Written and media by Jonathan Bremer.
Brotherhood is an interesting concept that I have never really understood. I never had a biological brother, but I remember being extremely jealous of other guys who did. Whether they were younger, older, the same age—it didn’t matter. I wanted a brother. I finally got one, but not in the way my narrow-focused nine-year-old self, imagined I would. Now here I am at the age of 21, talking about how God helped me to think differently about brotherhood.
When I hear conversations about what brotherhood is, the response I get almost 90% of the time describes a kind of relationship where “iron sharpens iron.” This is true, and scripture confirms this as it speaks generally about our relationships in Proverbs 27:17. It says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Like the verse above, the Bible gives us many examples of what this should look like, but it also shows us exactly who our brothers are. Brotherhood should be about “sharpening one another” through openness, accountability, and trust. It is also about doing life with that person and being present for mental and spiritual support too. That portion is as important, if not more important than the physical piece. Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for times of adversity.”
Now, there is an inherently incarnational aspect to this brother relationship, and that physicality is still important. We have to be ready to stand with our brothers when they find themselves under fire. Loyalty is a defining trait here. With that, these pieces of accountability, competition, compassion, connectedness, trust, and loyalty are rooted at the heart of brotherhood. These don’t just grow overnight either. They must be developed through time, a combination of mutual and individual experiences, difficult conversations, and oftentimes, conflict. This is quite a bit different than the romanticized idea of brotherhood that is often presented to us.
Fostering true brotherhood is difficult and there are many obstacles along the way. The only way we can truly create that lasting, strong relationship is by embracing the awkward and the uncomfortable. Intentionality and vulnerability are of the utmost importance in the creation and strengthening of this special kind of friendship.
As we continue to think about brotherhood, I’d encourage you to think about your best friend and the relationship you have with him. Is your relationship a strong one? Does your “brother” hold you accountable for your words and actions? Are you able to be open and vulnerable about your life with him? If you answered yes to these questions, I would encourage you to think about how your relationship grew to that point.
Not all of us have biological brothers, but that does not make people any less of a brother to us. In scripture, Jesus reminds us that our brothers extend farther than the confines of our biology. In fact, Matthew 12:50 tells us that, “For whoever does the will of the father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” This is a really cool thing to think about as it implies a sort of adoption that is really exciting. It made me realize that I did, in fact, have brothers, and it allowed me to take off some of the blinders I was wearing over my eyes.
As we think about who our brothers are, and how we should develop brotherly relationships in light of the Gospel, I would recommend re-reading these verses along with doing some more reading on your own. Developing these kinds of brotherly relationships helps us to sharpen, support, and build each other up. God can and does use these relationships to help equip us to do His will.