God’s special love and concern for the church is evident in his expectation, indeed his command, that those who comprise the church have a family relationship with each other and responsibility for each other.

In Matthew 12:48-50 Jesus taught that those who do the will of his Father are his family – his brother, his sister, his mother. This places those who believe in him into a family relationship.

In addition, the term ‘brother’ is used in some instances in the New Testament to refer to fellow members of the church. It is not always clear when this is the case – sometimes it refers to biological brothers or to our fellow humans - but it appears to specifically refer to our fellow believers, who with us are the brothers of Christ, in the following contexts:

  • The inappropriateness of unresolved offence or hurt among God’s people [Matthew 5:23 -24; 18:15 -35]
  • The inappropriateness of spiritual one-up-manship within the people of God [Matthew 7:3-5; Romans 14:10 ]
  • The inappropriateness of any behaviours that will cause a Christian brother to stumble spiritually [Romans 14:13 -21; 1Corinthians 8:9-13]
  • The inappropriateness of Christian brothers taking each other to court [1Corinthians 6:1-8]
  • The esteem and love in which specific believers are held [for example, 2Corinthians 2:13 ; Ephesians 6:21 ; Philippians 2:25 ; Colossians 4:9; Philemon 16].
  • The special care and compassion that is to be exercised towards the brothers of Christ [Matthew 25:31-46]
  • The utter inappropriateness of hating a Christian brother at the same time as claiming to know God [1John 2: 2:9-11; 3:10 ,14-17; 4:20,21]
  • The urgent necessity of warning and reclaiming a Christian brother who is behaving badly [2Thessalonians 3:14 ,15; 1John 5:16 . See also Jude 22,23].
  • The importance of disassociating from a person who claims to be a brother but whose lifestyle denies his claim [1Corinthians 5:9-11]
  • There are even to be special greetings between believers, indicating a family relationship of acceptance and joy [Romans 16:16 ; 1Corinthians 16:20 ; 2Corinthians 13:12 ,13; 1Peter 5:14 ].

As we will see over the next few weeks this love and concern for the Christian ‘brother’ is in addition to, and transcends, the love that Christians are to have for ‘the world’. This ought not to offend us or make us fear any accusations that we are ‘discriminating’ against the world, for it does not negate God’s command to love both our neighbour and our enemies. Indeed, it is this special love and concern within the church family that will powerfully impact the watching world.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009