Within our fleshly families, we count our brothers and sisters either as some of our closest confidants or some of our most bitter enemies. One anonymous author quipped, “Siblings: your only enemy you can’t live without.” That may define the relationship some have with their brothers and sisters in the flesh. Sadly, it most often defines the relationship we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Siblings in Jesus have been afflicted with interpersonal conflicts and divisions from the first century to the present day. Wherever such an affliction is found, we quickly find a host of other ailments that, if left untreated, will produce more disease and, inevitably, spiritual death. How we view our brothers and sisters in the faith makes a great difference in our own spiritual health and the health of our congregations.
Consider how some are quick to dismiss the conscience of their weaker brethren. Rather than treat them with kindness and deference, the “stronger” brothers and sisters treat the weaker like punching bags. They actively mock the weak and hold them in contempt for their perspective. The opposite is also true: the weak view the strong as immoral and false. The weak then treat the strong in accordance with their viewpoint. Friends, neither the strong nor the weak have the right to trample on the other one’s conscience. The Holy Spirit is clear that liberty in Christ should not become a stumbling block, nor should we allow a weak brother to perish over some indifferent matter (1 Corinthians 8:9-13). Furthermore, we cannot allow our personal scruples to become a doctrinal issue that divides us. It is fine to have personal convictions that are not in Scripture, but it is wrong to bind such on others (Romans 14:22-23). Whether we are strong, weak, or somewhere in between, let us not be dismissive toward each other. That is a sure way to treat our brothers as bothers.
Evil suspicion is another way to treat our brothers like bothers. Oh, how often we have heard a brother or sister gripe about another and speak ill of their motives! They have said, “Surely brother so-and-so just wants to take control of the church for his own benefit.” Or they have stated, “Sister so-and-so does not care about anyone, but they sure like to make it seem like they do.” Do either of these statements sound like those who would say them are seeing the best in their brethren? We need to take heed to ourselves lest we dare speak evil of the motives of our brethren. It could be that we say more about who we are when we make such statements. Scripture clearly teaches us that genuine love does not think evil of others but instead looks to what is best (1 Corinthians 13:5). As a united family in Jesus, we should be willing to show such love toward one another.
High-mindedness will also lead us to treat each other like bothers instead of brothers. At the heart of evil suspicion and enforcing matters of conscience is someone who elevates themselves above others. When someone views himself as better than those around him, he will naturally see anyone who disagrees as an opponent. If they do not fall into line, then he will seek to destroy them. Yet Scripture admonishes us to not think more highly of ourselves than is appropriate (Romans 12:3). Some are so busy seeing themselves as God’s gift to the brethren that they do not see the discord they are sowing through their attitude. Let us not walk with arrogance but instead adopt the same mind toward each other, realizing our opinions and ideas are not on a higher level than others (Romans 12:16). Brothers and sisters in Jesus must never forget that we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. It could be that such a reminder would help us avoid conflicts with our spiritual family.
There yet remains one thought to consider: do you view your brothers as bothers? If you dismiss their conscience, view them with suspicion, and think yourself better than them, then you are eaten up with spiritual disease. You may think these perspectives are harmless, but inevitably, they will spread like cancer that devours the people of God. Friends, let us be quick to repent of these perspectives that lead us to view our brethren as lesser. We have all been bought by the blood of our Savior Jesus and should rejoice together in Him. Jesus’ desire is for His people to be united, not divided up over personalities and attitudes (John 17:20-24). We must then strive to abandon conflict and work to have strong relationships with each other that glorify God. Then, and only then, will we show a divided, chaotic world the Lord we serve.