Strange Brothers–3 John 1:5-6

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. –3 John 1:5-6

I have two brothers whom I rarely mention here, since we don’t spend a great deal of time together. Wayne is ten years my senior, while Dennis is five years older still and preparing to retire within the year. This last week found the three of us in undoubtedly the smallest room we’ve all occupied at the same time in–perhaps forever. Dennis and Wayne were attempting to replumb my mother’s shower, while I looked on lending the immensity of my plumbing knowledge (which took very little time).

Although Dennis and Wayne and I are not close, they are my brothers. If either of them was in need, I’d hop to his assistance without hesitation. I’ve done favors for their children in recent months, treating them almost as warmly as I do my own kids. Even if they weren’t pretty decent kids, I’d want to help them since they’re my brothers’. Blood, my father always reminded me, is thicker than water.

I mention this because of John’s rather odd statement in today’s verses as he refers to brothers who are strangers. Obviously he does not indicate brothers in the sense of offspring of the same parents. This isn’t one of those heart-wrenching reunions of siblings separated for thirty years. John refers to brothers in Christ.

“Blood is thicker than water,” my dad said, but did he mean the literal blood (or DNA) shared by family or the blood of Christ? It seems clear as we read through the New Testament that Christ calls us to treat fellow believers as family. Whoever John addresses with these words has apparently taken in wandering Christians, treating them with great hospitality.

The problem with that sort of action, the sort of thing that would probably drive my father crazy, is that it has a tendency to deplete the checkbook. If I feed every itinerant Christian who comes my way, I won’t have as much for me. If I paint the house or rake the leaves of every needy brother and sister, when will I have time to tend my golf game? When will I get to read all those books I want to read?

This sort of problem puts our faith to the test, and I’ll have to confess that all too often I fail that test. Here’s to doing better with the next strange brother I encounter.