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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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THE OPPORTUNITY FOR BROTHERHOOD

A little boy named Johnny had been misbehaving and was sent to his room. After a while he emerged and informed his mother that he had thought it over and then said a prayer. The mother was very pleased and said, "Fine. If you ask God to help you not misbehave, He will help you." The youngster shot back, "Oh, I didn't ask Him to help me not misbehave. I asked Him to help you put up with me." In a world of six billion people (and growing) we all have to do some "putting up with." If we don't, life becomes intolerable. Homes, factories, schools, offices, barracks and even church pews can be difficult places to be when people neglect or refuse to practice love toward each other. Daily headlines from the local to the international scene remind us that we live in a very unloving world. Actress Jane Wyman once said, "The opportunity for brotherhood presents itself every time you meet a human being." That statement teaches good theology, for the Bible says there is "one God and Father of all" (Ephesians 4:6). Not everyone you meet this week is a brother/sister in Christ. But you won't meet a person this week, whether at home or work or school or the gym or at church, Christian or non-Christian, whom God does not love and for whom Jesus did not die, no matter how irritating or unlikeable they may be.

The apostle John reminds us in 1 John 2:9-10 that love is the hinge that swings open the door to brotherhood, and that hatred slams it shut — "He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him." With characteristic bluntness and clarity, John defines life in terms of light and darkness, love and hatred. Some of John's original readers sat on church pews on Sunday and sang "Oh How I Love Jesus" and "Love one Another," claiming to be in the light. But their lack of love toward persons on the other end of the pew preached a far different sermon than the one they sang. Sometimes our Christian love needs a shot of adrenaline. We hear Jesus demanding that we must love and do good to our enemies Matthew 5:48) even as we struggle to muster up enough love to be civil to our mate or neighbor. We can eat at the Lord's Table with Christians we won't speak to in the foyer. Someone cleverly said, "Living above with saints we love, oh that will be glory. Living below with saints we know, that's quite another story." It is sometimes tough to do, but if we are to be like God we must learn to love. The opportunity for brotherhood may be sitting or standing or working or worshiping right beside you. Don't let it slip away.