Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
- Hebrews 13:1
I could have listed several Scriptures to introduce this sad story, but this one is good enough. In fact, it is perfect in that brothers and sisters do not always love each other with God’s perfect love. We might even fight.
My brother was nine years, four months, and 21 days older than I was. My sister was 16 months older than my brother. My brother was popular, athletic, All-American. I was the quiet wallflower.
I can only remember one birthday celebration of mine, the only time that I ever had a birthday party with friends coming over – all girls. We played the typical party games and I was not happy in that I was the only boy there.
But oddly, I can remember one birthday celebration for my older brother. I do not remember any details, but I remember the argument that HE started.
In the middle of the festivities, my brother walked up to me and sneered. He announced to everyone that was present, “I would like everyone here to know that I am officially twice as old as my kid brother.” At least he did not say “punk” kid brother. He had been taught by our paternal grandmother to not ever say that … again.
I jumped up and said that in less than five months, he would not be twice as old, and he would never be twice as old for the rest of his life!!!!
Most as the party got a little uncomfortable as the shouting match escalated, in wild argument and in volume. My mother softly laughed, loving an intellectual argument. For this to be an argument between a 20 year old son and his 10 year old kid brother made no difference.
I started using the argument that the age difference would have less meaning as we both got older, escalating our ages as if we were both immortal. When I argued that when my brother turned 100, I would turn 91 just a few months later and then we were only talking about a 10% difference – having not even learned percentages in school yet. But then again, I was the bookish one.
Since my brother, a college sophomore, was losing ground intellectually, based on the premise that I had set, he used his physical size to finish the argument. He stood over me, a college football offensive lineman, so big, towering over my 70-80 pound weakling frame, finally reaching 100 pounds three years later. Having lost his temper, he said in a soft, menacing tone of voice, “Regardless of how old you get, I will always be older than you.”
He bullied his way into winning the argument. And here it is over 57 years later, and I can still remember the encounter, but only remembering the two of us and my mother’s reaction, finally applauding that my brother had been victorious on his birthday. The old Smothers Brothers line truly applied to us. My mother loved my brother best.
If you consider that once you pass away, you no longer get any older, I officially became older than my brother a couple of days ago. His final bullying argument became invalid. When you are young, whether 10 or 20, you think you are far, far from the grave. My brother died nine years ago, plus the four months, and 21+ days. He had a brain tumor and it took his life rapidly. I had a business trip near where he lived and got to say good-bye about three weeks before he passed. Of course, at that time there was still hope of recovery.
My brother went on after “winning” the argument all those years ago to becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister. I once suggested that we could write some great Sunday school materials together. He had a three-word reply, “You are insane.” So, without the help of someone with years of education to call upon on the subject, I have worked at it by myself. Even when you use someone else’s material, you make it your own when you present it. And I continue to write about my journey of faith so that others can learn that they are not alone.
I have now officially won an argument that is over 57 years old, but at the same time, I have not won the same argument. I have not had the pleasure of my brother’s company for the past 9+ years.
But on the other hand, both of my parents died within the next three months upon my brother’s passing. Since my brother and sister were 16 months apart in age and I was almost eleven years younger than my sister, my siblings were very close, and I was the added nuisance. Since my sister and I suddenly became all that we each had left of the family, we have grown closer.
While everyone can understand the love that brothers and sisters should have toward each other, we can also understand that there are rough patches in that love. Maybe the author of Hebrews was thinking about both aspects of sibling love when he wrote the Scripture above.
We are to love one another, even when we feel like fighting like cats and dogs.
I miss you, bro.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.