Brothers. Yes, those are the strange male creatures that aren’t your father, but that roam your house anyway, often making their home in the bedroom next door to yours. Reports show that brothers in the “Teenagious Awkwardious” stage of development can be particularly gangly and just plain weird. Brothers sometimes seem like they’re missing a brain cell or two — and I can say that because I am a brother. But despite the low expectations and mediocrity of our generation, the fact remains that young men are commissioned by God to rise up and “be a man,” leading the charge in pursuit of Jesus Christ. Paul exhorted Timothy to be sober minded, and to so demonstrate the life of God that he would be an example to all the other believers. Oh, how I love it when I see young men living in honor and passionate pursuit of Christ, and how I long to see ten thousand times more! I truly believe that there are great men of God being built in this generation!
But great men of God begin as plain, ordinary, gangly brothers down the hall. As young Christians we yearn for those exciting mission trips to the heart of the Amazon, or some other “God forsaken” realm where the natives just need to hear the Gospel. But what would it look like if you recognized that your current mission field is right around you? What if you humbled yourself to serve and wash feet, and God used you to help raise up the next Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor, or C.T. Studd of this age?
Here are seven practical truths to aid you as you enter the mission field down the hall. I hope that they will be an encouragement and a help!
Truth #1: God doesn’t make mistakes
Your brothers have been given to you by God, and He does not mess up. If your parents and siblings were determined by some divine lottery of chance, then you might have a reason to complain.
“God, we just don’t get along — could I get another one?”
“God, could I trade my brother in for someone a little less annoying?”
These might be reasonable requests if we did not serve an Almighty, All-Knowing, Sovereign God, who works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. You can rest in the fact that He does all things well, and that you have been placed in your family for “such a time as this.”
Truth #2: You are not your parents
Jurisdiction. I know — it’s a big word, but it’s a good one, so bear with me. It means dominion or authority. A county sheriff has jurisdiction in the county, the governor of New York has jurisdiction in the state of New York, and your parents have jurisdiction in their home. That means that if you live at home, your father and mother have the lion’s share of authority over you and your siblings.
This is a simple truth, but it is also profound. It is not your job to train your brother or to disciple him; you will not be held accountable for that — your parents will. Please do not take it upon yourself to “fix” your siblings, or to “take over where your parents left off.”
“[She] who meddles in business that is not [her] own is like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears” (Prov. 26:17). I can’t say that I’ve ever yanked a stray dog’s ears to see what happens — but it can’t be good.
Truth #3: Still, you will have an impact — so be intentional
The relationship between sister and brother is special, precious, and life-altering. It’s impossible to live with someone day in and day out, and not shape each other’s thoughts and worldviews. The question is not will you have an impact, but rather what kind of impact will you have?
About five years ago, my sisters and brother and I had an epiphany: our time together was growing short. We were in our mid to late teens, all of us on the cusp of the frontier known as adult life, facing possibilities of marriage, jobs, college, and other adventures. We decided to become more intentional in our relationships with each other. Our conversations became deeper and richer and we demonstrated our love for each other more purposefully. We did stuff like treating each other for lunch at the cafe, or even fun crazy things like taking swing dance lessons together.
Five years later, one brother is married, one sister is getting married later this year, one sister plans on being a missionary, and I live 1,500 miles away from home. Our season of living together as young people is gone forever, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world, especially those last five years. My only regret is that I waited until I was in college before truly investing in my siblings. Time is precious — don’t let it slip away from you.
Truth #4: Live the Gospel at home
It’s one thing to speak the Gospel with your mouth, but it’s a very different thing to proclaim the power of the Gospel through your life. Your brother sees a version of you that not many others see. He sees past your Facebook profile, past your Sunday morning best, past your makeup, and past your public spirituality. What is he beholding? Is he beholding a life transformed by Jesus Christ, one who walks in triumph and holiness? Is he beholding someone who has a fear of the Lord, keeps a clear conscience, and is quick to confess and repent? Is he beholding someone whose eyes are constantly directed upwards to the Savior in rapturous joy and unending devotion?
God forbid that we should exhibit a Jesus that is great for Sundays, but not good enough for the rest of the week. God forbid that we should be duplicitous — confessing Jesus with our lips in public, but denying Him with the actions of our private lives. Sister in Christ, I plead with you: don’t be a hypocrite. The stench of hypocrisy does more to drive people away from the Lord than anything else. As a little yeast leavens the whole lump, and just one rotten apple ruins the entire barrel, so a little hypocrisy destroys your own soul and those around you.
Keep short accounts with God. Be sensitive to the correction of the Holy Spirit by the His Word. And put into practice that which you know to be true.
Truth #5: Graciously give opportunities to lead
Every young man needs practice learning how to lead. And let’s be honest — sometimes it’s a rocky road for those being led during that practice!
I remember the first time I used an atlas to plot our course on a family road trip. There were others in the van who were far more qualified, but they gave me the honor of “navigator” for the day.
“Turn right. No, no, left. No, wait, I don’t know … Oh, it’s right, right, RIGHT!!! (long pause) I think…”
Several hours and wrong turns later, I not only had a new appreciation for Dad’s navigation skills, but also gained valuable leadership experience. My family was willing to suffer the wrong turns and extra miles in order to facilitate my training, and for that I’m extremely grateful!
Think of ways that you can allow your brother to lead — not by throwing undue weight upon his shoulders, but rather creating space for his masculinity to spread its wings. Perhaps it’s as simple as asking him to prepare some parlor games for the next time your family has company, or maybe it involves asking him for serious counsel and advice. Ask God to give you wisdom and creativity to this end.
Truth #6: Encourage and praise
A young man is like a tender sapling. He is built to grow into a mighty oak, firm to withstand the fiercest winds and storms, a terebinth rooted on the rock of Christ. But in his younger years he is more susceptible to the winds of criticism and the rain of public disapproval. This culture is exerting all of its strength against your brother’s purity, masculinity, and spiritual life — and he is often in need of a “word fitly spoken.”
Encourage your brother! Praise him! Thank him when he takes out the trash, mows the lawn, opens the door for others, or demonstrates some other selfless deed, no matter how small. Encourage him in his spiritual walk and tell him that you appreciate his study of the Bible and his prayer. The Proverbs say that death and life are in the power of the tongue, and God can use your tongue to bring life and health to your brother. Do not demean or criticize his efforts, but rather fan into flames the manly virtue that is kindling within him.
Truth #7: Love
“And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 Jn. 4:21 KJV).
This final truth is the most important. Oh, to love our brothers! This is both the foundation and the capstone, the starting line and the goal, the fuel and the prize. Love is self-sacrificial in every way, patient, kind, longsuffering, bearing and enduring all things. Love does not expect anything in return. Your brother may never appreciate your encouragement. He may never hear your fervent prayers for his soul. He may mock your Gospel-centered living. But are you willing to do it anyway out of pure love?
I will tell you upfront that this caliber of love is impossible. But with God, all things are possible! As you seek to know the love of Christ more, your love for Him will increase in response. And as your love for Christ increases, your love for those He has placed in your life will increase as well. Don’t try to love from your own well of human affection, but rather embrace Jesus! Allow Him to fill you to overflowing and be the source of your love. That is how the Kingdom of Heaven is displayed on the earth.
“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn. 13:35 KJV).