General Relationships

The Art of Brotherly Affection

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.” 

2 Peter 1:5-7 ESV

I’m a brother but have none. I wish I did. Someone to hang with-to understand and know. To love. One reason why I’ve always wanted a brother is that since a boy, I’ve longed for more of that male affirmation and validation needed to shape my life. Truth is, whether you have a brother or not, you were created to hunger such validation, from other men. Your dad, an uncle, an influential man in your life, a coach, a mentor, a close friend.  If you have a brother (or more than one), thank God for the blessing he is, even if you don’t always see eye to eye.

Brotherly Affection

There’s a phrase that shows up in the New Testament several times; brotherly affection. In this passage from 2 Peter, it comes towards the end of a string of qualities. 







Brotherly Affection


Brotherly is more than blood brothers. It’s that camaraderie you get when two or more of you are walking the same path of life together. Affection is an emotional connection that affects the relationship. You express yourself in the relationship. You take initiative to show what the other person means to you. Bottom line, you can’t really love each other if you don’t have brotherly affection.

Look at that List Again

Faith in Christ is the foundation for all other qualities listed. You won’t truly have the other qualities unless you first set your life on faith in Christ Jesus. The first step towards lasting brotherly affection is through the doorway of the Gospel. 

Virtue comes because, in the Gospel, Christ redeems you from the pit of your sin and gives you hope. Virtue is the aspiration for a better future. It is seen in your moral uprightness and in relationships.

Knowledge is far more than head knowledge. It’s about knowing the heart of another. Knowing what makes each other tick. 

Self-control. Probably the toughest thing a guy attempts to master. Think healthy restraint. Think inner discipline to direct one’s energy, thoughts, and expressions in a way that brings courage and hope to the ones you relate to. 

Steadfastness. An underlying stick-to-it-ness that helps you be a ballast in your friend’s boat. When he’s about to abandon ship, you are his reason, his compass. 

Godliness. An affinity to think and walk in the ways of the Lord. To allow the Holy Spirit to emulate the life of Christ through you.

And then we come to brotherly affection. There is a physical aspect to brotherly affection. In the New Testament, the main way brotherly affection was shown was by a holy kiss. Yes, in their culture, a man would walk up to his friend, and kiss him on the cheek. I know! I know! Not in today’s culture!  At least in the West. Instead, we tend to show healthy affection through fist bumps, arms around the shoulder, man-hug, a push or shove done in jest, not anger. It’s a willingness to approach one another physically as a sign of affirmation and validation of each other. Physical touch says “I’m excited to see you! I’m for you and I want to champion your life!”

I’m reminded of Psalm 139:5-6 where we see David the psalmist recount how God goes before him, behind him, and lays His hand upon him. Picture the hand of God on your shoulder.  He has you. He affirms you. He validates you. That is what brotherly affection looks like. 

What’s the Difference between Brotherly Affection and Same-Sex Attraction?

I was posed that question recently. We live in a culture where same-sex attraction is increasingly visible and celebrated. Assuming all male to male physical touch falls under the same-sex attraction flag is a misnomer. God, the creator of us all, gave us bodies. Whether your love language is physical touch or not, brotherly affection is part and parcel of your healthy manhood journey. To answer the question, the difference comes when physical brotherly affection causes arousal in you, instead of affirmation. That’s when affection takes an unsuspecting turn into something God never intended.

What Will People Think if I Hug My Friend?

If your life is characterized by the qualities mentioned above (faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness), you have nothing to worry about in showing brotherly affection and love to another man God has placed in your life. 

Verse 8 says “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Do you get that? Peter didn’t say you have to be perfect. We have this mis-notion as men that we have to be 100% perfect. Flawless. Not this side of eternity! If your pursuit of Christ is increasing, these qualities will be evidence of the Holy Spirit at work in you and your expressions of brotherly affection will be healthy and valued.

So, break out of your shell, walk up to a good friend/brother in Christ. Look him in the eye and through words and healthy physical touch, show brotherly affection. You’ll both benefit from a deeper level of Christ-centered bro-ship.

Warrior On!

Photos by Luke Lallement

David Riffel is the Founder and Executive Director of Having gone through his warrior years (18-30) essentially without a mentor, God has placed in him a heart for warriors, to come alongside them in various ways as they figure out life. David’s newly released book, Mentoring Warriors: Coming Alongside Young Men 18-30, outlines principles for mentoring and gives advice for warriors in six key areas of life: self-management, life skills, education/career, relationships, faith, and identity.

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