"Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
"By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?
Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."
1 John 3:13-18
To my left stands Michael Coughlin. To my right stands Dave Caldwell. They are my brothers.
Michael lives 2,239 miles away, in Columbus, OH. Dave lives 15 miles away in North Hills, CA. Michael is an Oracle Systems administrator and developer. Dave is the Dean of Men at an outstanding, private Christian school. The three of us couldn't be more different: a techie, a teacher, and a retired street cop. Our testimonies as to how each of us came to faith in Jesus Christ are very different, although we all share the common bond of being beneficiaries of God's amazing and sovereign grace, having all been saved by the monergistic grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. We've known each other for only three-four short years. They are my brothers.
We don't see much of each other--very little, in fact. Michael lives across the country. Dave is a full-time educator and part-time seminarian. As for me, well, I travel quite a bit and I'm almost always occupied doing something ministry-related. We are brothers.
Yesterday was a special day. By God's grace, I was allowed to spend time with not one, but both of my brothers in Christ. Michael came to town for the day, on his way to an evangelism conference in San Jose, CA. Having stayed the previous night with the Caldwell Family, Michael came with Dave to the school where Dave serves as an administrator, and I met them there. When the three of us came together, it was a celebration complete with pats on the back, laughs, and big hugs. The three of us spent time catching up before Dave had to get back to work.
Michael and I spent the next few hours enjoying a long lunch, full of conversation. We went back to the school so Michael could pick up his luggage and say goodbye to Dave, before I drove him to the bus station. While in Dave's office, he showed us two very old family bibles he had discovered in his grandfather's belongings, as well as a pocket New Testament carried by one of his relatives during World War II. More conversation. More jokes and laughter. More fellowship.
Michael and I stopped by Starbucks on our way to the bus stop. We had a little extra time, so we spent it talking about ministry. We made the best use of the 30-minute drive to the bus station, filling it with prayer. Since I was driving, Michael said he wouldn't be legalistic about me praying with my eyes open.
Humanly speaking, Michael, Dave, and I come from different families. We come from distinctly different backgrounds. We have very different life stories. I'm short. Michael is big. Dave is tall. Neither of them can grow a real mustache. Both of them, however, are far more intelligent than I am. We have different interests and we're separated by distance (long and short) and the busyness of life. But what we have in common overshadows every difference. What we have in common closes the gap of every mile. What we have in common has forged between us an eternal bond that cannot be broken.
What we have in common is Jesus Christ. What we have in common is salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. What we have in common is the every-day, sanctifying work of loving God and loving people (the Two Greatest Commandments), and reaching the lost with the gospel (the Great Commission).
I am fortunate to enjoy other relationships like the ones I enjoy with Michael and Dave, with other brothers in Christ, literally around the world. I'm closer to men I have met but a few times than I am to family members I have known all my life. The Lord blesses me every day of my life, in so many ways--in good times and in bad. None of these blessings are earned or deserved. They are tangible testaments of a Father's love for an adopted son who deserves nothing but his Father's wrath, but who has instead received unmerited grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness.
Yesterday, I enjoyed an entire afternoon of blessing--the blessing of brothers. Thank You, Lord.