There continues to be confusion within the body of Christ concerning just who our brethren–our brothers and sisters are. In light of a recent post, I dug this excellent message out of the archives which answers the question, “Who is my Brother?”
Christian Zionists regularly assert their brotherhood and solidarity with ethnic Jews (being descendants of Jacob, particularly those who lay claim to the Land). A group known as Biblical Zionists appeals through its website: ‘join us as we stand with our Jewish brothers and see the victory of The Lord’.
Some who have affiliated themselves in this way also disassociate from fellow Christians who do not share their allegiance. Some have even suggested that ‘support for Israel’ is the criterion on which humanity will be divided and judged.
Derek Prince wrote,
“He will separate them from one another … the sheep on His right, and goats on the left’ … To the goats, those who refused to show mercy to the Jews, Christ will say: … ‘Depart from me accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels …’” (1)
Other Christians have openly identified with the Palestinian cause, defending their rights and calling for punitive action against the Israeli government.
It is in view of these alignments, and their stratagems, that we review this important area of our Lord’s teaching, namely, Who is my brother?
JESUS DEFINES HIS OWN
Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:47-49)
Jesus’ life and teaching demonstrate the only acceptable basis for human relationship – being a common devotion to the Father and a unity in purpose founded upon His will. Jesus refused every natural bond and would not involve himself in shared objectives with anyone who had not been reconciled to God through faith in him.
Love detests anything that comes against its beloved. King David said: “Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD, and abhor those who rise up against you?” (Psalm 139:21). David’s hatred was not a negative feeling towards any particular person, but a general aversion towards anything that scorned or resisted the God whom he loved.
Jesus hated in the manner of David and required that his followers do the same: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple’ (Luke 14:26).
Jesus is not inciting his followers to fanaticism, but mentions our strongest natural affections as the ones most likely to compete for our loyalty and keep us from life in Him.
SEPARATED TO GOD
God’s love for His children outlives the mortal existence and its fleeting relationships. Even the relationship of marriage, which creates a unity described as “one flesh”, does not endure into eternity (Mat 22:29), and may not prevail over our devotion to God (1 Cor 7:15).
Those who respond to God’s love obey Him (John 14:15; Deut 7:9-10), and are set apart by their obedience from anyone who does not. In this way the Word of God divides humanity. It separates those who will submit to God and be reconciled to Him, from those who prefer to live independently and in denial of Him, pursuing their own lusts. Jesus, as God’s full and final revelation to man (Col 1:19; Heb 1: 1-3), is the Word by which this division is ultimately achieved.
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn: `a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ (Mat 10:34-36)
Those who receive Jesus are separated from those who do not.
The covenant nation was the first to be split apart (see Simeon’s prophecy in Luke 2:34). The sword cut indiscriminately, running even through Jesus’ own natural family (“a sword will pierce your own soul too” – Luke 2:35).
The Law of Moses required the same impartial severity against anyone who tempted an Israelite away from his Redeemer:
If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your fathers have known, gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), do not yield to him or listen to him. Show him no pity. Do not spare him or shield him. You must certainly put him to death. Your hand must be the first in putting him to death, and then the hands of all the people. Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deut 13: 6-10)
The Levites slew their own brothers, friends and neighbours who revelled in the golden calf:
The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.” (Exodus 32: 25-29)
THOSE THAT HATE GOD
Many saw in Jesus the fullness of God and the exact representation of His being. They saw in Jesus the incarnate love of God, the incarnate mercy of God – His holiness, His truth – righteousness and grace – and they loved God for it.
Others were offended by having their sins and duplicity exposed. ‘Everyone who does evil hates the light’ (John 3:20). In the words of Simeon’s prophecy, it is in men’s response to Jesus ‘that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed’.
The subliminal hatred for Jesus that is prevalent throughout humanity, among all who resist God’s will, was first manifested in the response of unfaithful Jews. This hatred was not caused by pogroms, crusades, Christian anti-Semitism, or the Nazi Holocaust – since they did not crucify Jesus for any of these things. When Jesus states “they hated me without cause”, “they” refers to those of his own people who rejected him. The term “without cause” bears witness against anyone who tries to excuse or legitimise the Jewish rejection of Christ.
The claim for Jewish-Christian solidarity on the basis that “we worship the same God” is theologically dishonest. Whoever does not receive Jesus does not know the One who sent him (John 5:20-21).
‘No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also’ (1 John 2:23).
YHVH speaks of Himself as the One who was sold out for thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11:12-13) and pierced (Zech 12:10). Hatred of Jesus amounts to hatred of God. He who hates me hates my Father as well (John 15:23)
THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY
Jesus came to his own, ‘but his own did not receive him.’ Yet, to all who do receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God – ‘children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God’ (John 1:11-13).
In human relationships, our kinship is thus with those who have received him, who do believe in his name.
The Father’s will is that ‘everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:38-40). Jesus accepts everyone who does the Father’s will – by believing in him – as his brother and sister and mother (Mt. 12:49). Reciprocally, those who become affiliated with Jesus give up their associations with everyone who rejects him.
‘For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?’ (2 Cor 6:14-15)
In Jesus we receive the Spirit of adoption, ‘by whom we cry Abba, Father’ (Rom 8:15). Those who do not have the Spirit of Christ “are none of his” (Rom 8: 9) and, consequently, none of ours. Our brotherhood consists exclusively of all those in whom Christ dwells (John 17:20-23). (2)
In Christ’s economy, ‘flesh gives birth to flesh’ and counts for nothing (Jn 3:6; 6:63)). Our common descent is from the Father of our spirits (Heb 12:9), who has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Pet 1:3). ‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace’ (Eph 1:7).
We bear the family resemblance of Christ, having been predestined to his likeness (Rom 8: 29; 2 Cor 3:18) as we mature into a measure of the fullness of him (Eph 4: 13).
SERVANTS OF THE GOSPEL
Once redeemed, we no longer live for ourselves – but for him who bought us (2 Cor 5:15). We have an indebtedness to Christ, which we can only pay to the unbelieving world. The believer becomes a servant and debtor to all who have not heard the way of salvation. We discharge this debt in full by proclaiming the gospel (Col 1: 21-26; Rom 1:14-17). Only those who respond in faith are joined with us in the celestial family.
While the humanist has his sympathies with the temporal needs of man, the believer is fully identified with the purposes of God, which is the salvation of all who believe.
The manner of our warfare will disclose our true allegiance. Those who take up the Zionist or Palestinian cause commonly fight with political weapons. The believer’s arsenal consists of spiritual tools – which are mighty in power, and demolish strongholds (2 Cor 10: 4-5). We do not go to Egypt for help (see Isaiah 31:1-3).
Jesus could have gained much popularity by sympathizing with Jewish suffering under Roman oppression, but he did not fall for this temptation. The apostles likewise did not take up the cause of the Jews, or for that matter, with other oppressed classes such as slaves (see Col 3:22-24). Instead, every man was confronted with his own share in the sin that has caused our alienation from God, and thus also the pain and suffering that came as the consequence. Those who acknowledge their guilt and accept God’s way of reconciliation will also find their rest in Him, no matter their immediate plight or circumstances.
If we love Jesus we will love anyone who has received his Spirit and become the source of living water to those who have not.
Anyone who disassociates from a believer to join in common cause with an unbeliever has betrayed the testimony of Christ to the world:
I pray also for those who will believe in me … that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17: 20-23)
1. Appointment in Jerusalem, Word Books, 1978, pp.211-212
2. Where Paul speaks in Romans 9:3 of unbelieving Jews as his brothers, it is by rare exception to his usual use of that term. This description is immediately qualified by the supervening phrase “my kinsman after the flesh”. Cf. Phil 3: 4-9. The term is furthermore not used as an expression of solidarity, but rather out of sympathy for their apostate condition for which he, Paul, would wish himself accursed in order to obtain their salvation.