I want to explore the depths of what it means to be a brother in Christ.

I want to know the potential for the reality of the relationship between brother and brother, sister and sister, and brother and sister in Christ. I want to know firsthand the purpose God had in creating us and setting us apart as community.

I've been realizing recently just how important these relationships are in the Kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, the blood family was the primary social and spiritual unit. It was through Abraham that his descendants, the people of Israel, received God's blessing. It was this family identity (Israel, tribe, and clan) that was foundational to the religious identity of the people of Israel. In the New Testament, Jesus brings the Kingdom of God to us, and with that a new paradigm of religious identity. Spiritual blessing and identity is no longer through the blood family, but rather by belonging to a new family--the body of Christ. This was exemplified by Jesus when his mother and brothers came to talk to him, but couldn't get near him because of the crowd. When someone told him that his mother and brothers were waiting outside for him, Jesus said, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice" (Luke 8:19-21, also Matthew 12:46-50, and Mark 3:31-35). Jesus no longer defined "family" by blood relation, but by Spiritrelation. Or at the least, one had taken priority over the other. The family of Christ is one that is united by the blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, and is bound together by the workings of the Holy Spirit. Jesus showed us that this is a bond that goes much deeper than that of a physical family. We are no longer united by our own blood, but rather by the blood of God Himself. The family is no longer the fundamental social and religious unit in life, but it is now this community.

Why don't we take advantage of this relation? Why do we fail to see its potential? We often feel awkward sharing our lives and passions and pains and struggles and joys to the degree of intimacy that this family allows for, or maybe even expects of us. We are afraid to be vulnerable with each other. Often we look to our brothers and sisters to "keep us accountable" (a term i dislike), and leave it at that. Helping each other to steer from sin and live righteous lives is definitely a part of living in this family, but it's so much more than that! We are brought together in order to share in each others' lives in a real way, to REJOICE together, to PRAISE together, to PRAY together, to LOVE together, to CRY together, to LAUGH together, to MOURN together, to WORSHIP the God of our mutual salvation together and to WORK together for His Kingdom and GLORIFY Him together forever! There is no awkwardness in the Kingdom of God! With the freedom we have

in Christ, nothing has the power to keep us from sharing in each others' lives completely.

It's easy for us to pick up on this together-ing thing and agree with it on the grand scale, but how does it affect our individual relationships? How can we practice doing life together and honoring God together in our one-on-one's? It starts with just investing in each others' lives, pouring ourselves out for the sake of others, putting their needs above our own, and loving each other in mutual submission. And it starts with prayer. We need to be praying more as a body and family of believers. We need to be praying for, with, and over each other all the time. Prayer unites us as believers and as a community, and works to change us. When we submit our relationships first to God, it brings us closer together. Have you ever had the experience of feeling really close to someone after praying for them, even if you didn't know them that well in the first place? Praying together is the process of communing with God by the same Spirit that unites us together as believers. Somehow, prayer creates a bond between two souls that are united in submitting themselves to God.

What's tough for me is the relationship between me as a brother and my sisters. Especially for me, as an intentionally single guy, to try and explore the potential of the Spirit-bond between myself and a single sister can be tricky. I feel like our culture is so dating-relationship focused that attempts at intimacy in the Spirit between a brother and sister can be misinterpreted on either side as something with a more romantic interest. So what's the answer to that? Do we safeguard ourselves and not attempt to invest all of ourselves in a brother or sister, holding back in order to protect ourselves? I think, to an extent, at least for me, this can be necessary, but overall, i think we need mutual understanding and minds and hearts that are transformed by the Spirit, desiring to seek God and honor Him above all else, and willing to pour out ourselves into the lives of our brothers and sisters.

But the main point is, we need to take more seriously the responsibility we have as brothers and sisters. We need to take advantage of this relationship, and the incredible potential for communion with others and God. Stronger than any blood bond, stronger than any experiential bond, stronger than any dating bond, is the bond of salvation in which we are washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ and have been brought into His Kingdom to share in this community of faith that glorifies Him forever! We all share this most incredible

gift, and not of ourselves, but only by the grace of God. It is by this grace that we have been saved and have been brought into this community of faith--this family of Christ.

This journey is not meant to be traveled alone. The more i learn and grow, the more i'm convinced that community is one of the most important things in all of our faith. Let's put it into action. Let's pray for each other. Let's share what God is doing in our lives. Let's be vulnerable with each other. Let's truly worship together. Let's glorify God through the bond of this new family. And may we learn what it truly means to live as brothers and sisters in Christ.

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