The crest and crowning of all good,
Life's final star, is brotherhood. - Edwin Markham
"The mind of the
universe is communistic." - Marcus Aurelius
The Issue of Brotherhood
Brother versus Neighbor
Sometimes Jesus talked about our brothers and sometimes about our
neighbors. Brother and neighbors are NOT the same. Loving our neighbors is addressed
about a half dozen different times in the combined Synoptic Gospels, where
it is clear that this was a traditional part of the law. The issue is
not addressed at all in the Gospels of John and Thomas.
Jesus said, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another
as I have loved you." This seems to be unambiguous, within the spirit of his
greater message as it is understood, and straightforward enough to take to
the bank as a one line synopsis of it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus
reiterates this statement 4 times.
Each and every time, this statement is given within the context of Jesus
talking to his followers and their relationships with each other as BROTHERS,
not mere neighbors. Given the
competition and divisiveness displayed previously by the disciples, this
admonition or advice was appropriate, needed and well directed.
However, the more general admonitions addressed in the Synoptic Gospels
must be seen as not applying to all homo sapiens on the planet. Such an
application would be onerous, unworkable and unrealistic.
Let's be clear: We don't try to love a wild, savage animal, such as a
grizzly bear, when they threaten us or our family. It is to be no more
expected that we should try to love a homo sapien that has been reduced down
to the same level as the feral animal. Just before he left, and because the
disciples had failed to become empowered, Jesus advised his followers to
carry a sword to protect themselves. You are not loving someone when you are
trying to kill them before they kill you. That's the easy part of this issue.
The harder part is dealing with the everyday situation where people do
not threaten you directly, but may relate to you in a non-brotherly way that
can range all the way from indifference to disdain and disrespect, and/or
larceny in one form or another. I think
that we are always to be ethical and kindly disposed, but we are not under
the burden of trying to love these people as brothers. It is enough to be a
man of good will.