Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Brother to Brother ... Revisited

"for God has welcomed him"
(Romans 14:3; ESV)

What would you say is the most profound and amazing thing that has happened in your Christian walk? Aside from coming to know the Lord Himself, is there one event that stands out in your Christian experience more than any others? Perhaps that's a tough question.

As I thought about that, I think one of the most amazing things in my life was learning to see others the way God sees them. Oh, I am still far from perfect at this, but by God's grace, I have begun to see people from different backgrounds and church traditions as brothers and sisters. Taken one step further, since they're brothers and sisters, then logically they're also family. And if they're family, then I must love them as family members because, like me, they're also joint heirs with Christ in the kingdom of God.

Imagine being in a family where each member is always poking at what they perceive as faults in the lives of other family members. Imagine having to always tip-toe around each other for fear of being misunderstood and criticized for being different. Imagine feeling like you don't have the freedom in your own family to simply be yourself. Imagine not feeling loved in your own family.

Not a pretty image, is it? Unfortunately, I know that there are some who do not have to "imagine" that at all, for it is a part of their reality. Equally unfortunate is the fact that somehow we've allowed this to happen in the family of God. Fortunately, we each have the ability to do something about it. As Anne Frank once said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

For me this revelation seems to have had its genesis after we left the traditional institutional church and started simply fellowshipping together. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by people from a host of different denominational backgrounds and who all grew up believing all sorts of different things that historically have divided Christians. Suddenly those differences, that only a few years earlier would have kept us from fellowship, began to seem strangely insignificant. Now all that matters is knowing that they are also in love with the Lord; how they express that love has become unimportant.
"Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." (Romans 15:7; ESV)
In his classic daily devotional, A Table in the Wilderness, Watchman Nee says,
Here is the simple basis for our fellowship with others. It is that they belong to the Lord and so do we. That is enough. Alas, when you and I meet we generally discuss the points on which we disagree. Instead of dwelling on the Lord whom we have in common, we turn to the negative ground of our differences and stress what is right or wrong in them. Differences abound in the passage before us, but Paul does not tell who is right. For he is concerned with Christian fellowship, and that does not depend on whether a man's views are right or wrong. The question is not whether he believes exactly what I believe, or has had the same experience as I have had. The sole question is: Has God received him? If so, then I receive him too.
Watchman Nee's devotional resonated with me. This is exactly the area that God has been working in my life. "The sole question is: Has God received him? If so, then I receive him too." Again, I am not perfectly there yet, not by a long shot, but I believe that is the quest that God has laid before me.

As amazing as that revelation was in my own life, equally as amazing is the fact that for too long I was blind to its truth. For too long, like many others, I splintered myself off from other brothers and sisters based upon how much they did or didn't think like me. For too long I acted according to "the acts of the sinful nature ... dissensions, factions" (Galatians 5: 19-20; NIV). For too long I failed to see that "family" resemblance that we all have in Christ. For too long I had this bad habit of focussing on the differences between us, instead of celebrating that which we have in common. God forgive.
"If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4: 20-21; NIV)
Do you claim to love God? Do I? Of course we do! Yet if we deliberately fail to genuinely and unpretentiously love other brothers and sisters, who also call on the same God that we do, then God calls "BS" on our claim of love toward Him. Ouch!

So, brother to brother, if I have failed to fellowship with you simply because of our differences, then here and now I repent and ask your forgiveness. Peace.

Post note:
I called this post "Brother to Brother ... Revisited." That's because there was a previous Brother to Brother post. For more on this topic, you may also want to see Celebrate What's Right With The Church.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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