‘Brother’ or ‘Sister’ is more than a title, it is a declaration of partnership in the grace of God. We are not only co-heirs with Christ individually (Romans 8:17), but we mutually enjoy the experience of being fellow heirs with Christ. Or as Paul rejoices in, as he opens his letter to the Philippians, “you are all partakers with me of grace” (Phil 1:7).
The subject of reconciliation runs deeper and wider than the current debate that orbits around racial tensions within the church, or even wider society. That is not to say that it doesn’t relate to racial reconciliation, it does, but it flows ever outward in far more expansive streams than that. In Christ, reconciliation sits at the very heart of why I may meet a fellow Christian on a plane, or sitting in a cafe, and though they are a stranger in every sense of the word, I will leave that brief meeting with a warm heart and genuine joy at meeting a ‘brother’ or ‘sister’ in Christ.
I grew up in a church tradition where it was common to refer to each other as ‘Brother Gordon’, or ‘Sister Margaret’ (if, of course, your name happened to be ‘Gordon’ or ‘Margaret’), and for many years I assumed it was just a quirk of our somewhat odd traditions. But I was wrong.