By Lynn Jones
The observation of one very cogent observer struck a responsive chord with me. He said, “I sometimes wonder if those who say we would have peace if we treated others as our brothers, have ever had any brothers.”
The reason that comment rang a bell with me is that I have two brothers—Wayne who is five years older than I and Rick who is three years younger than I. I must agree with the observer. Whatever else may exist between brothers growing up under the same roof, it generally isn’t peace. If the home is the laboratory for life, generally brothers are experimenting in ways to defend their turf, have their own way, and exercise power over each other.
As the middle brother, I got to look at both sides of life. I knew how to dominate and how to be dominated. It just depended on which brother I was dealing with. When my older brother Wayne took advantage of me, I would work off my frustrations by taking advantage of my younger brother Rick.
I saw a Dennis the Menace cartoon one time that showed Dennis, his friend Joey, his dog Ruff, all lying on the grass under a tree. Dennis was saying, “I’d like to have a younger brother someday. There’s only so much that you can blame on your dog.”
Of course, there is good precedent for all of this tension between brothers. You have only to read the Book of Genesis to find that it is largely the story of tensions between brothers. There are the stories of Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. In the New Testament, there is the story of two brothers arguing over an inheritance who wanted Jesus to settle their dispute, and the story of a prodigal son and the resentment of his elder brother.
How do we move beyond the tensions that often mark our relationships with our brothers and forge genuine brotherhood with them and with others with whom we may not be biologically related? One of the things that we can do is recognize that we can be brothers without being identical twins. My brothers and I are different physically, and we are different in the things we enjoy doing. The same is true in the family of faith with those whom we call “brothers.” Our different gifts and abilities can complement each other and strengthen the family of God.
A Sunday School teacher told her class about the conflict between the brothers Jacob and Esau. She asked, “What did Jacob steal from his brother?” One little boy said, “He stole his birthmark.” Actually, it is impossible to steal a birthmark from your brother. God made each of us, even brothers, unique. Thank God for your uniqueness that blesses the family of God.
Lynn Jones is a retired pastor who lives in Oxford. He does supply preaching for churches in his area and often serves as an interim pastor. Jones is also an author, has written two books and writes a weekly newspaper column. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.