The Bible has plenty to say about one’s relationship to his children, and his parents, and even his grandparents. Does the Bible say anything about one’s relationship to brothers and sisters?
The hallways of many homes echo with less, “I love you, my dear sweet brothers and sisters,” and more, “Move over!” “Stop touching me!” “That’s not fair!” and “Get outta my room!”
God has designed the human family to include, in most circumstances, a household of brothers and sisters. Human beings are not like spiders or fish, whose young scatter far and wide as soon as their eggs hatch, never knowing their own relatives.
God intends the relationship of siblings in a family to be full of support, loyalty, and love. A family of siblings is God’s chosen metaphor to describe the relationship of Christians in the church. We could be called “participants,” or “adherents” or some other term less inspirational, but most often we are called “brethren” to emphasize our love for one another. We can say, “Let the love of the brethren continue” (Heb. 13:1), because we first know the love of a physical family under one roof.
Think of Joseph, who forgave his siblings and brought them into Egypt so that he could feed and protect them (Gen. 45:10-20). “Do not speak against one another, brethren” (James 4:11).
Think of Miriam, who courageously watched over her infant brother Moses, floating near the bank of the Nile. Because of Miriam’s courage, Moses was saved, and was raised by his own mother to become the savior of Israel.
Think of the sons of Zebedee, James and John (Matthew 4:18-22, 10:2-3). They worked together in the family fishing business, and together they dropped their nets to follow Jesus. Imagine how John must have felt when Herod had James put to death (Acts 12:2).
Think of Andrew and Peter. Of course, Peter is the one who gets all the attention, but his brother Andrew was the first to believe in Jesus, and “found first his own brother ... [and] brought him to Jesus” (John 1:40-42).
True story: a friend of mine was once hiking through Arkansas and stopped at a gas station for a snack. He got into a conversation with a man in a truck who was pumping gas. When the man learned that they shared the same last name, he insisted that he come to his home, get clean, eat a hot meal, and sleep in a comfortable bed. He had never met him, but supposedly he was family! As odd as that sounds, we too have an automatic love for those who share the name of Christ. Paul says, “as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another, for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia” (1 Thess. 2:9-10). The Thessalonian Christians were sending money to help those they had never met, simply
because they were brethren. Our love is so deep that, if necessary, “We ought to lay
down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Of course, the Bible records some instances of strife, too. Cain killed his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8). Absalom killed his half-brother Amnon (2 Sam. 13:24-39). There was enmity between Jacob and Esau that continued for centuries (Gen. 25:19-34). But these problems are mentioned because it’s all the worse when siblings come to blows. It’s never good when siblings cooperate for evil purposes, like Nadab and Abihu (Lev. 10:1-3) and Hophni and Phineas (1 Sam. 2:12-17).
To conclude, let’s return to physical families. We can clearly say that God intends our relationship to our siblings to be full of love and support. In reality, we sometimes get caught up in bickering and fighting. There are plenty of occasions for strife, since two or more people are living in such close quarters, sometimes forced to share private space like bedrooms and bathrooms, and competing for the finite love, attention, and resources of the parents. (Someday, listen to Therese Manaugh talk about growing up among eleven siblings sharing one bathroom!) It’s probably good training for living with a spouse.
But bickering shouldn’t last long. Kids, learn to treat your siblings with the same kind of love, forgiveness, and humility God wants us to show everyone. Learn to share, learn patience. When you get older, you will treasure one another, raise each other’s children, and go out of your way to visit.
Parents, we can help by never practicing favoritism (which is what caused the problem in Joseph’s family, Genesis 37:3-4). Kids are different, and it’s often unfair to expect an equal affinity for math, the flute, soccer. Punish mistakes equally.
Parents, teach kids how to handle problems (and demonstrate it by the way we treat our spouses). Don’t respond to every attempt to tattle. Don’t jump into the middle of every fight over a cookie. Demand they come to terms and treat each another with respect and love. And show by example that you always drop what you are doing to come to the aid of your own people.