Not going to make this a rant against churches or The Church. But there is one aspect of Christianity that has annoyed me for years now. Lately it's become a big stone in my shoe, so I thought I'd get it out today.
It's the practice of calling each other "Brother" or "Sister".
Now, I am a cynic at times and sarcastic as well. I am always on the lookout for worn-out bumper sticker phrases that we keep reverting back to week after week in the Church. The "Brother / Sister" thing was not one I considered cliched or bumper sticker until recently.
Let me give you my perspective first. I am the product of an unmarried union. My parents did not marry each other but went on to each get married years after I was born and they had other children with their spouses. As such, I'm sort of an anomaly and sort of on my own little familial island. I feel like I truly belong to neither group, (although more so to my father's family). I have a brother on my father's side that I've never met, and whom I really wish I could meet and get to know. I have a sister as well on my father's side. I have something of a relationship with her but it's awkward because our father desires no relationship with me and it creates an uncomfortableness that we both feel, but we try to work through. But it's hard to visit with your sister and brother in law and not talk about your dad.
My sister and brother did not know about me until they were in their 30's. I didn't know about them...or my father...until I was 21. So it's a difficult situation.
My mother also had other children. I have two brothers and a sister from her side. That situation was altogether different. We grew up together. I lived in the house with them. But there was never the bond or connection that other siblings felt. Even before finding out about my father and understanding why I was so different, we just never bonded. Part of that is how we were raised. The dysfunction was such that we were essentially trained to stay at each other's throats. The parental philosophy was "Keep the family busy fighting among themselves and you'll never be outnumbered." So my siblings and I grew into adulthood barely tolerating each other and certainly not liking each other.
But that's not to say this was the way I wanted it or that I liked it. Far from the truth. I wished I could have had a relationship with my brothers. I tried in our adult years, reaching out to one of my brothers in particular, but we are very very different people and we just clash. And given that there was no real bond from childhood, there was no reason to try any further. We don't really like each other. Plain and simple.
So a year or so ago I just gave up and resigned myself to the fact that of my 5 siblings, I was likely to only have a relationship with one sister and nothing more. It's sad to me because I am a family person. Family is everything and especially when the wheels have come off the wagon and your life is crashing down. Family is there when nobody else is.
That's why I cringe when I here people calling me "Brother" in the Christian community. Because they toss the word around like it has no meaning to them. To me it means everything. I look to my church family as my family. Because I have none. When I call someone "brother" it's because I love them like my own flesh and blood and I would go to the well for them as often as they needed me to without reservation. I would give them my last dollar and share my only meal. If the car broke down at 2 am...they had better call me.
More than that, they can be open with me. I want to help see their dreams come true and help them get where they are going. I want them to become whoever it is God has in mind for them to become. And so if someone is my brother, I will get behind their dreams and plans and the work God called them into with all my might. I'll knock on doors for them and talk them up and make sure that if their vision doesn't come to fruition...it wasn't because of something I could have done but chose not to.
I love them. I expect them to be open with me and tell me if they are hurting. They can cry in front of me. They can question and rant and vent. They can also be different. They don't have to do it my way or say what I say or like what I like. We may disagree on some things but if I see someone as my brother I will forgo that and focus on what it is I love about them.
But the Church has hijacked this word and made it just a greeting of membership...the way people in lodges and clubs use it. "Greetings Brother Smith!" they might say. This recognizes the fact that they are both members of the Elks lodge or the Moose Lodge or the Union hall. It doesn't speak of a blood oath. It doesn't mean the kind of connection that comes from a bond that happens because you were born to the same father. That is how the Church originally defined brotherhood.
Sadly, the church has long ago moved away from understanding the origin and meaning of this term. Now they simply use it because they've heard it used for so long. But seldom do they really consider what they are saying or why. Or what the person may expect once you call them "Brother" or "Sister". They don't understand that for some of us...the ones who have no family to speak of...this phrase means everything. Some of us take you seriously when you call us that and when we discover you don't mean it...it breaks our hearts.
A brother is proud of your accomplishments and encourages your endeavors. A brother walks with you through the darkest nights and never quits. Never. A brother never gets too far ahead of you and if he does, he waits for you to catch up and encourages you as you do. A brother knows your heart and know how the events of life have wounded you and what makes you happy as well. A brother doesn't need to be reminded to pray for you or to call you or email you or ask you to go grab a cup of coffee. A brother has insight into your heart because the same blood courses through his veins as courses through yours.
And sadly...in no way does this attitude show itself in most churches.
God called Himself the "Father to the Fatherless". He called His church to be the brother to the brotherless.
That special calling has been rendered meaningless. That's sad, because over the last five years I could really have used a brother.