love one another

Continued from  "my brother and sister and mother"...

If it is true, as Jesus said, that "whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother," then our family, our community, is determined not by us, but by God. This has radical implications for us as followers of Jesus. It is not us who decide who is in our family. It is not us who decide who is a "member" of our community. God decides this, God knows who his children are, who is doing his will. We can only try to recognize this and acknowledge it, and so appreciate the amazing, interconnected family of God. But who's in or out is not ours to determine. And this doesn't just mean "church" relationships, either. Jesus didn't speak this way about religious affiliation, but in answering a question about his biological family. He speaks of the one real community, and his words speak to all our relationships. So also, we don't choose our brothers or friends or "neighbor." Remember Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. It is love that connects us to one another, because it is love that connects us to God, and when we are connected to God we are connected to one another.

Sometimes we speak of God's community as the body of Christ, or the vine and branches, images which also emphasize that the nature of this community is determined by God, not us. It is Christ's body; the vine is Christ. We can be joined to it, made a part of it, but we do not define it. It is Christ. So we don't need to worry about the one community of God being changed or led astray. People can be led astray, but that doesn't mean God's family is broken or sick or lost. It just means people can be led away from the family (and also led back). Human organizations can change and even disappear, but the community that Jesus spoke of is no human organization. The one community, the family of God, is and will always be of the nature of Jesus himself, made up of those who are inspired and filled by his love. We don't need to depend on people to preserve this. God preserves this. The very existence of Jesus, of God's love made flesh, makes the one community real, now and always. If this is our community, we need not fear it ever dying. As Boenhoeffer put it, "We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, for eternity." 

This sounds so very different from how we act in our human relationships and organizations. But it fits perfectly with the simple guidance Jesus gave his followers: "Love one another." Deciding who's in or out, defining the nature of the group, preserving and defending it, trying to be appealing so the group doesn't die out. All of these are absent. Because none of these are our concerns in the one community of God. Jesus tells us simply, love one another. We only need concern ourselves with loving those around us, doing the will of God. That love unites us with God and with one another in God's family--we need only focus on that. The reality and life of the one community is not in our hands. It is all God's.