Recently Hollywood portrayed the social reality of a typical military unit as a "band of brothers." Why don't soldiers run for their lives in the heat of battle? Usually out of a sense of responsibility for their colleagues in the unit, who may become closer to them than family ever was. Something about going into battle together creates bonds of friendship between people the way few other things can.
A couple friends of mine--Ed Dickerson and Bill Underwood--developed the idea that friendships come in seven stages. First, people exchange greetings and comments about the weather. The second stage involves the swapping of facts and reports. When friends move on to the third stage, they will risk sharing opinions and judgments. Friends reach stage four when they are willing to communicate feelings as well as facts. In stage five, people begin to share their failures and mistakes with each other. With stage six, the level of trust has become so high that one allows the other the right to point out faults. Stage seven is the level of total intimacy, something rarely achieved on earth.
After outlining the seven stages of friendship with a group, Ed likes to ask, "If we apply them to our relationship with God, at what stage does conversion occur?" Ed believes that it happens when we reach level five with God, the stage where we are willing to share our faults with Him--what we usually call confession of sin. Ed goes on to point out that many, if not most, congregations seem to be stuck in stage three of human relationships, the exchange of opinions and judgments. If so, the average Christian would seems to have a closer relationship with God than with other Christians.
But that creates a problem. According to the Bible, one cannot have a closer relationship with God than one has with fellow Christians! "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20, NIV). When we cannot say, "I was wrong," to a fellow human, it calls into question our confession of sin to God.
As the final battle of earth's history approaches, God invites the church to truly become a "band of brothers and sisters." Those who are with Jesus then will be on intimate terms, not only with Him, but also with each other.
Lord, shield me from my relational blinders toward others. Help me today to grow in my capacity to know and love others, even as I know You and am known by You.