This all started with a post called When Christians Turn Facebook Into Hatebook, followed by Love Is Patient, Love Is Kind Is Not a Wedding Sermon. I continue to believe we can do better than that both online and in real life.
Come see my posts on my Huffington Post blog too.
So this post starts with my boys, four and fourteen months, as they tear around the house acting out Super Mario.
They are jumping up to bump invisible question mark blocks with their heads and then emitting all kinds of game-on sound effects–”mauu-mauu-mauuu!”–as they acquire firepower, for instance.
(Don’t judge. Their days are remarkably screen free pre-5 p.m., but boys will have their loves, you understand.)
Well, the oldest, he always gets to be Mario. Because, as the oldest (and this is something I know about), you get to be whatever imaginary person you want to be as well as president of every make believe childhood club you start. It’s just the way it works.
(All of this is going somewhere, I swear.)
And then, the oldest looks at his brother, and after a lengthy period of consideration each time, he dubs him, Baby Mario.
Meaning, in his words, “he is little Mario, you know, before he gets a mushroom.”
To summarize, he is small Mario and I am big Mario.
Which is another way of saying, he is a younger version of me. He and I are kinda like the same person.
And they ARE. At least visually. They, with their short spikey blondish hair and dimply little grins, are very much two versions of the same thing. Mario and Baby Mario, for sure.
And as much as I think, how naive and sweet that this four year old thinks of this boy as part of him–as pretty much sharing his own existence–I also quickly remember that this isn’t too far from the more grown-up way in which I see my own two brothers.
Here we are, thirty-five, thirty-two, and twenty-seven, all three hyper-thin with that same Hershey brown hair and eyes, not so far really from being “three versions of the same thing.”
Add to that the fact we are grown, at least partially, and have decades of shared experience between us. The same communities of people–my dad’s various churches, our hometown high school, the college where we dominoed one after the other–mixed all up in us.
We all have different even sometimes contrasting personalities, though the longer we live, the more we probably find a middle ground–easing our extroversions or stepping into them–to function sort of similarly too. Which is why, I guess, people have remarked to me to my surprise more than once how similar the three of us are.
I get that, in every way, we have three separate identities. Biologically, spiritually, intellectually and so on. But if ever there was someone who is another version of me, a more male, or more athletic, or more introverted or more-whatever version of me, it is them. It is siblings.
And this is why I keep coming back to the power of the word “brother” as it threads itself through the early church community.
As people of faith referred to each other as brothers and sisters. As in “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters.”
As in Jesus saying, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
As in Paul’s claims that we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, which if you’ve never reasoned that out, also projects Jesus as our…brother.
Jesus. And me. And those of you who believe. Brothers. Sisters.
Versions of the same thing.
Bigger and smaller, more extrovered and more introverted and more-whatever versions of each other.
Made in the likeness of the same being.
When you can see other people–even those annoying people who have appointed themselves to be God’s Republican or Democratic Social Media vigilantes–as brothers and sisters, as chips off the same block, as different versions of ourselves, love is the only response that makes sense.
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.
Or another way to put it: When God pulls out his old man wallet (or his iphone) to gush to the guy next to him on the plane about his children, your opponent’s picture is right next to yours.
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