Brother and Partner
It is so comforting and strengthening to be reminded we're not in it alone.
Depending on the reading plan you follow (you do follow one, I hope!), you may be reading in the Revelation. The first chapter tells us who is writing: John, at the behest of Jesus, with the authority of the Almighty. And it tells us who he’s writing to: the seven churches of Asia. But none of us thinks the audience is limited to those folks. It’s clearly from Jesus, through John, to all believers, then and thereafter.
Seven is often used to denote completion, totality.
So why is it addressed as it is? We know, for instance, about other churches in Asia-why are they left out? It could have been seven churches somewhere else-why not Judea, or Macedonia, or Galatia? Here’s a guess. Seven is often used to denote completion, totality. So Jesus looked around, and found a region where there were seven churches who could represent the spectrum he wanted to address. He zeroed in on Asia, and these seven out of all the churches there, because-whoever and wherever and whenever we are-we can find there a depiction of ourselves. Why do it this way? I think it makes it more personal, less general.
And that brings me to the thing I noticed today. John addresses the letter he’s writing very personally: “I, John, your brother and partner…” (Revelation 1:9) Not a prophet standing in a gate shouting out the words of the Lord to whoever walks by, as some of his predecessors were directed to do. Instead, a personal letter. “I’m writing to you as your brother and partner. You know me. You know that I’m right there in the trenches with you. You know I love you and I will stick with you.” John (and therefore Jesus) wants us to take this very personally.
And we need to take note of what he’s our brother and partner in. “I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation.” As will become apparent in the next two chapters, Jesus is acutely aware of the situations these churches are in. The circumstances are quite different among them, but in every case there is what we could call tribulation. Even, as in Laodicea’s case, the trials brought on by the distractions of wealth.
But that’s not all John says. He’s also “your brother and partner in…the kingdom.” There are trials, and he’s with us. There is also a glorious kingdom. Note the present tense. He’s our brother and partner in the kingdom now, as well as in the glory to be revealed at the King’s return. This brotherhood, this partnership, is what upholds us as we share in the trials.
And this still isn’t all. John says he is also “your brother and partner in…the patient endurance.” This is the long haul. John’s not writing a letter and moving on to something else. He’s going to continue to be their brother and our partner, as long as he’s alive to do it.
John finishes the thought saying that these things “are in Jesus”. The tribulation in Jesus. The kingdom in Jesus. The patient endurance in Jesus. John is our brother and partner. We share the relationship because it is in Jesus. In Jesus, we are all one another’s brother and sister and partner.
And we need each other! Because we’re all in one of these representative churches. First love fading, or under persecution, or wracked by false teaching, or morally corrupt, or alive in name only, or weak but staying active, or self-satisfied.
It is so comforting and strengthening to be reminded we’re not in it alone. We have a brother and partner in John-who still reaches out of us even though he is long asleep in the dust. We have a brother and partner in Jesus. And we have a brother, sister, partner in each other. Not general, personal. Not only each-other-all-of-us-generally, but each-other-you-and-me. Personal.