Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother. Let that sink in a little. Don’t rush past that sentence. You. With everything you thought about yesterday (yeah, he heard those thoughts) and the temptations to which you yielded (yeah, he saw that too). Yes, you, struggling Christian. Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother (or sister).
As I recently read Hebrews, I was struck in a fresh way with the power of this reality. Jesus is not ashamed to be associated with me. And not simply in a friend sort of way or even a servant sort of way. The Bible says that Jesus calls me “friend” and “servant” but it also says more. His pride of association with me is on the familial level. He is not ashamed that I am a part of his family. But not only is he not ashamed of me, he delights in me. The writer of Hebrews goes on later to say that it was “for the joy set before him” that he endured the cross. What was that joy set before him? It was me. And it was you. Brothers and sisters added to the family of God that they might reign with Him in the new heavens and the new earth. When Jesus looks at us, he is proud.
But I fear that while we would all check the box and say we believe this truth, in practice we fail to live out its implications.
Too many Christians walk through life as if the Gospel is not true. When we sin, we rightly feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. And rather than boldly coming before the throne of grace in our time of need, we cower and shrink back. We allow the guilt that invades our conscience to dominate our lives rather than drive us to Jesus. We worm back under the yoke of slavery from which Jesus freed us. We begin to think that our performance is what gains us acceptance. And rather than seeing the throne upon which Jesus sits as one founded on grace, we see it as one founded on judgment. And before we know it, we have practically denied the Gospel.
This spiral is always downward. If we do not correct this (or better said, if we do not have others help us correct this), the yoke of slavery will drive us deeper into despair as we attempt to perform and only continue to fail. The end of failing to believe that Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother is rejecting Jesus all together. Eventually, you will tire of the performance treadmill and your despair will only deepen until the darkness consumes you. Knowing that Jesus is not ashamed to call you brother is key to holding fast your confession to the end.
If Jesus is not ashamed to call a man “brother” then neither should I. If every man who puts his faith in Jesus is my brother (not like a brother, but a real brother), then that reality has social implications. I cannot claim to love Jesus while refusing to love those whom Jesus calls brothers. Now, I think that most Christians would say they are not ashamed to call anyone brother. Anyone is welcome in their church. Rich. Poor. Black. White. Smelly. Clean. All are welcome. And while this may be true, I believe it falls short of what it means to be unashamed of all our brothers and sisters.
Jesus is active on behalf of his brothers. He is never passive. Jesus pursued us. He did not wait for us to come him. No. He came to us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And not only did he come to us, he became like us. In order that he might be a sympathetic high priest, he took on human flesh and experienced the life we all experience. Jesus understands us fully because he is walking around in our skin. This is what the love of God towards us looks like. This is what our privileged older brother did for His under-privileged little brothers. When we weren’t even looking for him, he came. He acted. Not on his behalf, but on ours. If we would be like him, we must do likewise.
Our failure at this point is precisely why we find ourselves unable to have productive conversations amidst the racial tension we face in America today. For too long, separate but equal has been the foundational paradigm for the church in America. For the most part, white brothers and sisters and black brothers and sisters do not worship together. We do not know one another on a familial level. So when the protests erupted over the grand jury decisions in the Mike Brown and Eric Garner cases, many whites could not fathom why. And frankly, many refused to even attempt empathy. Why? Why did many white brothers and sisters seek to reflexively dismiss the concerns that were voiced by black brothers and sisters? Why did many white brothers and sisters write insensitive and tone-deaf social media posts? Because although Jesus is unashamed to call us all brothers and sisters, we whites, too often only view the world through the lens of white dominant culture. We have relationships with many ethnicities but we almost exclusively have familial relationships with our own ethnicity. We are culturally reaping exactly what we have sown in our segregated churches—an “us” vs. “them” divide.
Rapper Lecrae rhymes, “It’s not a guilt trip, it’s a field trip that’s gon last more than one day.” This is where we are. The field trip was ugly. So where do we go from here? Two suggestions. First, we reclaim the pride that Jesus has in us. He is not ashamed to call us brother. Live in the freedom of that reality. Second, we look for ways to engage our black brothers and sisters. I don’t know what that looks like for you. I’m still trying to figure that out for myself. But I know one thing for sure. Something needs to change. Bryan Loritts said at a recent event, “without proximity there is no empathy.” Let’s make 2015 a year where we get a little more proximity to our black brothers and sisters. Let’s see their lives by inviting them into our own. Perhaps, for the first time, we will begin to see what the brotherhood of Jesus truly looks like.