Monday, January 21, 2013

Polycarp 10 - Love the Brotherhood

This is a continuation of my series on Polycarp's letter to the Philippian church. If you are unfamiliar with Polycarp or his letter to the Philippians, you may want to first read the introduction to this series.

Tertullian, in his writings against the heresy of Marcion, wrote this regarding the goodness of God.
"Here is another rule for him. All the properties of God ought to be as rational as they are natural. I require reason in His goodness, because nothing else can properly be accounted good than that which is rationally good; much less can goodness itself be detected in any irrationality. More easily will an evil thing which has something rational belonging to it be accounted good, than that a good thing bereft of all reasonable quality should escape being regarded as evil." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 1, Chapter 23)
Tertullian contended that, not only was God good by nature, but He was also "rationally" good; that His goodness was displayed towards others as a result of His own purpose, plan, and will. His goodness had purpose and reason, it was not arbitrary or without an expected goal. As such, righteousness demands that God's goodness was extended to others in their proper order.
"But the due precedes the undue, as the principal quality, and more worthy of the other, for its attendant and companion. Since, therefore, the first step in the reasonableness of the divine goodness is that it displays itself on its proper object in righteousness, and only at its second stage on an alien object by a redundant righteousness over and above that of scribes and Pharisees." (Tertullian, Against Marcion, Book 1, Chapter 23)
Here Tertullian was speaking about then command of Christ to love our enemies. His contention was that, the righteousness of loving our enemies could only be properly shown after we first loved our friends and families; that it was a love that extended from the love we had for those to whom it was first due.

We often do not think of those to whom our love is first due, believing rather that we should love all equally, but we do see this idea expressed in the scriptures. Consider these following verses. "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Timothy 5:8) "While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." (Galatians 6:10) "Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king." (1 Peter 2:17)

It is clear that our love for the world should be an extension of our love for the brethren  If we love the world but neglect the love of the brethren, then our love has become unjust. Polycarp reminds us the always love the brotherhood and to live with each other in grace, mercy, and brotherly kindness.
"Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because 'alms delivers from death.' Be all of you subject one to another 'having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles,' that ye may both receive praise for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed! Teach, therefore, sobriety to all, and manifest it also in your own conduct." (Polycarp 10)
When we love the world but neglect the brotherhood, the world takes notice and despises our love and blasphemes our God because of us. We must first practice love at home and then extend our arms outward to welcome others into the love we have for one another. Let us never neglect our brother or sister that is next to us as we reach out to extend that same love to the world.

David Robison

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