by Joe Greemore
Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. – Romans 12:10, the Voice
During my college days, I had a friend who was a talented football player and an outspoken proponent of his faith among his fellow teammates. I remember wondering what kind of machismo it would take to be both a great athlete and a person of deep zeal on such a huge roster.
One weekend, his younger sister came to visit. As I sat in his dorm room watching a movie with a group of friends, I glanced out of the corner of my eye to see the brother and sister sitting next to each other on the same comfy recliner, arm in arm, her legs resting on his, her head resting on his shoulder. It was such a sweet picture, I haven’t forgotten the image to this day.
Initially, though, I thought it peculiar. “They look like a high school couple on their first date. How can a brother and sister stand to be so close?” Over the next few months, I began to learn more about their family and marveled at the example of intimacy I experienced. He saw his role as big brother protecting his younger sister, and she knew she could trust him and be perfectly content in his presence.
I have no doubt this came from a home life where their parents respected each other, cared for each other deeply, and weren’t afraid to show it. As children of their parents, they were modeling the purity and beauty of intimacy they’d seen in their home life.
What a powerful example of mutual love and support we can set as partners and as parents. By our words, we can lift up the virtues of our partner, or we can chip away with criticisms that create hurt and distance. By our actions, we have the power to model genuine care for our spouses – or, we can enable abusive patterns and selfish tendencies. As parents, we paint a pedagogy, by example or by inverse, of the level of emotional intimacy that should be in a relationship. My friend and his sister were a striking and a beautiful example of how great sibling love can be. Just as God loves each of us as a gracious, reconciling parent who knows our needs and hears our hearts, so we are called to be parents who are deeply connected to our children’s needs, like emotional intimacy and physical protection. Just as Christ said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,” inviting everyone into the family system of God, so each of us, parents, grandparents, and children are called to love with a selfless love that exhibits the very best of our patience, tender affection, and persistence.
It does my heart good when I see my younger son giving great big hugs to his sisters, or when I see my daughter pick up my son (he’s two) like he’s her baby and carry him around like a mommy. I hope they can preserve this fierce love and loyalty for each other on into their college years and life together.
Questions to Spark Discussion
-Our family: As a family, how often do we show “I love you” to one another?
-Challenges to family: What makes ‘loving like brothers and sisters’ uncomfortable or challenging for us?
-Positive examples: Who do we know in our family or friends that exhibits a great example of tenderness for each other?
-Sharing family with others: How is our family communicating things like “love, cherish, and honor” – all acts of other-focus – to our friends and community?
Spiritual Practice: Family Reading
Read Romans 12:9-13 (select the verses appropriate for your family)
Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
(To be practiced together as a family. This may be done in any family setting, with children present or absent. Words for children and grandparents are included for intergenerational participation.)
Parent: God, thank you for [mention each person by name] and for how important [he/she] is to our family.
Parent: Thank you that we can share this time as a reminder that we’re part of your amazing family and that you love each of us so much.
Child(ren): God, may our love grow deeper and stronger every day.
Grandparent(s): My children are a crown of glory, and my grandchildren shine with my hopes for the future.
Everyone: God, thank you for loving us. Amen.
Joe and Shelby have three loveable children: Corbany (6), Addyson (4), and Greyson (2). Through life and ministry in Colorado, Kansas, and Iowa, the Greemores have learned the value of good friendships, hard work, and a deep trust in God’s providence and grace. Shelby is an Elementary Educator and stay-at-home mom, and Joe is an ordained minister in the American Baptist Churches USA serving as pastor at the historic First Baptist Church or Waterloo, Iowa. The Greemores practice faith, life together, and grace daily.