I was sharing a section of Barclay’s treatment of the key NT words for love with my Greek I students yesterday. The section dealt with philostorgos in Romans 12:10, which the NASB translates, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” As Barclay explains it, the word translated “be devoted” (philostorgoi) connotes the devotion a parent has for a child or a child for a parent. A verse from 4 Maccabees supports Barclay’s statement: “O sacred nature and affection of parental love, yearning of parents toward offspring, nurture and indomitable suffering by mothers!” (15:13). Similar usage may be found in Josephus (e.g., Ant. 7.252) and Philo.
The “yearning toward [their] offspring” which parents experience is the sort of devotion that the Spirit through Paul is exhorting us to have toward one another. Interestingly Paul qualifies this with the word philadelphia, brotherly love. Because we are siblings in Christ, our devotion should be brotherly.
Frankly, the significance of this passage didn’t really strike me until I started to pray the opening prayer. Can I honestly say that I am “devoted to my fellow believers [including students] in brotherly love?” I’m afraid not. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever even given a thought to being “devoted” to the members of my family in Christ in a manner that approximates natural family devotion. So I had to confess my failure to consider the meaning of this passage, let alone make strides to apply it. Following confession should always be supplication for grace to grow and walk in the light. By God’s grace, I intend to be growing in being devoted toward fellow believers with brotherly love.