The word “brother” in the Bible can mean many things. But most frequently, it refers to a male sibling, born of the same parents as other offspring, who forms a part of the family.
There are numerous stories in the Bible that tell of intense jealousy, disdain, and even hatred between brothers. But God condemned such hostility. He placed a curse on Cain after he killed Abel. He didn’t give the full blessing of the Abrahamic covenant to Jacob until after he reconciled with Esau. He elevated the positions of both Joseph and David after each had been shunned and mistreated by their brothers.
Many other brothers, including half brothers, are referred to in the scriptures as well. Examples include Moses and Aaron, Solomon and Adonijah, and James and John, to name a few.
And then there is simply “the brother.” Like the unknown soldier who is entombed in Arlington National Cemetery, this unnamed brother is enshrined in the verses of 2 Corinthians 8:18-22.
“With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the churches for his preaching of the gospel. And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you.”
This scripture memorializes and honors the many unnamed brothers of the world and the admirable character traits they bear.
“The brother” — although unnamed — was well known. People in the community knew who he was. He was trusted and well liked and could preach the good news. He gave others credibility by his presence. He was above suspicion, not only in the sight of the Lord, but in the sight of man. “The brother” had deep convictions — he had been tested and it had been proven in many ways. His convictions deepened because of his association with the godly.
The Bible tells us “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17) God sends us our brothers to encourage and assist us during our times of need.
It’s what they were born for. It’s in their DNA.
This column is written in honor of my brother, Steve, for his birthday. It is also written in condolence for Johnda Holbrook, a sister to the late Danny Mooney.
STACY KEELIN may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org