Chapter 3: Who is My Neighbor and Who is My Brother?
First, it is imperative to establish that the term “brethren” or “brother” is not about gender but about a spiritual position in Christ Jesus. Just as the terms “son” and “bride” in the Bible are not about gender but about position in the Kingdom of God, so is “brethren”. It’s only when we begin to view the Word of God from a heavenly perspective instead of an earthly that we can understand the meaning as God intends. We must identify with the Spirit instead of the flesh so as to gain insight from Heaven.
Throughout the generations, people have been inquiring, “Who exactly is my brother and who is my neighbor?” Personally, I believe that, when a Christian poses such an inquiry, their heart is not in the right place. Their focus is not on the Kingdom of God, but on themselves and their desire to find a loophole so as to get out of loving the unlovable. Nevertheless, since the question isn’t completely without merit, I’ll attempt to enlighten people so there will be no more question as to whom we must love as a brother or a neighbor. Brotherly love, or rather, the love from the King and His Kingdom, is to be extended to all people.
“We are to be at peace with all people so far as it is dependent upon us” is stated in Romans 12:18. Peace is an offshoot of the love of God. There is no genuine peace absent of brotherly love. Let’s take a closer look at how God defines our neighbor and our brother.
As we all know, our proverbial neighbor is anyone, anywhere with whom we come into contact. Some would cite, “They (whomever) are not my brother, so I don’t have to treat them as such.” This is errant because, even though they are neither the biological or spiritual brother in Christ, we are still commanded to extend brotherly love. Our neighbor can be family, friend or foe. They can be our neighbor in the house next door or the person down the street or across the state, country or continent. If we come in contact with them, they are our neighbor. Our neighbor can be of the same affiliations, race, creed, color, gender or anything else, or they can be someone we would otherwise justify hating. They can be Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, American, Jewish, British, Asian or other and still be our neighbor. Our neighbors are all the people around us.
I once had neighbors which were grossly unfriendly to everyone. They were rude and reclusive and wouldn’t allow our daughters to play together even though they were nearly the same ages. I did not want to extend neighborly love, not one bit. Yet, the love of God compelled me to give love when it wasn’t reciprocated. Likewise, my neighbor is the customer service rep with whom I need to speak about a product dispute. I have caught myself on more than one occasion growing weary with irritation when they weren’t resolving my issue. The representative may have been in California, India or the Philippines; regardless, they too are my neighbor and I am to extend the love of God. I have failed countless times when I have allowed my aggravation to dictate how I speak to such a neighbor. I call myself to accountability so as to purpose to regain my composure and my conduct.
A brother, on the other hand, are those specifically within the body of Christ no matter their gender, race, nationality or anything pertaining to the natural man. Our ‘brother’ is anyone doing the will of the Father.
To reiterate, a “brother” is a position, not a gender. Our brother can be attending the same local body of believers or someone who does not. They can live close geographically or across the globe. We may know them our whole lives or never meet in person. Our “brother” is someone who shares the same heavenly blood and DNA of Jesus.
We cannot rightly exert prejudices of any kind against a brother and be in right standing with the King of kings. By the Spirit, we will know them. If we are led by Holy Spirit, He will bear witness to our brethren. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).” When I witness firsthand or hear of a “good godly” person persecuting a brother in Christ because they do not look like them, worship as they, or in any way resemble themselves, I am flabbergasted. When will God’s people realize and accept we who walk according to the flesh are not conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ? People who are alive in Christ are the brethren of all others who are alive in Christ. Period.
Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40, KJV)
“You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:17-18, NAS).”
Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50 NAS)