If you asked every parent what their goals were for their children, I think most would include that they grow to be friends. They picture them sharing memories that are valuable into adulthood. The temptation in the meantime, while they are younger, is to ask them to simply put up with each other. Boys feeling embarrassed about their younger brother around their friends, and girls whispering secrets to others about their annoying little sister, it all seems normal and we take it as a part of childhood that every family experiences.
Three siblings laughing with each other about their sister’s inability to score any goals at her soccer game, or an older brother’s chuckle when his younger sibling trips in the store and feels embarrassed, these are normal experiences right? This doesn’t feel out of the ordinary to most people.
A lot of what feels normal isn’t God’s calling on our kids. Loyalty is different than putting up with what you have. Loyalty is seeing who God has given you and being committed to sticking by them no matter your feelings or circumstance. You’re loyal, not because you chose them, but because you trust God who gave them to you.
With my kids’ growing differences, it’s tempting to love themselves more intensely right now over each other. It’s easy for two of them to sort of gang up on one of their siblings who offended them and begin to criticize them together. It’s more of a habit right now to feel like the other sibling’s interests or personalities are less than great and they can pridefully look down on each other. I could tell them to just get along and leave each other alone. I could tell the younger kids that their older sibling is just going through a phase of wanting to be independent and he just wants to spend time with his own friends. I could tell the older sibling that the younger siblings are just little kids and don’t mean what they’re saying or doing, and that would be a lot easier for me.
But I believe God calls me to gather my kids together and tell them that their job from God as siblings is to be loyal to one another above all other kid relationships. They are each other’s life long friends. This relationship as siblings is different from their friends, or even cousins. God is preparing them to be in fellowship with his people, and to be in fellowship with one another is to be sticking by your sibling’s side even if it’s socially costly to them. The world will be giving them enough pain with words and how they are treated, but from each other it should be different and their loyalty should provide safety from the storms of other friends and relationships.
We were at a park recently, and three other boys began to play ball with our oldest son, and our other son who is just one year younger was drawn to something else. As they stopped playing ball and moved on to tag, both sons were now involved and I kept an eye out for their interactions. I could see my oldest using some of his brother’s weaknesses to his advantage in front of these new friends. I didn’t walk over there and make a giant fuss and embarrass either boy. But my oldest has heard me talk about his relationship to his siblings enough times that all it took was a quick, “Hey, bud, remember you are loyal to your brother in this game right now.” And he knew what I meant. Did he still want to feel cool with these boys? Yes. And having to stick by his brother was going to be sacrificial socially for him. But he had a way out from temptation in the moment (1 Corinthians 10:13), and he was free to play in a way that honored God with his job as a sibling.
Why does loyalty amongst siblings matter to God? Here’s how we’ve helped our kids using a blend of two verses.
1 Corinthians 1:9- “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Romans 12:10- “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
God has been faithful to my kids to purchase their salvation and bring them into the fellowship of his Son. This gives them a new calling, as new creatures, to be in fellowship together and when there is bickering or turning against one another, they are acting out of fellowship and not according to their calling. This fellowship with Jesus requires us to honor and love the ones he gives us.
Siblings are not just friends. They’re unique gifts from God that you don’t get to choose but He gets to choose. Brothers get to practice protecting their sisters both their feelings and physically. Girls get to practice loving and serving their brothers with their hands and their words. Sisters together get to practice choosing words that are sweet like the honeycomb (Proverbs 16:24) and brothers together get to practice laying down their pride to think of each other above themselves (Philippians 2:3). This is kingdom practice. There’s countless ways that siblings are a gift from God.
One way I’ve seen the Lord really build loyalty and love amongst my kids is their care for their youngest sibling who faces different challenges than they do. They rush to her need, they anticipate her struggles and want to help. I know that if anyone puts her down or makes fun of her they are quick to defend her. She does not need to worry if her siblings will stick with her as she goes through different struggles, they are committed to her and that is God’s work in them. Praise God! And he can help them do the same with each other.
Our kids have an opportunity to put up with one another and be nice, or, they can grow to be loyal, committed and in fellowship with one another as they learn what it means to be in the fellowship of Christ. My responsibility is to hold up the loyalty of Christ as their standard, and pray that they too will love His commands.