Family ties are really important, especially at the present time. However, getting on with our families can be very difficult. The Bible has a lot to say about family relationships. In a series of articles on ‘Family Matters’ we’ll have a look at a few aspects.
Sibling relationships are strange. One minute you’re best friends, the next minute you can’t stand each other! If you have brothers or sisters I am sure you know what I mean.
The Bible is full of examples of siblings falling out – think of Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, even Mary and Martha. Often this led to great harm being done and isn’t how God wants things to be. The Bible is actually really clear that siblings should love each other.
God uses the picture of the family to describe the Church. He is the Father, the Lord Jesus is the elder brother, and his people are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout the New Testament Christians are commanded to show ‘brotherly love’ to one another (see Romans 12:10, 1 Thessalonians 4:9, Hebrews 13:1, 2 Peter 1:7). Obviously by ‘brotherly love’ the apostles do not mean arguing and fighting like many natural siblings do! What they are teaching is that the relationship between brothers and sisters can be one of the closest and most loving there is hence it is an example of how things should be in the Church family.
So coming back to natural siblings. How should we behave toward our brothers and sisters? Here are some practical points:
- Treat them with respect and kindness. It can be tempting to be casual in the way we treat our siblings, just because they are our siblings. This is not right – do as you would be done by applies as much to close family as it does to anyone else. However, we have to be realistic, sometimes there are sibling rivalries. Usually, this is down to jealousy or selfishness; but even these are no excuse. You’ll find though that if you have these feelings, or if you face them in a sibling, responding with kindness will go a long way to overcoming them. If you feel that your sibling is in the wrong, remember that in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) Jesus told us to ‘love our enemies’, to ‘turn the other cheek’ and not to retaliate if provoked. Jesus also taught that we should forgive our brother, or seek forgiveness, even before something really important like worship (offering a sacrifice, see Matthew 5:23-24). It may be that you and your siblings are very different, with varied interests, ages and so on. Maybe you will never be really close friends (although you should try to be), however that doesn’t stop you treating each other with respect and kindness – they are family after all and a gift from God.
- Make time for them. Make sure your siblings don’t come at the bottom of your to-do list. There are a number of things here:
- Be there for them. Look out for your siblings and if you see that they are struggling with something try to help them. Maybe with school or college work, maybe with a relationship, maybe worries about the future, whatever it is, offer to help. This might be in a practical way or perhaps just by listening – having someone to talk to who won’t judge can really help.
- Talk to them. Closely linked with looking out for your siblings is to talk to them. Try to cultivate a relationship with your siblings when you can talk. Make time for each other and spend time together. Go for a coffee or a walk. Catch-up regularly especially if you don’t live in the same house.
- Pray for them. Praying for others is a big part of prayer. Make sure you pray for your siblings. Ask God to look after them and help them. Ask him to help you to love each other. Pray for their souls, that they will be converted if not believers, or that they will grow in grace and be close to the Lord if they are.
- Be loyal to them. I mentioned not judging, but that doesn’t stop you giving advice or telling them if they are going wrong or messing up. However, do it kindly. Also, being loyal means that we won’t go behind our siblings’ backs or gossip about them to others.
- Witness to them. Maybe your siblings are not Christians. The very best thing you can do for them is to point them to the Lord Jesus. However, you’ll find that it probably won’t do much good to constantly nag them about religion. What you can do however is pray (see above) and make sure your life is a good and consistent Christian example to them. If you are living at home together they will see you in your unguarded moments. What do your actions tell them about the genuineness of your faith? Then, if there are opportunities to speak to them, do so and do it in a loving and kind way.
It’s actually really sad when siblings do not get on – it should be one the closest and most loyal of friendships. What can you do to try and make your relationships with your siblings like this? Maybe you will have to change something in your behaviour first? It might be helpful to reflect on Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 – how can you apply that to your relationship with your brothers and sisters?
Lastly, let’s come full circle and remember that God uses family as a picture of the relationships between Christians. If we’re honest, we’ll probably find that we need to have a good think about how we treat our spiritual siblings as well.[A00137 – 29/06/2020]