It seems like eons ago when I was preparing to be a professional jazz guitarist and vocalist. I was in college studying jazz, and it was the only music on my turntable. I practiced jazz tunes for hours every day. I sought out gigs of my own and live performances by some of the best musicians in the world. This was New York in the 1980’s for me.
Sometimes my father would come into the city to hear me play or attend a jazz concert with me. He was always mystified by the non-verbal communication that takes place when a jazz band is improvising together. I would explain to him that the musicians are rooted in a common repertoire, moving through familiar harmonic structures, listening for a melody or rhythm to creatively add color and texture to the familiar landscape of each song.
To this day, wherever I might travel, I could track down some jazz musicians, and we could play music together immediately even if we spoke different languages. The sound, the swing, the history and library of songs and the adventure of improvisation would unite us. We’re like brothers and sisters of other mothers, to borrow a phrase.
This phenomenon came to my mind while reading excerpts from Oswald Chambers’ writings on prayer. I experienced some perplexity because of his lofty, old-school way of phrasing things. But then he quoted Scripture, and I felt instantly connected.
This can happen when exploring theological works of any previous generation of “God chasers” throughout the history of the church. They all have different styles of expression that reflect the era and distinct cultural environment in which they lived.
It may take some effort to get to the core of their theology because of their context-specific idioms and cultural references. But it’s worthwhile to take in what seems obscure at first, digest it, and contextualize it for our time and place. We can do this if we are convinced of the integrity of our same source, God’s perfect book.
The Scriptures are our common language and heritage. They transcend all time and space and cultural nuance. They connect you and me to the heart of Oswald’s faith, or Luther’s, or Edwards,’ and that faith looks just like ours in the end.
Of course! They are brothers from other mothers, enlivened by the grace of the same Father, reconciled by the same Jesus, led by the same Holy Spirit, instructed by the same words of wisdom. We ought to look alike on the level of our saved souls.
Perhaps you’ve experienced this phenomenon when you’ve visited a church in a different cultural environment. The worship style is different, and the service and fellowship have a different feel. But if brothers and sisters are preaching and worshiping in accordance with the truths of Scripture, there is a comfortable familiarity. Instead of distancing ourselves, we can come closer and enjoy their unique ways of loving God and each other.
As Bible-believing disciples of Christ, we have a family bond that goes much deeper than race, ethnicity, education level, social status, or any of the other categories that often divide us. Jesus is the “firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29), and we are those brothers and sisters!
God does not show partiality to individuals within his flock (Deut. 10:17; Acts 10:34), and we are not supposed to show partiality either (James 2:1-9; 1 Tim. 5:21). God’s love compels us to walk in familial love for our brothers and sisters everywhere.
Like players in a jazz ensemble, members the body of Christ can jump into the creation of new sounds, colors, and rhythms, knowing that we are all drawing from the same source. All of our unique contributions come together into a holy song that rises to the throne of God.
God rejoices in the united song of his people. And he rejoices when we understand and experience our family ties, when we recognize that we are brothers and sisters of many mothers.
How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity.
It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.
It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.