"my brother and sister and mother"

One is a brother to another only through Jesus Christ.... What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is true not merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ.

We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, for eternity.

―Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

I've been thinking a lot about relationships lately. Maybe part of it is that a friend wrote recently, talking about his search for community, "a family." And then there's our years of experiencing the organized community here weakening and dissolving. Also, again and again over the years, I've reflected on our relationships within the church, the body of Christ, as I moved between churches and denominations and seen what what was similar and different among them. And in all this I keep being brought back to Jesus' words, when his mother and brothers asked to see him:
Jesus replied, "Who are my mother and brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." (Mk 3.33-35)
Those words emphasize that Jesus' relationships with other people were determined by their relationship with God. "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." The relationship is not defined by the two (or more) people involved, but by God. I remember writing something similar before, thinking about the church:
The more organic biblical imagery for the church, such as "the body of Christ" or "I am the vine and you are the branches," point to something very different. If these are accurate, then the life and nature of church is not determined by us, but by Christ. It is not us, our choices or actions or constitutions, that make the church what it is. It's Jesus. The church is the corporate, communal manifestation of Jesus in the world. It is his presence and nature that make it what it is. If he is not in it, it is not the church. If it is not like Jesus, obeying him as head, doing his work, loving with his love, then it is not the church. This is not something we decide about or make happen. It's not an issue or challenge or question for us to solve. The church is, and can be nothing other than, Christ.

And that seems to agree with the words of Bonhoeffer about Christian community: "I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ."

I believe this is true. But, if so, then it presents an understanding of the church that is markedly different than what we see in our church organizations. And I can't help but notice that Jesus wasn't talking about some kind of religious membership when he spoke those words quoted above. He was responding to a question about his family, the most basic human community. Jesus described the basis for the most real, the most fundamental, relationship with others: "Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." That doesn't just describe "church" relationships. That describes the one community that Jesus knew, the one real community. So, for Jesus' followers, that presents an understanding of all relationships that's markedly different from what we see all around us, all the time.

Continued in love one another...