We are God’s children, bought by the blood of Jesus who secured both our adoption into His kingdom and our inheritance of eternal life with Him. God is our Father, we are His daughters and sons – heirs in the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:14-17).
This gracious gift, our envelopment into the family of God, is no small thing. It changes, or it should change, everything about the way we interact with each other.
If you love the Father, you also love those born into his family (1 John 5:1). There’s no room for favoritism (James 2:1-13), selfishness (Philippians 2:3-4), or isolation (Hebrews 10:25). We are called to love one another as Jesus has loved us – willing to lay aside all our own desires and sacrifice our lives for the good of others.
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”– John 13:34-35
We are brothers and sisters, called to love one another deeply whether we like it or not. Do we think of this when we interact with fellow children of God? Do we ponder the implications of this truth when relationships within the church are difficult? Do we relate in a way that demonstrates God’s love to the watching world?
As a concept, we may understand the need for deep siblinghood in the church. We may even practice it to an extent. I believe the church is proficient in promoting and encouraging siblinghood with those of the same sex.
But do we practice saintly siblinghood when it comes to male and female relationships?
With sexual abuse, objectification, gossip, and “rulebooks” flying in our faces, it seems impossible for male and female friendships to thrive in the church.
Some decide to avoid friendships with the opposite sex altogether. Better safe than sorry, they say.
Some decide to exploit and pursue boundaryless relationships. Better something rather than nothing, they say.
Yet we cannot avoid and we cannot exploit.
Can we interact as brothers and sisters in a way that honors God and one another?
We are tempted to believe all kinds of lies about the opposite sex, and we must address those lies and allow repentance to take place before we can move forward in godly siblinghood.
Women, do you believe your brothers to be more sinful than you, or more susceptible to lust? Do you believe all men have bad motivations when they talk to you? Do you believe all men are violent or prone to violence? Are there other lies you believe about men you need to repent of today?
Men, do you believe your sisters are more easily manipulated than you? Do you believe that all women are naturally temptresses? Do you believe that women are less intelligent or weaker than men? Are there other lies you believe about women you need to repent of today?
Brothers and sisters, we are not objects for each other’s self-gratification. We do not exist to fill voids, to meet needs, to provide ultimate comfort or satisfaction, or to fulfill our desires for attention. We do not exist to be used by one another but rather loved by one another.
How do we love one another in a healthy, God-honoring way? What does the siblinghood of the saints look like practically?
We cannot take our cues from the world and give in to the objectification of men and women. If we do, we risk minimizing the family of God, damaging relationships with fellow believers, and tainting our witness to those who do not believe the gospel.
We can look to Jesus’ life and draw some general conclusions from his interactions with women. To put it briefly, Jesus demonstrated love, care, protection, forgiveness, trust, and deep fellowship with women when He was on earth (Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 7:36-50, Luke 8:1-3, Luke 13:10-13, John 4:1-24, John 20:11-27).
This kind of siblinghood is foreign to many of us, and there are numerous ways we need to grow in how we encourage deep friendships in the church. As a specific, practical encouragement, group settings should be the primary way we learn. I want to be clear that I believe it is unwise to advocate isolated, deep friendships between men and women who are not married. However, the church is a beautiful context for the siblinghood of the saints to flourish! Small groups, fellowship meals, Sunday morning conversations, and other group settings open up countless opportunities for men and women to practice deep friendships and fellowship with one another.
Surely we all must act with wisdom according to conscience in our relationships with the opposite sex. We ought to have nuance and balance. If we avoid one another, we give in to fear and distrust. If we exploit one another, we give in to selfishness and abuse. If we love one another as Jesus loved us, we demonstrate the magnificent gift of the family of God, and by this, we declare the reason for our love: it is by God alone.
We must remember that we are family members, called to eternal togetherness. We must pursue the siblinghood of the saints if we want the world to know our God.