Word of the Week: Affection

Seneca The Younger is credited with saying, “There is no power greater than true affection.”

If this is true, maybe that’s why C. S. Lewis opined, “Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.

Affection is defined as a “feeling of liking and caring for someone or something. Tender attachment. Fondness.” Affection is an emotion that combines friendship. Goodwill. Kindness. Closeness. Concern. Passion. And devotion.

The Bible uses two different Greek words that are rendered affection. In Romans 12:10 Paul commands, “Love one another with brotherly affection.”
This word speaks to the tender feelings that one has for his physical family. Thayer says it refers to “the love which Christians cherish for each other as brethren.”

To the Philippian brethren, Paul wrote, “For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:8) William Barclay reveals that this may literally be translated, “I yearn for you all with the bowels of Jesus Christ,” which sounds very strange to our 21st-century ears.

“The Greek word for bowels,” Barclay explains. “is splagchna. The splagchna were the upper intestines, the heart, the liver, and the lungs. These the Greeks believed to be the seat of the emotions and the affections. So Paul is saying: “I yearn for you with the very compassion of Jesus Christ himself. I love you as Jesus loves you.”

Such affection is not idealistic or theoretical, but realistic and practical. It’s based on a relationship deeper than mere membership in a club, or participation in a fraternal organization. Such affection finds expression in the many “one another” commands in Scripture.

  • “Accept one another (Rom. 15:7).
  • “Care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:25).
  • “Build up one another” (Rom. 14;19).
  • “Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13).
  • “Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16).
  • “Look to the interests of one another” (Phil. 2:4).
  • “Forgive one another” (Eph. 4:32).
  • “Comfort one another” (1 Thess. 4:18)
  • “Show hospitality to one another” (1 Pet. 4:19).
  • “Encourage one another” (1 Thess. 5:11).
  • “Bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6;20.
  • “Pray for one another” (Jas. 5:16).
  • “Be patient with one another” (Col. 3:13).

My friend and preaching colleague, Gary Henry, was right when he wrote, “Affection, whether we’re showing it or receiving it, has a ‘warming’ effect on us. Its enjoyment is like the enjoyment of a fireplace on a winter’s evening. It’s a pleasure mingled with many good things: warmth, security, friendship, fellowship, and, of course, love.”

Lee Iacocca, the man who single-handedly turned the Chrysler corporation around, once asked legendary Green Bay Packer coach Vince Lombardi what it took to make a winning team. Here’s what Coach Lombardi said.

“There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you are going to win together as a team, you’ve got to care for one another. You’ve got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: if I don’t block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.”

“The difference between mediocrity and greatness is the feeling these guys have for each other.”

The feeling Christians have for each other is rooted in the love of God, based on the blood of Christ, and finds connection in our mutual spiritual longings that are heavenward.

Unless a family is dysfunctional, affection is an everyday, natural expression that issues itself in attitudes and actions that create deeper bondedness, stronger ties, and healthier relationships.

May we each endeavor in our church families to create and promote brotherly affection for one another.

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Word of the Week

5 responses to “Word of the Week: Affection

  1. Philip North

    You get a A-Plus on this article, Brother Ken! N.T. Christians should be the happiest people, yet there are those who walk around with a figurative long face equalling 2 feet! A person I knew many years back referred to people who buck at practicing affection as being “cold fishes.” We as brethren should be (properly) affectionate towards each other. Try that “cold fish” method on an alien sinner or erring child of God, and see how far you get with winning that individual’s soul! Very great article!


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