We’re talking about relationships, and this is part 4 in our five-part series on family relationships. We’ve looked at husbands and wives, singles and then parents and children. In this post, we’ll discover what the Bible has to say about siblings. We parents earnestly desire that our kids will be close friends. Sibling rivalry, however, is real, and it can be very damaging. I would like to point us to one passage, 1 John 3:16-18. Notice how John, though he is talking about relationships in the church, uses the imagery of sibling rivalry.
“This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
I know sibling hurt can be deep and painful. But John teaches us that love can overcome even the deepest hurt. Repairing the damage will likely require forgiveness over and over again. But take that step. Forgive. Strive for love of your siblings. Just as parents and children might need to confess their sins toward one another, so might siblings. I had to confess my ridiculous selfish treatment to my brother in the summer after my freshman year in college. My poor behavior toward him had lasted for years, and it was pointless, groundless and totally wrong. Do you need to do the same? You and your siblings do not need to be best of friends (it is nice when that happens, but being best friends isn’t what John is talking about). Work to grow the Fruit of the Spirit so there is goodness, patience, peace, etc. in your sibling relationships. Which part of the fruit do you need to nurture within any sibling relationship?
Parents disciple your children: In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God tells Israelite parents to lead their kids to know and love him. “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” I highly recommend the book From Tablet to Table by Leonard Sweet. It is a very accessible read, short and sweet, filled with lots of encouragement for parents to lead their kids to become and grow as disciples of Jesus. What Sweet suggests is that parent-led conversation around the dinner table is essential for raising our kids in the Lord.
But like I said, parents should know that they are not alone. Grandparents and extended family can also have a significant role in an extended family helping to raise kids. One of my favorite roles in life, after being a husband and father is the role of grandfather and uncle. We grandparents, aunts and uncles can have a wonderful relationship with extended family, especially those who are younger. Especially during the teen years, when parent-child relationships can be strained, extended families can support the parents by taking kids under their wing. One of the aspects of my Kime extended family vacations that I love is how intentional my parents are about having family devotions each night after dinner. This past year, 21 of us gathered around the campfire, reciting a verse of Scripture, singing a song, and sharing stories about how we experienced God at work in our lives recently, including many of the teenagers!
If you do not live near what you consider to be your “family,” find a new family community. Be that new family to others. There are those in our world who we call “family” who are not by law our family at all. None of us are alone in this. If you are feeling alone, pray for that community and reach out to be community to others.
Furthermore, as we read in 1 Timothy 5:3-5; 16 extended families care for widows. Extended families care for extended families. (see 1 Timothy 5:7-8) Thus the intergenerational nature of extended families is essential. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, you can have a wonderful godly influence on multiple generations.
The younger ones need the older ones, their wisdom, experience and insight. Younger ones, be intentional about reaching out to your older family members, spending time with them, talking with them, listening to them. The older ones also need the younger ones, and for more than helping us learn to use our phones. We need their youthful idealism, their energy, their questions, their culture and their new ideas. Though we like to say that “It was better back in my day,” that is not entirely true. The older ones among us can learn from the younger ones about life now.
In the next post, we talk about boundaries, because sometimes they are the most loving action to take in families.