“Loving Your Neighbor” Starts With Loving Your Siblings
This is the second in a series of posts by Lissy Rienow that will address how, as teenagers, we can learn to be Christians with our families. Read the other posts here:
1. “Encouragement for Teens: Living for Christ at Home”
2. “Loving Your Neighbor Starts With Loving Your Siblings”
3. “Give Me Your Heart.”
4. “The Power of Servant Leadership.”
When I was younger, my mom would always say to me, “Your siblings are your best friends. Everyone else will come in and out of your life but your siblings will always be there.”
At the time, I quickly dismissed this and thought, “Well, if they are my best friends they certainly don’t act like it.” Yet, as I have gotten older, God has begun to turn my heart to the ministry of my siblings, and I’m beginning to see the incredible blessing they can be in my life.
As I mentioned in my previous post, living for Christ at home with your family is not as easy as it seems. As teenagers, the world constantly tries to pull our hearts away from the ministry to our families. Perhaps one of the most obvious places this happens is in our relationships with our brothers and sisters. In fact, the stereotype in our culture is that siblings are supposed to hate each other. (With four brothers and two sisters I’ll admit my patience is often tested.)
The prevailing view is that siblings and friends just do not mix together. I know I feel this “battle” going on inside me – Why do I always want to hang out with my friends and not spend time with my brothers or sisters? While everyone says this is a normal part of adolescence, I think it is a spiritual battle for our God-given relationships with our brothers and sisters.
So where do we start? Forgiveness and prayer.
First, forgiveness. For many of us, past hurts can keep us from opening up to our siblings. Learning to forgive, and to forgive often, is a skill that we all need throughout our lives. It’s because God chose our siblings as the people that will be closest to us that they also hold some of the greatest power to hurt us. So the first step in (re)building a sibling relationship may involve forgiving a sibling for something they have done to you. Or maybe you need to ask a sibling for forgiveness because of ways you have hurt them.
This is not easy! Those hurts can be deep and very painful. Yet holding grudges destroys relationships. I have talked to many adults that have little to no relationships with their siblings due to past hurts or conflicts. Learning to forgive your siblings now can preserve a relationship for the future. However, God is the only one that can give us true forgiveness towards our siblings. We must ask for his help each and every day.
The second step in prioritizing sibling relationships is prayer. I am 17 years old and my sister Laynie is 13. We have a great relationship now and I value her as one of my best friends in the world. However, our relationship has improved so much over the years. When we were younger, about ages 12 and 8, we were absolutely horrible to each other. We shared a room, which in of it itself presented a multitude of conflicts. I was bossy and insensitive, while she was rude and disrespectful. Any time our mom asked us to clean our room it would typically end with both of us in tears, refusing to speak to each other.
Over the years, I had deeply hurt my younger sister. Our hearts were very far from each other and our friendship was in pieces. Our relationship hit a turning point when our parents encouraged us to pray with one another. It was not easy at first and very awkward, but eventually we can to a point where we would say a prayer together every night before going to bed. If I forgot to pray one night, I would hear her little voice from the top bunk saying, “Lissy, can we pray together?” This small step of prayer brought healing and forgiveness to our relationship in miraculous ways.
Prayer is vital to sibling relationships! We often share prayer requests with our friends but when was the last time you asked your sibling how you could pray for them, or asking them to pray for you?
I think the answer for many of us would be never. I want the kind of relationship with my siblings that when I have a family of my own, they are the first people I call when I am in need of prayer. Yet in order to have that kind of relationship, we need to start the practice of prayer with our siblings while we are still at home!
Lastly, be intentional with your siblings! This can be as easy as taking a sister out for coffee or throwing a football with a younger brother. My mom always encouraged us to include our siblings with our friends! I love hanging out with my brothers and we often will hang out together in groups of people.
To conclude, I want to reiterate that none of this is easy. I will be the first to admit that I fail so often at treating my siblings like they are my best friends. I can be rude, bossy, and cranky and they can be equally as difficult. However, I would not trade my God-given relationship with any of them. We cannot love our siblings through our own strength. We must pray and ask God to fill our hearts with forgiveness and love. Often times that prayer can go something like this,
God, please turn my heart towards the ministry of my siblings. Thank you that you have given them to me as my best friends. Please help me forgive them for any ways they have hurt me and please make me aware of ways that I may have hurt them. Please help me to be intentional with them and be filled with gentleness and love. Amen.