Am I My Brother's Keeper? (Part 2. Jesus' Mandate: Have Real Fellowship)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a Complete study on its own. (2 of 3 in Series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture are mine *
Review: In part 1 we learned the vital importance that Christ attached to love between the brethren. It was to be a different kind of love than the World had ever seen. It was to mark them as different so everyone would know they were Christians by the mere presence of this love demonstrated in their lives.
Part 2. Jesus Commanded: Have Real Fellowship
In part 1 we mentioned Cain's famous quote: "Am I my brother's keeper?" was a statement that Cain had hoped would stall the inevitable, as God called him to task for the murder of his brother. The words say, "Don't ask me about my brother, I'm not responsible for him. I take care of my own affairs and my brother takes care of his. I owe no allegiance to him. We have no ties that bind."
It is amazing to me that after thousands of years the attitude Cain demonstrated still exists. Most of us don't murder our brother as he did, but we do something far worse in the spiritual sense. We write him off as unnecessary to us, or we allow ourselves to verbally kill his reputation, thinking that we can objectively judge him and his actions. We abandon him in his hour of need and think him unworthy of genuine fellowship. That is far worse than if you took his life and sent him Home.
(And in a very real sense the Bible says that to hate one's brother makes one guilty of murder in the spiritual sense. 1 John 3:15 - Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.")
Jesus had a much better idea for His followers: become one body of believers - the Body of Christ.
1. Learn Real Love.
There is a problem: Love is not easy. People do not easily agree, easily co-exist, easily share lives. How would all of these diverse individuals, with real long-running divisions between them become one "body" so that the kind of fellowship that Jesus desired for them could happen? There were Jews, Greeks, Romans, Cretans, Ethiopians; all coming from diverse backgrounds, all encouraged by tradition to not fellowship with each other. Rome was ruling Israel and had their foot on the neck of all the Jewish people to try to control any uprising. Romans hated this job and Israel was a place none of the Romans wanted to be. Samaria was there in that area and Jewish-Samaritan hatred was very well known. Also, Jews were taught from early childhood that Goyum (any non-Jew, Gentile) was not one of the Chosen because they were not related to Abraham by blood nor did they obey the Law, nor were they circumsized. Rome considered Jews superstitious and dangerous. Roman Gods were kept at a distance and were thought of as mysterious, vengeful, and feared because they could and would distroy at a whim. These Jews saw God as someone you could and should talk to, revere and trust. Romans did not understand that. Also, anything outside of Rome was viewed as barbarian territory and civilization ended at Rome's borders. Ethiopians were really the most civilized, by which I mean that they were less tribal for more years having the oldest civilization, but spiritually, had grown away from the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph that had been in the African continent in generations past. All of this mixed into a hodge-podge of discontent, distrust and a force for disunity.
Amongst all this juxtaposition of cultures and peoples, Jesus arrives and makes the incredible statement that His command for Christians was to love all the brethren, no matter what their background, no matter what their history. They would be known for the love they had for each other. How could such differences be reconciled?
First, they would learn have to learn about love. Not a love that is empowered from within themselves, not one born of great effort on their part, but one that comes from a source that is spiritual, superhuman. The Greek language has a word for this kind of love and that is agape'. It is something that cannot be faked and is impossible without God loving through that individual. The next time you're in church, look around at the sea of faces. What do those people mean to you? Are they just people you know that happen to come to learn about God in the same place you do? No! These people are placed around you to be your family. Our Lord taught us this. Jesus stretched out His hands and said of all around who believed on Him, "Behold my mother and brethren!"
"While He yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and brethren stood without, desiring to speak with Him. Then one said unto Him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him, 'Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?' And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, 'Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.'" (Matthew 13:46-50)
His example is that we are to think of the assembly as real family not just "pew buddies." Jesus loved us so much (enough to die for us) and His command to the believers is for them to love each other in kind. "Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought to love one another." (1 John 4:11)
Once we acknowledge and nurture our love for our brethren then we can begin striving for the next piece of fellowship:
2. Become Of One Mind And Of One Accord.
The Holy Spirit was strong in the believers on that first Pentecost after Christ's crucifixion. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to indwell each believer as He said He would. They were all focused on the Risen Christ and waiting as He commanded. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." (Acts 2:1) When the promised Spirit came and infused them with power what happened? Did they become lukewarm in their love and in their focus on God? Absolutely not.
"And they continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and of prayers. And fear [heightened reverence] came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things in common [eager to share]; And sold all their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart." (Acts 2:42-46)
There are people that point to these verses to say that this was a type of communism. It most certainly was not. They still believed the Scriptures that said if one does "not work, neither let him eat" and "rejoice in the work of your hands." Working just to give this away so all would be equal is not what these verses say. As these folks were added to the Church and became Christians, they were "cast out" of the Temple (John 9:22) and their lands were confiscated. They were many times left destitute and had next to nothing. Eagerness and willingness to share the bread and the necessities that were left is what kept a lot of people alive during this church age that began in 33 A.D. and went until approximately 100 A.D. That is how families opporate. They share with each other during the hard times.
So what happened? How did we lose this sense of oneness? We took our eyes off Christ and took back control of our lives instead of being filled with the Spirit. With Holy Spirit control, we will love and fellowship with one another. "Let [your choice] this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:6) Because Christ's mind is in us and that mind is one Mind, it follows that all who are controlled by that same Spirit of Christ will have one mind and one purpose. Without Him it is impossible to love or to be of one mind.
The Last part of fellowship is also impossible in our own strength:
3. Become part of one another.
Notice in Acts it says that they "had all things in common." (Acts 2:44) In other words, they shared supply when their brothers had a need. Think about what that kind of interaction would entail. They would have to be concerned about each other to the point of sharing each other's lives. They would have to care about the needs of their church family and be ready to reach out to them. They would have to talk to one another, and not just superficially, letting others see their needs and vulnerabilities. They would have to keep each other's needs in their daily prayers. Let me ask you: Are you mindful of those in your church family? Do you share with them your love, your resources, your time? Do you reallly care about them enough to get to know them and be a part of them and their lives?
Here are some suggestions for strengthening your fellowship skills:
a). Be friendly and greet your brothers when you see them. Smile and try to get them to do the same. Reach out in friendliness to them. Shake their hand or give a hug. That is known as a "holy kiss." (Romans 16:16)
b). Ask how they are and then stay around to hear the answer. Ask the Spirit to show you people who need your Spirit gift that day and then minister to them. That is edification.
c). When someone comes to you and asks you how you are, don't lie to them. Share your burden since they asked. show them that despite your trial you love God, and just the idea they care to ask and help if possible, is uplifting to your spirit. Allow them to minister to you.
d). All of us become weak from time to time. We are buffeted by our flesh and we need to be built up. Become strong for your brothers that need a helping hand to regain their strength. Focusing on others makes your problems fade and you end up stronger because of the interaction.
Love your brother like Christ loves starting now!
I am sure that there are some that have read this and considered it "pie in the sky" thinking. There is no way that people can or would act like this in America today. Each person is doing his own thing, his own pursuit of happiness. No one will make time to listen to the gripes and aches and pains of another. No one takes the time away from their own life to share like this, no one. I must agree that this is not common but it will exist in the church because Jesus said it would. It will be cultivated in His people by the Holy Spirit.
Some, no doubt, are probably thinking that if people actually did act like this, would I really want them to? That is the world in you talking. If you know Jesus as Savior, you somewhere in your heart know that this is the way it should be, but perhaps you have been lax in exercising this kind of love because you are comfortable where you are. You are missing a great blessing and you may be hindering your own growth in Christ.
It is possible that you can not envision people interacting like this because you do not know the God that causes and empowers such love. It may well be that your experience is very different, even of churches with individuals perhaps even hurting you or your feelings. People are sinners and are not perfect. Jesus wants to use you to heal hurts and wounds. He wants to make each person into a unique gifted son or daughter of Christ. He can't use you as a son or daughter until you have come to Him and confessed your need of Him to save you. God will not force Himself on anyone. There will be people that decide that they do not want God's help with their sins and those people will die and the blood of Christ will not be covering them. That is why God pleads with each person's heart. He stands at the door and knocks. He has been knocking for years and you knew that it was He that stood outside waiting to be let in. He has used death and birth and things of nature and problems and health to get your attention. Now is the time to open to Him. His death on the cross was for you. Come to Him and tell Him that you need Him to save you. Pray this:
Dear God, I know I am a sinner. I know that You came in human flesh and died for me. I know that You were buried and rose again from the dead for me. Please Jesus, forgive me of my sins and save me. I promise I will follow You all the days of my life and obey You as my Lord. I know You are the only Way of salvation. Thank you for saving me. I pray this in Jesus' holy name. Amen.
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