our team. The plays are important. Strength and speed are critical. But the relationships you have with one another are vital. “Love one another” means that you have not just committed to play together. “Love one another” means that you are committed to each other.
Love means that no one is left on the outside. It means everyone becomes an insider. Love means acceptance, a sense of belonging, loyalty. Where there is love, there is accountability, forgiveness, and justice. Love means that you will defend one another, fight for one another, and make sure you are together. Love means there are no selfies. There are no stragglers. There are no standouts. There are no holdouts.
Learning to love one another will serve you for your 4 years on this team, but it will serve you for the next 40 as well.
You can’t be a team without love. You won’t get married without love. You can’t stay married without love. You can’t raise children without love. You can’t work for someone or with someone without love.
Love is a basic need in every human relationship.
Bad Alternative (1 John 3:12)
1 John 3 recalls a tragic story of two brothers where love was lacking. Cain murdered his brother Abel and John uses this tragedy to offer us a warning.
We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.1 John 3:12
When people lack love, things go bad.
I have been a part of some bad teams. I’ve seen enough of them. I am not interested in being on another one. Talent is not what makes the difference on a team; love does. You can have plenty of talented people on a team, but if there is no commitment to one another, the team goes toxic.
The most talked about man in sports last week was NFL wide receiver, Antonio Brown. At one time Antonio Brown was the highest paid receiver in the NFL. Since signing that deal he has asked to be released from two teams. The most recent was the Oakland Raiders for whom Antonio never played a meaningful down of football. And then after joining the New England Patriots, Antonio Brown faces sexual assault charges in his first week on the job. Antonio Brown has loads of talent, but Antonio Brown is toxic.
Antonio Brown has plenty of money. He’s the most talked about man in the NFL, but he is probably also the loneliest man in the world. Why? Antonio Brown lacks love.
When you lack love the Bible says that people devour one another, grumble against one another, and lie to one another. When people lack love they tell lies and speak evil of one another. Before joining the Patriots, Antonio Brown left a toxic trail of criticism, deceit, inexplicable behavior, and constant complaining.
And then comes the ironic voice of reason, Randy Moss. Randy Moss is a former NFL great who also had quite a history before joining the Patriots at the end of his career. When asked about Antonio Brown, Moss said,
Whenever Antonio Brown shows up on my phone it has nothing to do with football. The next time I see Antonio Brown on my phone, it’s got to be touchdowns. Football from here on out.Randy Moss, Washinton Post
People who lack love become 1 story people. Anytime you’re around them it’s “the same old thing.”
For people like Cain and Antonio Brown life is never fair. There are problems wherever they go. The situation is never “right enough” for them. Eventually, they end up wanderers headed nowhere.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who have loads of talent, but lack love. Those people end up toxic to a team. They don’t help anyone. They will not help anyone get better. They can’t relate to anyone. Toxic people are an encouragement to no one. With them, its the “same old thing.”
We need to love one another like brothers. Otherwise, there is a bad alternative.
Special Bond (1 John 13, 16-18)
After telling the story of Cain and Abel John says, “Don’t be surprised brothers, that the world hates you.” In this life, no one is immune from hate and hardship. When we go through those experiences, we need brothers. And when people pull together to love one another through hate and hardship, it creates a special bond.
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little chilren, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.1 John 3:16-18
Anyone can love. We all need to love. But to experience and express love in the fullest sense, we need to experience the love of Jesus Christ. There is no greater example of someone loving us through hardship and hatred than that of the Son of God laying down His life as a sacrifice for our sins. If you truly want to love one another, first realize that you are loved by God. Turn to Christ in repentance and faith and experience brotherly love like never before!
And if we experience that love, we then can lay down our lives for our friends. We can walk into their desperate needs and be sacrificial for them.
At the outset, I said that I’m an only child, but I have brothers. There are countless men in my life that I know I could call on in times of hardship. There are men in my life that I know will rally around me in difficulty. They love me and I love them. We are brothers.
Last week was the anniversary of 9/11. I spent some time that day watching videos and reliving the story. There was a video shared on social media that retold a story of that day I had never heard. It was the story of the harbor pilots who brought their watercraft to the island to rescue people.
For me, one of the most powerful images in the video is at about the 6-minute mark when it shows the white water trails of dozens of boats coming on the horizon in response to the all call. If you lived through that day you remember that it was a day of terror and confusion. No one knew exactly what was happening or what was going to happen next. And for those boat captains to come charging into a cloud of smoldering death to rescue people – that’s the essence of brotherly love.
When you have brothers. People will come to your rescue.
If we are to be a team that loves one another we will not see people sitting alone. We will not see people standing alone. We will have no standouts and no holdouts. A team of people who becomes brothers for a season will be brothers for the rest of their lives. When you go through hatred and hardship, and you will, there will always be people on the horizon coming for you.
Brothers, love one another.
This post is the manuscript of a chapel talk given before game 3 of the 2019 Christian Heritage Lions Football season.