Dear Church Family,

The second section of our newly adopted church covenant reads: “We will walk together in brotherly love, exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over one another, and faithfully encourage and counsel one another as occasion may require with wisdom and humility.” Let’s break this down into its three parts.

1) We will walk together in brotherly love.

This commitment probably doesn’t surprise anyone, but this is something we must all work on on a daily basis—even when we’re doing well here (1 Thessalonians 4:9-10). We are committed to love one another because God is love and love is from God. We know love because He laid His life down for us. We love because He first loved us in order that we might follow in His self-initiating and self-sacrificing love (1 John 3-4). Through His ultimate demonstration of love, He has made us sons of God by faith in Christ. And if all of us are sons of God, then as Christians we are all members of the family of God. This is why we are called to show brotherly love—we are called to love one another like the family of God we are.

Walking together in this way is spelled out in the next two sections, but think of the imagery of walking for a moment. If you’re walking with someone you love in a bad part of town, you don’t leave that person behind. That implies you are headed to the same destination at a pace you both can handle. We are on a journey to the heavenly city and by God’s grace, we are not on this path alone. He has given us a family to go through life with us until He leads us safely home.

2) We will exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over one another.

This past spring, I had the opportunity to go on a hiking trip with a group of brothers. After about four or five hours and the most intense incline of our trek, my legs began cramping. I pushed through the pain for a few minutes, but then my legs began locking up entirely. When I let the group know what was going on, they immediately stopped with me. Some of the more experienced hikers told me what I needed to eat and drink and how I needed to stretch and all of them offered to share their provisions with me so I could continue on with them. Then, once we did continue on, many of them continued to check on me to make sure the cramps hadn’t returned.

Brothers and sisters, this is a physical example of what we are called to do spiritually for one another. We might see a word like “watchfulness” and automatically assume being some kind of nosey spy, but that’s not it at all. There are all sorts of dangers and troubles along our path and our love for one another must lead us to watch out for and over one another in ways that reveal our loving heart of care for them.

3) We will faithfully encourage and counsel one another as occasion may require with wisdom and humility.

Like those more experienced hikers who told me what to do, as those filled with the Spirit and fed by the Word of God, our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ will often led us to speak into one another’s lives. In fact, many of them had earlier experienced the same difficulties I was currently experiencing and were able to identify with the pain I was feeling. The church grows up in every way into Jesus Christ as we speak the truth in love to one another (Ephesians 4:15). As Christians, we “are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14). Naturally, there is a wrong way to do this, but that doesn’t negate the right way of doing it. God has promised to give wisdom when we ask for it (James 1:5) and we are called to have the same mind of humility and service our Savior has so beautifully displayed (Philippians 2).

In order to do any of these things, we must seek to know and be known by one another. We must be involved in one another’s lives. We must risk being hurt by vulnerably opening ourselves up to one another. This must happen in person to person interactions and small groups, but I believe it is also beneficial to pursue these kind of relationship even on a corporate level. This is why we have what we call “Family Time” on Sunday nights so that we might help one another as we walk together through this life. Let’s pray the Lord would use our Family Time to help us to grow in our relationships with one another for the sake of Christ.