Let Brotherly Love Continue
ONE OF THE ATTRIBUTES that make the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ) distinct from other religious groups, is its keeping the practice of or adherence to the biblical teaching concerning brotherly love. As befitting God’s people in these last days, the members have been taught from the Holy Scriptures to uphold and love the brotherhood since the time the Church was registered with the Philippine government on July 27, 1914 to date. With much candor, the brethren complied with this God-given commandment and unabashedly called a brother or sister in the faith “Kapatid” which literally means brother or sister. At first, some people ridiculed them for doing so. And this was of course understandable as members of other religious organizations then were not keen on calling their co-members as such, and if ever, they were not as vocal as the members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Notwithstanding, the brethren stood firm in their faith and maintained brotherly love among themselves as taught to them by Brother Felix Y. Manalo whom they believe is God’s Messenger in these last days.
In 1963, Brother Eraño G. Manalo who took over the mantle of leadership following the demise of the last Messenger of God, continued to foster love for the brotherhood, made concrete by spearheading socio-civic programs that benefitted the brethren. These included the establishment of resettlement projects for victims of religious persecutions and natural calamities like the ones in Barrio Maligaya, Laur, Nueva Ecija in 1965 (for the families of brethren who were persecuted at Hacienda Luisita, Tarlac) and in Barangay Bagong Buhay, in Palayan City, also in Nueva Ecija, in 1992 (for the lahar victims at the height of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo). Brother Eraño also put up a school in 1975, the New Era Educational Institute, that went on to become New Era University in 1994 to cater to the intellectual needs, primarily of the brethren, and of nonmembers as well, who entered its portals in pursuit of education. In 1993, the New Era General Hospital which serves Church members and nonmembers alike was established. These were some of the projects that the late Executive Minister of the Church spearheaded before his passing on August 31, 2009.
Today, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, the present Executive Minister of the Church, is equally not remiss in his duty of looking after the welfare of the brethren the world over. Not only does he undertake pastoral visitations in different local congregations and continue the work of constructing beautiful houses of worship in different parts of the world, but also takes to heart the plight of brethren caught in the middle of armed conflicts like those working in some middle eastern countries, overseas contract workers who are victims of unscrupulous employers, and those affected by calamities and man-made disasters, to enumerate some. The present Church Executive Minister has always a soft heart for the brethren in need—ever ready to listen to their concerns.
But why is there so much care for the brotherhood? Whose teaching is it that we should be concerned about the brethren? Or that we ought to love them?
A divine mandate
In his first epistle to the Christians, Apostle Peter instructed them, thus: “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (I Pet. 2:17, New King James Version).
In another instance, Apostle Paul, who was sent to the Gentile world, admonished the Christians in Rome, thus: “Love one another warmly as Christians, and be eager to show respect for one another” (Rom. 12:10, Today’s English Version). And the same learned apostle earlier in his letter instructed the brethren, thus: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:4-9, NKJV).
Hence, the apostles, God’s ambassadors on earth, in no uncertain terms wrote: Love the brotherhood. Love one another warmly as Christians.
Brotherly affection truly is a divine mandate.
Regard others better than one’s self
God arranges the different parts of the body—giving gifts or endowments, proof of His love and graces to us- ward. Addressing the members of the Church, who comprised the body of Christ, Apostle Paul admonished them, thus: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4, Ibid.).
If this is not the acme of good human relations, what is? This indeed is an object lesson for sociologists, guidance counselors, and other practitioners in the social sciences and allied disciplines. Something worth learning about or adopting. Of course, others may find this difficult to implement. In fact, many religious groups may regard this too ideal to be achieved. But not to members of the Church Of Christ who have learned to submit themselves to the will of God. Truth is, in the spirit of mutual cooperation, understanding, and brotherly affection, each member takes upon himself the responsibility of regarding the brethren in the Church highly, or better than himself.
Proof of being of God
There are those who in the interest of business and selfish gain, may regard the matter trivial and readily dismiss it as unimportant. This is not so with members of the Church Of Christ, for they have been taught from the Bible that loving the brethren is one manifestation of being of God, thus: “In this the children of God
and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother” (I John 3:10, Ibid.).
Moreover, Apostle Paul testified that the very essence of love and the varied ways of expressing it, reflect God’s act of forgiveness and love through Christ toward the members of the Church, thus, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32, Ibid.). Truly inspired, Apostle Paul reiterated this truth to the Church at Colossae, a town in Asia Minor, east of Ephesus, thus: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:12-14, Ibid.).
Everything said, as the Church Of Christ in these last days is heading towards its centennial celebrations come July 27, 2014, more so as all the members are preparing for the Second Advent of the Lord, every member keeps in his/her heart the divine admonition thus: “Let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1, Ibid.).