Brother in Christ

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An appellation referring to the specifically Christian unity, of which Christ Himself is the center and criterion and to which the Synoptic tradition witnesses (Mk3.3135; 10.2930). It is by faith and the doing of the Father's will that one becomes a brother of Jesus (Mt 12.4650; 21.2832). By His death and Resurrection Jesus has become in the fullest sense "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8.29; see firstborn), reconciling divided humanity in His Body on the cross (Eph2.1118). It is the risen Lord who calls His Apostles truly His "brothers" (Mt 28.10; Jn 20.17), and in them all men without exception. This Christian concept of brotherhood is found in a strongly ecclesial context in Matthew, ch. 18 (see especially v. 15, 21, 35). To live as a brother is the specifically Christian way to live as a part of the community, to share in its common life. Brothers in Christ must show one another a tender, devoted love modeled on the sacrificial love that Christ showed His own (Jn 13.1, 15, 3435; 15.1213; 1 Jn 2.1011; 3.10, 16, 17;5.16; Rom 14.10, 13, 15; 1 Cor 6.6, 8; 8.1113). Although the love of a Christian brother must take in all men without exception (1 Thes 3.12; 2 Pt 1.7), the visible community of the Christian brotherhood is the special field for that privileged form of love called philadelphia (φιλαδελφία: Rom 12.10; 1 Thes 4.9; Heb 13.1; 1 Pt1.2223; 2 Pt 1.7).

The early Christians soon adopted the term brother as their usual mode of addressing one another (30 times in Acts and 130 times in Paul), and the name remained in common use among Christians in general until late in the 3d century, when its use was gradually restricted to clerical and monastic circles.

See Also: mystical body of christ; society (in theology); unity of faith; unity of the church; excommunication

Bibliography: k. h. schelkle, "Bruder," Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum, ed. t. klauser [Stuttgart 1941 (1950) ] 2:631640. j. ratzinger, Die christliche Brüderlichkeit (Munich 1960).

[f. x. lawlor]