Yesterday Norma Jean and I worshiped with the brethren at the Valrico church where I taught the Bible class and preached at the morning service.
It was wonderful to return to a church we’ve visited many times in the past and held meetings. I remember when the church began. My parents were a part of the original group when the church was planted. Several of those brethren are still there.
It was a pleasure to renew our association with them and to make new friends. I was reminded of the vastness of the brotherhood when we met young people who were from Kentucky, Texas, and Oregon with whom we shared common friendships.
Last night we visited the Temple Terrace congregation and not only saw folks we’ve known a long time but had connections with mutual friends around the country and even into Canada.
When we came back to our temporary home in Temple Terrace, I wondered how many churches we’ve visited in the past 21 months we’ve been traveling. If my count is correct, we’ve worshiped with 35 different congregations. Most in the United States. But several in Canada, as well as Costa Rica, Greece, and Italy.
This morning brotherhood is on my mind.
The New Testament speaks of “the brotherhood” only twice. And both times in Peter’s first epistle.
As he reminded the scattered Christians of their duties in various relationships, he exhorted, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)
Then following his admonition to be on guard for the Devil’s advances, he warned, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. (1 Peter 5:9)
The word, “brotherhood, ” according to Greek scholars Vine and Thayer, means “a band of brothers.” “A feeling of brotherliness.” “The Christian fraternity. “ ”A fellow believer, united to another by the bond of affection; most frequently spoken of Christians, constituting as it were but a single family.” “Denotes “a brother, or near kinsman;” in the plural, “a community based on the identity of the origin of life.” The verb used in 1 Peter 2:17 calls for constant, continued action.
It’s interesting that the brotherhood is singled out for particular attention. While it’s true that New Testament churches are independent, autonomous, and self-governing, there ought to be a bond of affinity and affection among all believers. In an age of independence and self-assertiveness, there’s too much isolation from others who share in the common faith.
I remember as a youngster going with my parents to visit churches in the Indianapolis area. As a result, I became acquainted with other believers. Acquired new friends. And developed relationships that continue until this day.
In my view, there’s a little too much criticism of the brotherhood. And in the brotherhood. I hear pejorative comments people make about brethren. I see posts on facebook about believers and among fellow Christians that make me cringe. Peter’s admonition to “love the brotherhood” has never been more important. Think about what brotherhood means.
We are sharers of the one faith.
We are fellow travelers walking the same road.
We are co-workers in God’s Vineyard.
We are partners in the common salvation.
We are partakers of the Divine Nature.
We are companions of Christ’s suffering.
We are citizens of the same Kingdom.
We are comrades in the fight against Satan.
We are members of God’s Family.
We are participants of the same spiritual blessings.
We are heirs together of an eternal heavenly heritage.
Is the brotherhood perfect? No, because I’m part of it! And so are you! We fall short. Make mistakes. Require forgiveness. Need grace. And beg for mercy. We are all a work in progress. But I thank God for the brotherhood. And appreciate the kindness, encouragement, and generosity of brethren we are privileged to fellowship.
I once heard a person relate to Dee Bowman about the surprise of meeting a fellow Christian they knew in a state different than where they both lived. They remarked, “It’s a small world.” But Dee quipped, “No. It’s a big brotherhood.”
Yes, it is.
Thank God for the brotherhood.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman