Reflections – 2017.12

Defining the Relationship (Part 2): Brothers

Last month I wrote to you that I thought it would be of some benefit for us to define our relationship and that I thought I Thessalonians 2 would guide us well in this.  So this month I thought I would talk about us as “brothers” or “brothers and sisters” in Christ.  I am your brother.   Not quite as dramatic as Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke, but still quite important.

When I stand up in the pulpit, it would be easy to think of me as different than you.  There he is, the pastor, the teacher.  Here we are, the laity, the people.  Like the door to the boss’ office, the pulpit is a visible barrier between us and so it would seem that the point of the pulpit is to separate me from you.  In truth the pulpit is set there to demonstrate that the Word of God is “over” us all, at the center.  As pastor, I stand behind the Word of God.  It is in front of me … more important.  It is the Word that I am proclaiming to you each week.  I am under its authority as much as you are.  The pulpit, then, is less about me and you, and more about God’s Word and us.

Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, wants to make sure they have no “pulpit” misunderstanding when it comes to how they see their relationship with him.  So he frequently refers to the Christians there as “brothers.”  Or siblings.  Unless you are an only child, the word “sibling” is experientially meaningful.  We have brothers and sisters that we eat meals with, play games with, share space and genes and jeans with.  We may admire them.  They may tease us.  Some may go astray, others succeed, all get sick, some may have children, all will experience difficulties, all will die.  We are there in the midst of all of that.  There is no glory to be sought in being a brother (you will get no awards) … you just are one.  Siblings just go through life together.

Paul wants the Thessalonians to know and I want you to know that we are siblings.  We have the same elder brother, Christ.  We share the same Father.  We have the same Spirit dwelling in us.  We go through things together and try to learn how to love one another.  That is not always easy, because sin and sibling rivalry are very real things.  We can hurt each other, we can forget that we belong to the same family and that we ought to work to encourage, strengthen and build one another up.  We can become so self-focused that we forget that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, saved in the same way, following the same Lord.

And sometimes we get it right.  For example, Paul says to the Thessalonians, “We also thank God constantly for this … you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus who are in Judea.  For you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews …”  Paul thanks God for the family relationship that includes sharing in suffering, for he knows that if we share in one another’s suffering we will grow to be more merciful towards one another, even as Christ’s sharing in our suffering enables Him to sympathize with us in our weakness.

So there you have it.  Our relationship defined (part 1) … we are brothers and sisters in Christ.  That means we will do a lot together, share many things, from stories and songs to sickness and suffering.  In all of this, may we live as siblings in a way that pleases God, who called us into His family.   May the call to love one another be our sibling slogan.  And may our Father be glorified in the lives of His children.