Brotherhood of the Struggle
. . . You are all brothers. Matthew 23:8
When I enter jail or an addiction treatment facility, I can go as a physician, which earns me some respect, or, I can go as one who understands the struggle. I’ve not been incarcerated, but I’ve got personal experience with addiction. Like those in jail or treatment, I’ve known the misery and loss of my destructive behavior, which gives me a credibility that my medical degree never could. As a member of the brotherhood of the struggle, I can relate to – and hopefully help – those who struggle as I have.
While mired in the disaster of my own addiction, there was tremendous power in another coming along side me, saying, I know. I’ve been there. It can get better. It was profoundly important for me to see those who had turned their lives around. I needed to believe recovery was possible and I wouldn’t have believed it from someone who hadn’t lived it. A lofty physician or pastor, who had never known addiction, who had never struggled as I had, could never have helped me the way a recovering addict could.
In today’s passage, Jesus chastised the Pharisees for living above those whom they were supposed to serve. The Pharisees assumed positions of authority, because power was their drug. Following their appetite for it, they lorded their power over the people, demanding respect and honor. Jesus scolded them though, insisting they weren’t better than anyone else. You are all brothers.
Jesus didn’t say we all struggle the same and he didn’t teach that all struggles have the same consequences. In the grand scheme of things though, none of us have earned more love from God than another. We’ve all failed and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If anyone thinks himself better than his brother, then he’s embraced deadly pride. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled (Matthew 23:12).
We don’t all fail the same. We do all fail though. We’re all brothers – and sisters – in this struggle of life and we’re all in the same desperate need of forgiveness, mercy, and love. If we desire to live in the grace we so badly need, we would do well to extend that same grace to those around us. We all know the struggle. In humility, as brothers and sisters, we can share our faith and recovery with those who need it.