“But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi, Rabbi,’ for one is your teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father, for one is your Father, he who is in Heaven” (Matthew 23:8,9).
Many Americans who are exposed to other cultures remark on their appreciation for the sense of family which many in those cultures possess. Extended families remain very close and there is often a deeply developed system of mores that demonstrate respect, dependence and obligation. I see this often in Asian and South American cultures. One common symptom of the valuing of extended family is the complicated and extensive set of titles with which various relationships are specified. There may be many words for “aunt” and “uncle” for instance, with “mother’s sister”, “father’s sister”, or even “mother’s oldest brother” and “mother’s youngest brother” all having a distinct title.
Those of us who have succumbed to the modern, fast paced, highly mobile society of “developed nations” rue the loss of such relationships, while acknowledging that we have often done it to ourselves. Wherever the blame may lie, however, there seems to be the feeling that once gone, the close knit extended family will likely never be restored.
It is precisely in this context that the blessing of Christian fellowship may be best appreciated. In many ways the church becomes (or at least should become) our family. God is our Father. Jesus is our oldest brother. We are all brothers and sisters together in Christ. A wonderful concept, but does that really describe the relationship that truly exists in most congregations or among most Christians? Just as extended fleshly families drift apart without time and attention given to them, so our fellowship in Christ is dependent upon effort.
All the things required to build true spiritual fellowship obviously cannot be covered in one short article. One, however, is of special importance and is suggested in our text. That is the sense of equality that exists in genuine Christian fellowship. “You are all brethren.” There are no rabbis, or masters or fathers among us. We are all of equal value and equal “rank” when it comes to God’s view of us. That does not mean that our roles are the same. Much New Testament teaching shows that there are many different gifts within the body (cf Ephesians 4:11-13, Romans 12:3ff). But our value in God’s sight is equal. Jesus died just as much for the poorest and most uneducated Christian as he did for the elder or preacher or wealthy person among us. We are brothers!
Another aspect of our brotherhood is that we are all dependent. We are dependent upon God’s grace and Christ’s blood to save us. And we are dependent upon the love, compassion and mercy of our brothers and sisters to help us walk worthy of our Savior. It is only by the encouragement and support that other Christians give us that we have the ability to resist temptation and abound in good works (Hebrews 10:23,24). It may be that nothing encourages true fellowship as much as the recognition of our mutual dependence. We must learn to look upon other Christians as essential to our well-being, rather than as burdens we must help carry, or perhaps worse, strangers whom we have little desire to know. Even before affection and love we acknowledge need. I need you. You need me. Once that is recognized and we reach out mutually to meet those needs, then the affection and love naturally follow. And we come to know real family, that established by God the Father and Jesus his Son.

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