I saw this commercial for a tv show one time. It was about four guys in the shadows of New York City: brothers. And no matter what happened, they always, always, always stuck together. Even though they were all different. Even though they made each other mad. Even when one of them got the others in serious trouble. To the point that even when a street gang went after one, they all went after the gang—threats, kicks, punches and baseball bats flying in the alleyway. Because they were brothers.
I never watched the show—not interested in the crime, sex and violence. But something from that montage still stirs me when I think about brothers. It’s that brothers stick together. Brothers are in each other’s business—for better or worse. Brothers love each other. Brothers will pound or get pounded by people to stick up for each other. Nothing comes between them. Why? Because they’re brothers.
A brother is not an acquaintance or a teammate or a friend. He’s more than that. He’s basically half-you.
Do you feel that way about your brother? Like you’d take on anyone who wrongs him? Like you’d stick with him when he’s going through something bad? Like you’d give him some of what’s yours? Like you’d help him out—however, wherever, whenever? That’s what being a brother means, right?
Except when it doesn’t.
The blood relation is automatic: it’s lifelong, it’s unchangeable. But really being a brother isn’t.
You might like to think of yourself as a good brother. Like an Earp or a Sullivan or a Donnelly, standing with him, back to back. Like me, you might like to think, I’d give my life for my brother if it comes down to that.
Thing is, it has come down to that. It comes down to that every day.
What makes you really a brother is not some unlikely future encounter in an nyc alleyway or an ok Corral showdown where you risk your life or give your life for your brother. What makes you really a brother is what you’re doing today.
When you see your brother in the hallway at school, or when you’re together at services, do you talk to him the way you do to your buddies—or at all? When you’re hanging out with your friends at practice and he’s standing there, do you slide over on the bench and give him the spot next to you? At the dinner table, when he’s telling about his elementary school or high school day, do you care to notice? Or are you too preoccupied with your own middle school life? When he wants to do an entertainment night act with you, do you do it? When his academic bowl team has a match, do you go to it? Do you care more about what’s cool, what’s convenient, what your friends think—or do you care more about your brother?
Or, when he’s off doing his own thing and growing distant from you, do you just let him be? You’ve got your own life going on, after all. Or do you get in his business and say, Hey, we’re brothers, and not just by blood. Let’s talk about this. (That’s what my brother did for me.)
This is probably the thing we do the most that weakens our brotherhood. We call it “letting him do his own thing.” It’s actually called neglect. Doesn’t matter that much; we’re still brothers, we think. By blood, yes. But in spirit—in reality—no.
You’ve got to do the things that make you really brothers. When he’s an annoying third grader and you’re an important sixth grader. When he’s a snobby sophomore and you’re a down-to-earth eighth grader. When he’s married with kids and you’re married with kids.
One time I was having my friends over; my brother wanted to join in or have his friends over, something like that. Whatever. He was getting in the way of my important life. Mom said something I’ll never forget (partially because Dad and her said it maybe a thousand more times): “You won’t always have your friends. Your brothers are the ones who’ll be with you the rest of your life.”
That seemed weird. My brothers were a whole three years/nine years younger than me. My friends really got me. Liked all the same bands. Got all the same jokes. But Dad and Mom were right, and I knew it. Now those high school friends have changed, they’re 750 miles away, and maybe three of them e-mail me about twice a year. But my brothers are everything to me. Without them I’m a trike with one wheel.
I’m talking straight to you: You are a brother. So be a brother. Put your little bro/bigger bro ahead of your friends—and ahead of your neglect and your selfishness.
Some guys blow off their brothers and want you to do the same. They’re too cool. They’re morons. Don’t treat your brother based on wisecracks from a friend with a degenerate sense of family. Stick with your brother, shoulder-to-shoulder.
The Bible uses brotherhood to describe the bond between God’s spiritual Family (1 Corinthians 8:13; 1 John 4:21; etc.). It’s special. It’s powerful. Don’t ignore it.
Proverbs 17:17 says “a brother is born for adversity.” Adversity is happening—right now. In school, on the team, at home, at services, in the literal airwaves around you and me—and our brothers. Satan himself and his whole gang are coming after your brother: hating him, lying to him, putting him down. Trying to use you to hurt him.
The fight is on, right now.
The fight doesn’t come down to giving your life for your brother when the bullets start flying, like in the movies. It comes down to giving your life for your brother right now. It comes down to fighting for him against Satan: against your friends’ gossip, against your own selfishness, against your own neglect. Fight for that bond. Back to back. Shoulder to shoulder. No matter what.
Be a brother.