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Dave Brisbin

Between Tribes

Jesus says that if we believe in him, we will do the works he did and greater works than those. Most commentators say that those works are Jesus’ miracles, and the greater works we can do are not in quality but quantity—that Jesus’ followers had more time to do more works for more people.

But the bible is a spiritual book conveying spiritual truths and principles, and if we take it too literally, we can miss its primary points. Of all the works Jesus did, what did he primarily do? Ask us to do? He tells us over and over, but most clearly in his simple commandment to love each other as he loved us, that we would be known as his followers by our love. Love. Not doctrine or theology or any other litmus test we can imagine.

And to make sure we understand, Jesus shows us and tells us that it’s love of the enemy—in his language, someone of a different tribe, someone you don’t see as your own—that defines the love he’s talking about.

Pentecost marks the entrance of Jesus’ closest friends into the freedom of spirit that allowed them to love tribelessly. Baptized in water, they were still thinking in physical and literal terms and living in fear. But at Pentecost, they are baptized again in fire, born again in spirit. What changed their limited, tribal thinking to encompass borderless spirit?

The road to Pentecost begins at Calvary—the trauma of the loss of our exterior object of faith. For them, it was Jesus himself. For Abraham, it was Isaac. For the Hebrews, it was Moses. Jesus said it was to their advantage that he go so the spirit would come. An idiomatic way of saying that as long as we are focused on physical objects for our faith, we’ll never see our Helper.

Jesus spent his life breaking through ethnic, social, and religious barriers to show us the extent of his love. After he is risen, he passes through walls as if they are not there. He occupies a borderless place between tribes from which he can love indiscriminately and see the oneness of spirit that connects us all. That is work we can do if we wish to follow.

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