The Meaning of Brotherly Love

By Worshipful Brother Jacques Maritz

Published in the 2016 GLSA Southern Division Spring Ball Magazine

The seven-word expression, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”, appears seven times in the Bible. (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). Thou shalt love” is from Greek αγαπήσεις from άγαπάω (agapao) – to love (in a social or moral sense). “Agape refers to the paternal love of God for man and of man for God but is extended to include a “Brotherly Love” for all humanity. The Hebrew ahev has a slightly wider semantic range than agape. Agape arguably draws on elements from both eros and philia in that it seeks a perfect kind of love that is at once a fondness, a transcending of the particular, and a passion without the necessity of reciprocity.


There are several Greek words for “love” that are referred to in Christian circles.


Agape (agápe): In the New Testament, agapē is charitable, selfless, altruistic, and unconditional. It is parental love, seen as creating goodness in the world; it is the way God is seen to love humanity, and it is seen as the kind of love that Christians aspire to have for one another.


Phileo (philía): Also used in the New Testament, phileo is a human response to something that is found to be delightful. Also known as “Brotherly Love”. Christians believe that to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbour as yourself are the two most important things in life (and the greatest commandment of the Jewish Torah, according to Jesus and the Gospel of Mark 12:28–34). Saint Augustine summarised this when he wrote “Love God, and do as thou wilt”.


The Apostle Paul glorified love as the most important virtue. In the famous poem in 1 Corinthians 13, he wrote: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.”


The Apostle John wrote, “Dear friends, let us love one another for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8)


Saint Augustine says that one must be able to decipher the difference between love and lust. Lust, according to Saint Augustine, is an overindulgence, but to love and be loved is what he has sought for his entire life. He even says, “I was in love with love.” Finally, he does fall in love and is loved back, by God. Saint Augustine says the only one who can love you truly and fully is God, because love with a human only allows for flaws such as “jealousy, suspicion, fear, anger, and contention.” According to Saint Augustine, to love God is “to attain the peace which is yours.” (Saint Augustine’s Confessions).


Pope Benedict XVI wrote his first encyclical on “God is love.” He said that a human being, created in the image of God, who is love, is able to practise love; to give himself to God and others (agapē) and by receiving and experiencing God’s love in contemplation (éros). This life of love, he writes, is the life of the saints such as Teresa of Calcutta and the Blessed Virgin Mary and is the direction Christians take, when they believe that God loves them.


In Christianity the practical definition of love is best summarised by St Thomas Aquinas, who defined love as “to will the good of another”, or desire for another to succeed. This is the explanation of the Christian need to love others, including their enemies. As Thomas Aquinas explains, Christian love is motivated by the need to see others succeed in life.


In Masonic terms Brotherly Love is to accept a brother for whom he is, to assist him to better himself, guide him, and be there for him. To look after a Brother’s interest and to promote him as long as he conducts himself honestly, worthily and faithfully towards others, including his fellow Brethren. At the same time the Mason must follow this principal and apply it to all men, to all humankind. Brotherly Love forms the very basis of Masonic life together with Charity (Relief) and Truth (Morality). Not forgetting the tenets of Fortitude, Prudence, Justice and Temperance.

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