Sibling Apathy – Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Siblings just don’t know how to live with one another. At least, that’s what you would say if you tried to trace out the lives of most siblings in the Bible.

We see Cain murder Abel, Jacob tricking Esau and Joseph being sold into slavery by his own older brothers. Jesus’ biological brothers made fun of the very Son of God- we’re glad He did not zap them with thunderbolts in return. If you’ve had siblings, you would have had your (un)fair share of animosity, bruises and tears.

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But sibling apathy is another matter. This less-intensive but destructive phenomenon is easily noticeable in adults.

How many families you know have had simmering sibling conflicts leading to decades of mutual indifference?

How many great relationships have just died a slow death because after a point blood-brothers or blood-sisters have said, “I am done trying to maintain this relationship- I have my life”?

When you meet a brother in financial need and all you could show is emotional, superficial concern and lukewarm indifference beneath it.

When a sister corrects or confronts you, but you want to defend yourself at any cost; you are in the middle of sibling apathy.

It’s curiously sad how we can profess much love toward people outside our families but can neglect those God gives us as our own – and this happens in churches. Such is our broken world.

Sibling Apathy – on the way to Heaven
Sibling apathy is common among spiritual siblings. Members of the church, God’s own family (Eph 2:19), have every tendency toward sibling apathy because of indwelling sin in us Christians (Rom 7:15, 17), though we have the very life of Jesus in us (Gal 2:20).

Good Friday is a reminder of the greatest example of compassion and love ever. While He was not our older brother, Jesus Christ sacrificed himself on the cross and faced God’s judgment for a people who did not deserve goodness (Rom 5:7, 8).  Not only did Jesus purchase our new life of freedom, righteousness and adoption into God’s family, He also gave members of His body to one another and made spiritual avenues to help us love our neighbour – within the church too!

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What are these avenues? These are commands in the Bible called “one-anothers”. These commands call Christians to do certain things and to not do certain other things to one another (hence the popular name “one-another”).

Jesus Expects

To whom do these commands apply?

Jesus wants to protect us from indwelling sin. He wants us to actively fight sibling apathy and overthrow it. The charge of building up one another in its context is given to members of local churches. Many of the “one-another’s” in the Bible stood out primarily as commands for Christians in the first churches. They become minimum expectations Jesus has of each of His disciples at least within respective local churches. They are commands, not preferences or suggestions.

We at Marg churches will fulfill the “one-another” commands if we have faith that God is our Father and we are, in reality, family members.

So how do we obey these commands?

Just like in ideal biological families, there are both formal and informal ways to build up one another, the example of disciple-making in Scripture is both formal-instructive (Acts 2:42) and informal-lived out by example in daily life (2 Tim3:10). Both models are necessary to build up disciples of Jesus Christ in a wholesome manner.

Many people on the internet have compiled the One- another list of commands in the Bible. I have copied it here below so we can reflect on them, see how Jesus fulfilled them perfectly to secure our powerful righteousness and then jump into fulfilling them ourselves. Some of these commands may contain awkward other cultural terms (e.g. kissing, washing others’ feet). If a couple of commands confuse you, for now just focus on the commands that are amply clear to you. God expects obedience to what we know.

One-another Commands

Leviticus 19:11 Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another.

John 13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

James 4:11 Do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

1 Peter 3:8 Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Peter 5:5 Be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James 5:9 Don’t grumble against each other, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing.

1 Thessalonians 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

1 Thessalonians 5:13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage each other with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other.

1 Thessalonians 3:12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices

Philippians 4:2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:25 There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.

Galatians 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

1 Corinthians 11:33 When you come together to eat, wait for each other.

Romans 1:12 That is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.

Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Discipleship at Marg
“So many commands! How do I even begin to follow them?” To those who feel overwhelmed, here is God’s trustworthy promise –

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Romans 5: 17

God’s word promises the free gift of righteousness, which Jesus gave us when we were saved, will make us have victory in life. Lean on this good news by faith and you will have power to obey!

As to the methods, there are many. Members of Marg churches have an avenue already given to easily follow the commands of Jesus. We call it as Members’ meeting groups or simply DNA groups. Hopefully, you are looking to obey these commands of Jesus between your DNA group buddies at the very least.

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DNA groups are the foremost among many opportunities for you to exercise obedience to Jesus in all things (Matt 28:18-20). And we must live our shared-life in Christ (fellowship) not just for four hours on a Sunday in a hall, but through the week in various formal and informal manners possible. Shopping together, cooking together, serving the underprivileged together- the possibilities are endless and could vary in shape and size from one church to another!

If we do not fulfill these Biblical one-another commands, then we somehow think it is OK to just disobey the one we call Master and Lord. By ignoring our spiritual family, we deny He is King & Father, week after week. How can we?

No matter who we are or what we do, we have no excuse to ignore His commands. It’s time we put our life in line with “Christ-ian” and obey Christ who loved us. He has given you the power and expects you to gladly fulfill your responsibilities toward your spiritual siblings, one person at a time. This Good Friday, let’s repent of sibling apathy that nailed Jesus to the cross.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35

As you reflect on the “one-another”commands, please let us know which ones inspire you the most.

Which commands have you personally found the most difficult to obey? Why?

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