“All You Are Brothers”
“For one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers.”—Matt. 23:8.
1. What does love include, and what can be gained by it?
LOVE is not just a broad organizational quality. Rather, it has to do with the nurturing of the spirit of brotherhood within each one of us, and not simply taking things for granted. It is a quality that, when expressed, enables us to feel close to one another in the brotherhood of the faith. This principled agápe love is something for us, as brothers, to cultivate “in deed and truth.”—1 John 3:18; John 21:15-17.
2, 3. (a) Who are embraced in the term “brothers”? (b) What feeling should exist among brothers?
2 Among the early Christians, “brothers” was the accepted term of greeting for mixed groups and was not restricted to males. (Acts 1:14-16; Rom. 1:13) This term is used to embrace all Christians, male and female, in all but four of the inspired Christian letters—Titus, Philemon, 2 John and Jude. The apostle Paul writes also: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead.” (Rom. 12:10) The term “brothers” is again shown to be all-inclusive at 1 Corinthians 15:6, where Paul refers to the resurrection of Jesus, and says: “After that he appeared to upward of five hundred brothers at one time.” When Peter admonished Christians to take a stand against the adversary, he added: “The same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.” (1 Pet. 5:9) This obviously includes male and female Christians.
3 We should indeed have a feeling of closeness toward those who are our brothers in Christ. This feeling must include dependency on Christ Jesus, as well as appreciation of our relationship to him.—John 15:5.
4. What do we learn from Jesus’ words at Matthew 23:5-12?
4 Jesus stressed very much his Messianic headship under the fatherhood of Jehovah as the basis for the brotherhood. For example, in speaking to the crowds and to his disciples, he called attention to the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, saying of them: “All the works they do they do to be viewed by men . . . They like the most prominent place at evening meals and the front seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the marketplaces and to be called Rabbi by men.” Adoration and exaltation was what they wanted for themselves. But Jesus went on to show that such a condition should never exist among the brotherhood of Christians. He declared: “Do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ.” He further counseled that “the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”—Matt. 23:5-12.
5. What should Christians guard against?
5 Jesus then denounced the Pharisees as “hypocrites.” He especially showed how their selfish, exalted thinking was detestable to God—something that should never be permitted among Christian brothers and sisters. But wrong attitudes will infiltrate the congregation if its members do not have love among themselves. Also, in giving full recognition to Jehovah, the Christian brothers must always be careful not to underemphasize the active role that Christ now has in the congregation.
RECOGNIZING CHRIST AS HEAD OF THE CONGREGATION
6. (a) How may we show recognition of Christ as head? (b) What protective admonition does Paul provide?
6 Recognizing Christ as the head, each one should be Christlike in having tenderness and compassion for all, and especially in displaying a close and warm feeling toward everyone in the congregation. (Phil. 2:1, 2) In growing to the full stature of the Christ it is vital that this closeness be cultivated, for it serves as a protection. This is drawn to our attention by the apostle Paul, who says that it is “in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” And then notice his words of contrast: “But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ. From him all the body, by being harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate through every joint that gives what is needed, according to the functioning of each respective member in due measure, makes for the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”—Eph. 4:11-16.
7. What must we recognize concerning Christ?
7 It must therefore be acknowledged that Christ Jesus directs and cares for his congregation and this in the present twentieth century just as he did during the early days of the congregation. All must come to appreciate that Christ Jesus is the ransoming Agent and also the future millennial King.—Heb. 2:10; Rev. 20:6.
8. How should all show proper subjection?
8 Holding close to Christ as the head prevents individuals from having an erroneous or exalted view of themselves and of their Christian companions, as indicated by the apostle Paul’s words: “Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ.” Paul then goes on to describe God’s arrangement for Christian families and for the congregation: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation, he being a savior of this body.” In these relationships love and oneness are to predominate, as Paul indicates: “Husbands, continue loving your wives, just as the Christ also loved the congregation and delivered up himself for it . . . Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.” (Eph. 5:21-28) Both brothers and sisters in the congregation therefore are placed in their respective positions under the headship of Christ. Elders in the congregation, along with ministerial servants, should not regard themselves as superiors, but should humbly serve those in the congregation, as such trust is committed to them by Christ. This contributes toward the building up of the congregation in love.—Rom. 14:19; 15:1, 2.
9. (a) How should all Christians view themselves? (b) In what ways may those long in the truth encourage others?
9 Since Jesus has universal authority, there remains no basis for our claiming individual preeminence and importance due to personal abilities. Christians recognize this One as their Teacher. Therefore, whatever we may be able to teach as good news is from Christ through the “faithful and discreet slave,” and not out of some person’s private ability or originality. (Matt. 24:45-47) This further shows that ‘one is our Leader’ and that the congregation and its direction are not dependent upon any man, no matter how capable that individual may be. Therefore, much depends on how Christians view themselves. In other words, do they, perhaps, because of years in the truth, with past prominence or present position, feel their voice or expression should prevail? Or, on the other hand, do they genuinely rejoice when others show ability to explain or apply the Scriptures and show initiative in planning and getting things accomplished? Do they encourage them therein? This is a true measure as to whether they have love for the brotherhood and recognize Christ as the authoritative one, set on high by Jehovah God.—Matt. 28:18.
10. (a) How may lowliness of mind be expressed? (b) How can irritations in a congregation be avoided?
10 Humility is necessary for a Christian. It prevents him from harboring a feeling of superiority over his brothers. Paul, in writing to the Philippians, advised that we should be “doing nothing out of contentiousness or out of egotism, but with lowliness of mind considering that the others are superior to you, keeping an eye, not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” At the same time, we should “keep doing all things free from murmurings and arguments.” (Phil. 2:3, 4, 14) These words again show the importance of humbly manifesting love for our brothers. Following this counsel we will not be inclined to make issues just because of personal preferences. Further, elders who display lowliness of mind will be able to work and meet together free from contention and angry debates.
11. What should be the attitude and relationship among all in the congregation?
11 How should Christians exhibit such humility along with devotion in serving others? Is it not evidenced by being considerate and interested in all, including lowly ones? And in granting to all a due measure of dignity and worth? Paul answers: “In brotherly love have tender affection for one another. In showing honor to one another take the lead. Rejoice with people who rejoice; weep with people who weep. Be minded the same way toward others as to yourselves; do not be minding lofty things, but be led along with the lowly things. Do not become discreet in your own eyes.” (Rom. 12:10, 15, 16) From this we can appreciate how actively helpful we should be, and how we should manifest willingness to work for and with our Christian brothers. It is always very fine to show this interest without waiting to be asked.—1 Cor. 10:24, 33; 13:4, 5.
12. What encouragement may sisters find in the record concerning Tabitha?
12 Sisters, too, can set a fine pattern for others. An excellent example of this was Tabitha (or, Dorcas), who lived in Joppa shortly after the establishing of the Christian congregation. “She abounded in good deeds and gifts of mercy that she was rendering. But in those days she happened to fall sick and die.” When the disciples there heard that Peter was in nearby Lydda, they sent for him to come to Joppa. What happened when he arrived there? “Peter put everybody outside and, bending his knees, he prayed, and, turning to the body, he said: ‘Tabitha, rise!’ She opened her eyes and, as she caught sight of Peter, she sat up. Giving her his hand, he raised her up, and he called the holy ones and the widows and presented her alive.” (Acts 9:36-41) The good deeds of Tabitha had been wonderfully rewarded! What an encouragement for sisters to follow her way of life, also in our day! Incidentally, this is the first resurrection on record as performed by an apostle.
13. What attitude should brothers manifest in accepting responsibility?
13 In the congregation, the brothers particularly should willingly accept responsibility. They should offer themselves voluntarily with the heart’s desire to serve well in the congregation where they are assigned. There are so many opportunities open for us in which to share. The appraisal of ourselves should be an honest one, having in mind particularly the desire to develop a strong attachment with our Christian companions and to assist them in every way possible. It is a splendid thing for brothers to try to qualify in the congregation to be elders or ministerial servants.—1 Tim. 3:1.
14. How can these brothers assist others in the congregation?
14 Either of these positions mentioned should not be sought with the objective of having title or office. Deeply embedded in the heart of each one should be the desire to help and to assist others, to work with real interest on behalf of those in the congregation, and to continue cultivating spiritual qualities. Obviously it should be your keen heart desire to assist others in the congregation. Particularly should you endeavor to accommodate the newer or weaker ones. This is true whether it is to assist them in group Bible study or in the preaching service from house to house, which is of prime importance. Your helping them with their Theocratic School assignments can be an encouragement. Your having an interest in them is upbuilding and, of course, this too is a manifestation of your love for your Christian brothers.—1 Thess. 2:7, 8; 1 Cor. 12:12, 25.
CULTIVATING THE SPIRIT OF BROTHERHOOD
15. (a) How can we make an honest appraisal of ourselves? (b) Why should we not selfishly compare ourselves with others?
15 All of us should make an honest appraisal of ourselves with a view to developing a stronger attachment for others within the congregation. The starting point is for each one to examine himself, rather than to evaluate and compare himself with others. When we make unfavorable comparisons of ourselves with our brothers, we stir up the spirit of competition, which can lead to “enmities.” (Gal. 5:20) This in itself brings home to us the importance of showing humility by being unassuming—an admirable attribute in cultivating the spirit of brotherhood. (1 Pet. 5:5, 6) It calls for honest self-examination to see where we can develop stronger feelings of attachment to our Christian brothers.—2 Cor. 13:5.
16. (a) Why should we foster the spirit of brotherhood in the congregation? (b) What will result from our heeding Paul’s expression at Colossians 3:15-17?
16 Surely, all of us will want to be fostering the spirit of brotherhood! This can bring to each one of us real happiness, as well as the love of our spiritual brothers, which is most gratifying. (Eph. 6:23) Having the proper spirit, we can be of the frame of mind to see how much we can contribute to the brotherhood in the congregation. (Luke 22:26) Individually, we will want to work urgently to bring ourselves closer to all others in the congregation, witnessing with them in the field service, and thereby strengthening the bond of love and the feeling of real brotherhood. (Acts 20:18-21) The apostle Paul’s mindfulness of this is well expressed at Colossians 3:15-17: “Let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body. And show yourselves thankful. . . . Keep on teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, praises to God, spiritual songs with graciousness, singing in your hearts to Jehovah. And whatever it is that you do in word or in work, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, thanking God the Father through him.” May we also strengthen our hearts in the perfect bond of love to the point that after everything is said and done, others, too, will recognize that we are all genuine Christian brothers.—John 13:35; Col. 3:14.