THE CHURCH - THE OBJECT OF GOD’S SPECIAL LOVE AND CONCERN [2]

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 'brother' 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 (and sisters) of Christ, in the following contexts:

The inappropriateness of unresolved offence or hurt among God’s people. Jesus makes it clear that, whether I am the one who has been hurt or offended, or whether I am the one who has given the offence, it is my responsibility to go and try to make things right with my brother/sister [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]. Both our unity in Christ (Galatians 3:26 - 28), and the humility that is so frequently commanded (for example, in Philippians 2:1 - 8), forbid all forms of spiritual superiority and self-righteousness. Paul stresses this equality in Romans 3:22 - 24, where he points out that there is no difference - we are all equally sinners, and we are all equally saved.

The inappropriateness of any behaviours that will cause a Christian brother or sister to stumble spiritually [Romans 14:13 -21; 1Corinthians 8:9-13]. Paul sets before us the principle that, regardless of our understanding of the freedom we have in Christ, we should not do anything that will cause our brother or sister to fall.

The utter inappropriateness of Christians taking each other to the secular courts to have disputes resolved [1Corinthians 6:1-8]. Paul was incredulous when he learned that Christians were prosecuting each other in the presence of unbelievers.

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 and sisters of Christ who are in need of any kind [Matthew 25:31-46]. As Jesus sees is, when we show kindness and compassion to 'the least of these my brothers' we are doing that to him.

The utter inappropriateness of hating a Christian brother at the same time as claiming to know God [1John 2:9-11; 3:10,14-17; 4:20,21]. The action denies the confession.

The urgent necessity of warning and reclaiming a Christian brother who is behaving badly [Galatians 6:1; 2Thessalonians 3:14 ,15; 1John 5:16 . See also Jude 22,23].

We are to pray for our fellow believers. It is obvious in Paul's letters that he was committed to praying for his fellow believers, some of whom he had met, some he had heard of (Romans 1:8 - 10; Ephesians 1:13 - 18; 3:14 - 19; Philippians 1:3  - 6; Colossians 1:3, 9-10; 1Thessalonians 1:2, 3). Paul commands believers to similarly pray for each other (Ephesians 5:18).

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. 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, 2021