I have three brothers and no sisters. When we were young and would sometimes get into squabbles, my father would occasionally discipline us by having us apologize and then hug each other. I can’t say I felt repentant when I awkwardly gave one of my brothers a quick hug. Dad would often comment, “Someday you’ll be more grateful for your brothers.” He was right.
In the Bible, the word “brother” gets used for more than just two boys or men who have the same parents. Once in a while you’ll hear the term used for a man who is closely related by blood. For instance, Lot is called Abraham’s brother (Genesis 13:8) even though he was really his nephew. On other occasions people might be called brothers if they come from a kindred race or nation. In Deuteronomy 23:7 Moses says, “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother.” Of course fellow Jews were called brothers all the time (see Jeremiah 34:9).
But Jesus calls us to use the term in a couple of ways that are deeper. The first is in relationship to all people who have the same first parents. “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22). This text obviously refers to more than someone who has the same parents as you.
But greater still is the application of the word brother (and sister) to another Christian who is a fellow believer. That’s why we read passages like, “I Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches in Galatia” (Galatians 1:1, 2 emphasis supplied).
There is a final use of the word brother that touches us all in a way that helps us understand the depth of Christ’s love for us. “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29 NKJV). Jesus so identified Himself with humanity that this filial expression is used to capture a strong relationship that tells us how devoted He is to us.
My favorite way this is portrayed in Scripture comes from the following verse: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
Love for my three brothers has definitely grown and changed over the years. So also has my love for a Brother who will always stand beside me.