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- Henry David Thoreau
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"Take up your cross"

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
Updated: 07/13/2019

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 Gospel 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.

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