Are You My Brother?

It was a bright and sunny afternoon in the peaceful village where Jeremiah and Ezekiel lived. The two old friends and fellow ministers had decided to meet at their favorite spot by the river, under the shade of a large oak tree. The sound of the flowing water and the chirping birds provided a tranquil backdrop to their animated discussions.

Jeremiah arrived first, carrying a picnic basket filled with homemade treats. He settled down on the grass, spreading a blanket and arranging the food. Moments later, Ezekiel appeared, holding a rolled-up scroll. His face bore a thoughtful expression, hinting at the lively debate to come.

“Ah, Ezekiel, you made it!” Jeremiah greeted, waving him over. “I’ve brought some bread and honey. Perfect for a debate, don’t you think?”

Ezekiel chuckled and took a seat. “Indeed, Jeremiah. Nothing like a bit of nourishment to fuel our discussions. And today, we have quite the topic on our hands.”

Jeremiah raised an eyebrow. “Oh? What’s on your mind this time?”

Ezekiel unrolled the scroll and began reading. “I received a letter from a fellow preacher asking if those who teach institutionalism or liberalism can be called brethren. It’s a thorny issue, one that I think we should delve into.”

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Jeremiah nodded, taking a bite of bread. “Certainly a topic worth discussing. So, what’s your take on it, Ezekiel?”

Ezekiel leaned back against the tree, contemplating. “Well, the scriptures do provide guidance. In II Thessalonians 3:13-15, it says, ‘But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.'”

Jeremiah’s eyes twinkled with mischief. “Ah, so you’re on the side of gentle admonition. Treat them with kindness, but keep your distance, eh?”

Ezekiel smiled. “Precisely. They are still brethren, albeit wayward ones. Just because they’ve strayed doesn’t mean we should cast them out completely.”

Jeremiah took another bite, chewing thoughtfully. “You know, I see where you’re coming from, but let’s not forget II John 9-11: ‘Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take them into your house or welcome them. Anyone who welcomes them shares in their wicked work.'”

Ezekiel raised an eyebrow. “So you’re saying we should shun them entirely?”

Jeremiah shook his head. “Not shun, exactly. But we must be cautious. By associating too closely, we risk endorsing their errors. Remember I Corinthians 5:9-13: ‘I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.'”

Ezekiel chuckled. “So you’re telling me we’re having lunch together now, but if I step out of line, it’s no more picnics?”

Jeremiah laughed heartily. “Something like that, my friend. But seriously, it’s about maintaining the purity of the faith while still showing love.”

Ezekiel nodded thoughtfully. “True. We can’t compromise on doctrine, but we also can’t lose sight of the command to love our brothers and sisters. It’s a delicate balance.”

They sat in companionable silence for a moment, enjoying the serenity of their surroundings. The river flowed steadily, a symbol of the enduring passage of time and the constancy of their friendship.

Jeremiah broke the silence with a grin. “You know, Ezekiel, you always were the more diplomatic one. Maybe that’s why you get more wedding invitations.”

Ezekiel chuckled. “And you, Jeremiah, always the stickler for rules. No wonder you were voted ‘Most Likely to Argue with a Pharisee’ back in seminary.”

They both laughed, the sound echoing through the trees.

“All humor aside,” Jeremiah said, “this is a serious issue. How do we draw the line between correction and rejection?”

Ezekiel nodded. “Indeed. I think it comes down to intent. If our intent is to guide them back to the truth, then we must approach them with love and patience. Galatians 6:1 says, ‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.'”

Jeremiah sighed. “It’s a tough balance. We must be vigilant and discerning. But we must also remember that we are all fallible, and we all need grace.”

As the sun dipped lower in the sky, casting a golden glow over the landscape, they continued to discuss, each providing scriptural support for their viewpoints. Their debate was earnest, but always laced with humor and mutual respect.

At one point, Jeremiah quoted, “Galatians 3:26-27, ‘So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ They are still our brethren, and we should not be quick to dismiss them.”

Ezekiel nodded. “Yes, and that’s why we must correct them in love. But remember, II Corinthians 6:14, ‘Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?'”

Jeremiah smirked. “Always the diplomat, Ezekiel. But point taken.”

The evening wore on, and their discussion ranged far and wide, touching on various aspects of faith, doctrine, and the challenges of ministry. Through it all, they remained steadfast in their commitment to the truth and to each other.

As they packed up their picnic and prepared to head home, Jeremiah turned to Ezekiel with a smile. “You know, my friend, despite our disagreements, I always enjoy our debates.”

Ezekiel grinned. “As do I, Jeremiah. Iron sharpens iron, after all. Proverbs 27:17.”

Jeremiah chuckled. “Indeed. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll figure it all out.”

Ezekiel laughed. “Perhaps. But until then, we keep striving, keep debating, and keep loving our brethren, even those who stray.”

They walked home together, their hearts lightened by their shared journey and their unwavering faith. For they knew that, in the end, their efforts were indeed worth it.