BY DAVE STEEL
To become a disciple of Jesus is to become part of a new family, the family of God (1 John 3:1). In fact, Jesus spoke of the bond between members of this “faith family” as surpassing that of our own biological family.
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:46-50)
Think about that for a minute. If you know and follow Christ, then he considers you his brother or sister!
This, of course, means that we’re brothers and sisters to one another as well, a fact that the New Testament writers took to heart. They not only referred to fellow believers as “brother,” “sister,” “son,” or “mother.” They also had plenty to say about how we should treat each other in this faith family. Relational phrases like “one another” and “each other” show up dozens of times in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews, for example, exhorts us to, “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13). Perhaps the most prominent “one another” of all is found in John 13:35, where Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
What these verses suggest is that disciples who choose to “go it alone” are not only jeopardizing their chances of staying the course as a disciple. They’re already off course.
A loner disciple is a contradiction in terms. There’s something Jesus intends to accomplish through our relationships with each other that can’t be done otherwise. As such, we need each other, even if we don’t think we do.
As Joseph Hellerman observes:
Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. People who remain connected with their brothers and sisters in the local church almost invariably grow in self-understanding, and they mature in their ability to relate in healthy ways to God and to their fellow human beings. This is especially the case for those courageous Christians who stick it out through the often messy process of interpersonal discord and conflict resolution. Long-term interpersonal relationships are the crucible of genuine progress in the Christian life. People who stay also grow.
It turns out that doing life together in community is not just a good idea. It’s God’s idea, which is why we need each other if we’re going to mature in our discipleship to Jesus.
The apostle Paul, for example, referred to fellow believers as “brother” (1 Cor. 15:58; Col. 1:1, 4:9), “sister” (Philem. 2; Rom. 16:1), “son” (Philem. 10; Phil. 2:22; 2 Tim. 1:2), and “mother” (see Rom. 16:13).
Joseph Hellerman, When the Church Was a Family (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2009), 1.