Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Most Americans know that Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is the city of brotherly love. At least that’s what the name means. Whether they live up to that name or not is questionable, especially if you are a fan of a visiting professional sports team. Philadelphia fans are not known for their brotherly love to anyone wearing any other kind of jersey. Christians are to be different.
2 Peter 1:6 “…and to godliness, [add] brotherly kindness.”
The word philadelphia is the Greek word Peter uses here to describe the virtue of brotherly kindness. It is to be expressed in the life of a Christian as a result of adding godliness to their character. To discover one important aspect of brotherly love, let’s look at the history of a city in the Bible that was named Philadelphia.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus is writing letters to all of the churches across Asia, with a challenge for each one of them. In chapter three He writes to the church in Philadelphia. It is the one church out of the seven that is not corrected for any wrong but receives only commendation. This church existed in a city that has an interesting history.
The city of Philadelphia was in a region of the Roman Empire named Pergamum. Pergamum was not always controlled by the Roman Empire. In 220 BC the Pergamum Kingdom was independent and ruled by King Attalus the First. In that year, his second son was born, and was named Attalus the Second.
In 160 BC, Attalus the First’s older brother, Eumanes the Second, named after his great uncle who had been the first ruler of Pergamum, ascended to the throne. He was a sickly man but extremely influential in Greek and Roman politics. Attalus II became his right-hand man and commander of his armies. He served his brother the King with great loyalty – loyalty that was extraordinary.
The Romans feared the influence and powerful army of Eumanes II, so they began to build a relationship with his brother Attalus II. They were grooming him for a takeover of the throne and used all their wealth and promises of power to try to persuade him to overthrow his brother.
Two events happened that are the historical basis for the naming of the city of Philadelphia in Pergamum. First, during a battle with an enemy army, in which the King had participated, it was reported that Eumanes II had been killed. After a short waiting period, Attalus took the widowed Queen Stratonice as his wife and became the King. A short time later King Eumanes returns from the war, proving the report of his death to be false, and Attalus steps down immediately in honor and respect to his brother.
The second event occurred several years later, during the Third Macedonian War. Eumanes joined with the Romans to overthrow the Macedonian Monarchy. During that war it became evident to the Romans that Eumanes was gaining far too much political clout in Asia, and they concluded their courtship of Attalus with an offer to overthrow his older brother and take the throne. Attalus refused, stating loyalty to the throne and love for his aging and sickly brother. He became known throughout the land as Attalus Philadelphia – the man who loves his brother. When he finally ascended to the throne after his brother’s death, they named a city after him.
Here’s the point of all this boring history. Loyalty and love should always overcome personal ambition. If we are going to model godliness by showing brotherly kindness, it starts with sacrificing our own dreams and desires for the sake of others. History reveals that the people who are most famous and most remembered are those who focused most on others not themselves. He who seeks to exalt himself will be crushed, but he who seeks to exalt others will himself be exalted. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to first in the Kingdom of God must first be the servant of all.”