Monday, February 10, 2014

I’ve Been un-Brothered

The other day, I posted a link to a Wikipedia page as a comment to a post that showed up on my news feed. The person who had shared the post saw the link as disagreeing with the post he’d shared. He sent me a message saying as much and “I’m removing you from my friends list.”

For the most part, I don’t care if someone removes me from their friends list or not. But this is a person that I see frequently. He isn’t someone I’ve spent a lot of time talking to, but our paths cross in Christian ministry. We exchanged several messages, with me saying I didn’t see why he thought it was such a big deal and him saying that he was concerned what his non-Christian friends would think. Personally, I think non-Christians seeing that Christians can disagree with each other and still get along has a greater impact than seeing them pat each other on the back and say, “Good job, brother.” But neither of us seemed to be persuading the other.

What really got me, when I thought about it, was the words in one message that said, “I don’t know you well enough to call you brother.” My first thought was that it is true that he doesn’t know me very well. I don’t suppose we’ve known each other for a year yet, and though we are involved in similar activities and see each other frequently, our circles are somewhat different. But then I started questioning, “How well do you have to know someone to call them brother?” and “What is a person saying if they decide not to call you brother?”

The words of the song Family of God come to mind. “You will notice we say brother and sister ‘round here. It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near.” In the Bible also, we see the term “brother” used frequently when referring to fellow Christians. In some cases, it is used for people with whom we wouldn’t expect to be on the best of terms with. “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.” (Luke 17:3) And that may be why God chose “brother” as the term for fellow Christians to use. You see, brothers aren’t bound together by how well they know each other or how much they like each other. Brothers are brothers because of blood. For Christians, the blood that makes us brothers is the blood of Jesus Christ.

For someone to say, “I don’t know you well enough to call you brother,” what they are saying is, “I don’t know you well enough to know if you are a Christian.” We don’t always know if someone is a Christian, even if they tell us they are, even if they are church members. But there are some things that give us a good indication. Are they bearing fruit? Are they serving the Lord? Are they telling others about Jesus? Do they love the brethren?

One of the problems with social media is that it is easy to upset someone by doing something that wouldn’t bother you at all, if the shoe were on the other foot. And when people are upset, they say some things that are not nice. They might even un-brother you. But it is our choice whether we take offense or not. I won’t say that I enjoy someone suggesting that I’m not a Christian, but I choose not to take offense. (At least, not for long.)

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Joseph Gregory said - I have this thing about myself that seems to strike others as odd, that is I can start a conversation with complete strangers. I do it often when I see physical traits in a person that cause me to inquire what their heritage is. I use to almost always guess correctly. My own heritage comes from Italy. Over the past few years I've been running into people who's heritage I'm not so familiar. Namely, Pakistani, Iranian, Iraqi, and other Middle Eastern cultures that a first glance could easily pass for Italian. When they reveal to me what country they're from, they pause, and you can see in their eyes they're looking curiously for my reaction. I can only imagine the usual types of responses they must encounter. I though, enjoy throwing them a curve ball by extending my hand in friendship, and saying, "my background is Italian. A thousand years ago we were cousins." It always brings a smile of agreement to their face.