the weblog of Alan Knox

You don’t know me but I’m your brother

Posted by on May 28, 2009 in community, fellowship, unity | 12 comments

We were made for community. It is difficult to read any part of Scripture without recognizing this important fact. We were made to fellowship with God and with one another.

Unfortunately, we often don’t take the time to build relationships with one another. And, when we do start building relationships, we often stop when it becomes a struggle. In fact, that struggle – or “relational friction” as I’ve called it before – is an indication that we finally beginning to form a relationship. We’re finally starting to get down below the surface into the depths of community.

It is there in the depths – below the surface level – that we begin to understand that “love one another” includes loving those who are not like us and don’t believe like us and sometimes aren’t even pleasant to be around. It is there in the presence of relational friction that we truly begin to understand what it means to forgive one another, bear with one another, accept one another, live in peace with one another. Unfortunately, too often, before we can even begin to live in the reality of these “one anothers”, we give up on the relationship all together and look around for someone who is more like us so we can be “like minded”.

There is a reason that Paul wrote a letter to the church in Philippi exhorting them to have the “same mind”. What reason? Because it’s not easy – it’s not natural – at least, not in our fallen state. There is a reason that Paul wrote a very personal letter (Philemon) about a very personal problem (a runaway slave named Onesimus) and addressed that letter to several people and the entire church that met with Philemon. What reason? Because we naturally want to protect ourselves and our own interest. We need help to look beyond ourselves to see the benefit to the kingdom of God.

We use our doctrines, our creeds, our confessions, our interpretation, our denominations, our leadership, our structures… many man-made things in fact… as excuses to separate from other believers. Or, if we don’t outright separate, then we use these things as excuses to choose who we will form relationships with and who we won’t form relationships with. We would prefer to sit in an auditorium on the other side of the city filled mostly with strangers than to deal with the relational friction caused by differences with those who live next door to us.

Why? Because we don’t allow God to form our primary identity. Oh, we say that we’re brothers and sisters in Christ, but we live as if we’re second cousins at best. We says that we all have God as our Father, but we would prefer it were not so.

Guess what? We don’t choose our brothers and sisters… God does. And we are specifically told (in the context of doctrinal differences) to accept others just as God accepted them in Christ Jesus (Romans 15:7).

The person across the street who is a brother in Christ… is our brother in Christ, and it is our responsibility – as much as depends on us – to foster a relationship with him. The person who works in the office who is a sister in Christ… is our sister in Christ, and it is our responsibility – as much as depends on us – to foster a relationship with her. This is true for every believer that God brings into our life. Yes, everyone of them. Will we have the same depth of relationship with all of them? No. But, that’s not the point. Our relationships with our brothers and sisters should be growing and deepening – even with those who disagree with us. If we’re looking for excuses to stay away from a brother or to not relate a sister, then there is a problem with us… not with them.

Unity among brothers and sisters in Christ is not just a good idea. It is one of our primary arguments and our primary evidences that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and was sent into the world to redeem the world (John 17:20-24). We should grieve over the fact that we have lost this argument and evidence. Then, we should seek the unity of the Spirit – he is providing if we will simply live in it.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-28-2009

    I so much desire to live like you write about in this post but I constantly find myself wanting to gravitate toward those who are “like minded”, which usually are those who give back in the relationship and are easy to talk with. I see this now as an excuse of mine and a way that I have been avoiding relationships that could be messy or require work. Help me!

    It seems to be part of our American Christian culture to get into our groups like church or seminary and separate from the world. We will let them come into our churches but they have a short amount of time to start thinking and acting like us. Is our true bond as brothers and sisters, Christ? If so, it is hard to tell.

    I have often thought maybe I should abandon all ties to denominations, buildings, groups, etc… Live a life that is focused on building relationships which would include getting together with other Christ followers to eat, sing, study, and pray. If somebody would ask “What church do you go to”? My response would not be to invite them to visit our church but to recognize them as a brother or sister and invite them in to eat, sing, study, or pray. Crazy idea?


  2. 5-28-2009


    I think we will always struggle with our relationships with people who are less like us. The more alike we are, the easier the relationships. The less alike, the harder the relationship. I think this is the reason that we are constantly exhorted by Scripture with some commands as love one another, forgive one another, bear with one another, accept one another etc.

    The question about abandoning denominations, buildings, groups etc. is between you and God. If these things are hindering your relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ then they are also hindering your relationship with God. I would not want to continue doing anything that hindered my relationship with God or with other believers. Certainly there are some of those things in my life, but I pray that I would submit to God and deny those things when he brings them to my attention.


  3. 5-28-2009

    I loved this one so much… thank you.

  4. 5-28-2009

    What then do we do when we get beyond manmade impediments and start dealing with issues where Scripture is being violated? It is funny, I was just blogging some thoughts about this very topic this morning after a chapter in Reimagining Church I read last night. I get home and you beat me to it!

  5. 5-28-2009

    Randi Jo,

    I’m glad that you liked this one.


    I left a comment about this on your blog post. Of course, one of the problems with “issues where Scripture is being violated” is that we cannot deal with this apart from our own interpretation. I think we need to be very careful if the interpretation is not contrary to the gospel.


  6. 5-28-2009

    I’m sure I’ll comment on it more later, but what struck me about the blog title was wonder if you ever thought about taking it to the streets.

  7. 5-28-2009


    A brother in Christ phoned me yesterday and our conversation was about this very thing, but in regard to how many pastors of our acquaintance regulate the membership of the congregations by this very human trait; “like minded” meaning “agreeing with me on every point”.

  8. 5-28-2009

    Christopher (URManCD),

    Well, I hope we’re takin’ it to the streets! :)

    Aussie John,

    Well, you know how it is. It’s easier to gather our own flock than to shepherd Jesus’ flock.


  9. 5-28-2009


    How would you define a “gospel interpretation” issue? We can be in agreement on how a sinner is saved but there are church practices that are explicitly addressed in the Bible. Not all but some of them seem hurdles that are hard to get around, like the example I used of women teaching. How do we deal with issues that are not Gospel issues per se but are still Scriptural practices that seem to require a stance that is going to lead to division. I am not arguing for division but I am having a hard time reconcilling important practices among believers.

  10. 5-28-2009


    Yes, there are many modern practices that are either not found in Scripture or that are contrary to Scripture. Of course, we have those Scriptures because the people in Corinth or Thessalonika or wherever were not living as they should either. I’m glad Paul didn’t decide to separate from them.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of “gospel interpretation”. It’s a matter of the gospel itself. Are we trusting completely in Jesus Christ alone for our salvation and our life. Remember the only people that Paul separated from are the ones that denied the gospel, and he came close to separating from the Galatians for the same reason.


  11. 5-12-2012

    If only…..

  12. 12-22-2012


    These are some great realities that you have explained. Most people really have no idea how close we can become and the benefits of truly living out the fact that “we are one”, because they’ve never experienced it. When people really start to get close, the water usually gets too hot and some one bails out (usually for noble and “biblical” reasons). Much of our growth in the Lord occurs within the context of difficult family relationships.

    This topic reminds me of how the Lord commanded that the stones for the temple be quarried, hammered and chiseled BEFORE they were brought into the temple. We are his living stones and we are being chiseled on to “fit” with others who we may not normally fit with in His temple. It’s quarry time!