Hayden Holland, who obeyed the gospel less than three years ago, taught his first Bible class last night at Teens in the Word. It was an excellent, hour-plus long study of the parallels between serving in the military and living the Christian life. In this very practical study, Hayden mentioned the Army’s concept of brotherhood. The fraternity and bond built by basic training and the structural philosophy of the armed forces creates this sense of brotherhood among soldiers. Without fellowship, he said, disputes will pull soldiers apart. Throughout his lesson, Hayden urged us to “do brotherhood.” Brotherhood is a noun, meaning “the feeling of kinship with and closeness to a group of people or all people” (Dictionary, version 2.2.1, 2016). Peter uses the word in 1 Peter 2:17, a word, according to BDAG, meaning, “A group of fellow-believers, a fellowship” (19; cf. 1 Pet. 5:9—“brethren”). Hayden’s exhortation to us was to do what it takes to create that feeling and fellowship. Saying we are brethren, even acknowledging and teaching what God says is necessary to become part of that brotherhood, is insufficient of itself. There is something to be done!
He directed us to the seven values touted by the army—“loyalty, duty, respect, honor, integrity, courage, and selfless service”—as examples of how we can “do brotherhood” in the Lord’s Army (cf. Eph. 6:10ff). Doing brotherhood means taking time to listen to and help our brothers and sisters in Christ when they are struggling. It means spending time together, engaging in each others’ lives. It means being faithful to live out what we say we believe daily, in the world and in the absence of our church family, because we love them and don’t want to let them down. It means talking out our problems and disagreements. As we work to see ourselves as a part of something bigger than just ourselves, the effect is revolutionary. Non-Christians see the bond we have with our brethren and it draws them. Jesus told His disciples that this brotherly love would be their identifying mark to a searching world (John 13:34-35).
How often it has been observed that Christianity is more than a state of being; it requires a life of doing. The brotherhood consists of all those within the body of Christ. But, that “group” has to be maintained, sustained, and retained. Such requires action! My action and your action. Let’s be sure we are “doing” brotherhood!
There is an old episode of Father Knows Best where Bud, the Andersons’ son, has a glowing write up in the local newspaper for his star performance as his High School’s placekicker. Success goes to his head, leading Bud to break the team’s training rules and stay out past 9:00 P.M. His father finds out and urges him to tell his coach. Bud begrudgingly does so, and he becomes convinced that his doing the right thing and being honest would lead the coach to let him off with a warning or look the other way. When he’s told he cannot play that week because of his violation, he sulks and even blames his dad for giving him bad advice. Eventually, Bud takes ownership of his misdeed, has a more humble attitude toward his importance, and even appreciates the decisions of his dad and coach to help him excel as a person more than a player.
Perhaps personal ethics have eroded to the point that many find such advice and subsequent actions preposterous and wrongheaded. The lesson was that actions have consequences and that honesty should be practiced, not for reward but simply because it is right to do so. Trustworthiness and responsibility are the fruits of integrity and uprightness.
These principles, though unstated in that old television show, are thoroughly biblical in nature. Broadly, the Bible praises those of upright heart (Ps. 7:10; 64:10). Psalm 15 says those who walk uprightly, work righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart (2). It is often more difficult to do the right thing than the easier thing, but the path of least resistance does not usually lead us in the right direction. We made each of our boys read Alex Harris’ Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations. An overarching principle is that your choices should not be made based on what’s most convenient or least demanding. Character is built when we have the courage of God’s convictions and do what is right, whatever it may seem to cost us in the short-term. Ultimately, we will be better for it and so will the people in our lives!
In 1 John 5:19, John readies the close of this epistle by observing, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (NKJ). The Greek word translated “lies in the power of” (ESV, NAS) or “is under the sway of” is a word meaning “to be in the power of one” (Zodhiates) and “to lie in” (TDNT). Bauer adds, “As the believer abides in Christ, so that he is nourished and fruitfully sustained by Him, so the world lies in the devil, by whom it is controlled and rendered helpless and powerless, and finally killed” (ibid.). This gives us a clear picture of not only what the saints in John’s day dealt with, but also what our current spiritual climate is.
There is a growing culture of unbelief in contemporary society, a skepticism toward a truly biblical worldview. With that, there is an intolerance bred by ignorance, a bias against the objective truth of Scripture. In its place, there is a glorification of and infatuation with people and things the Bible calls sin. That is not novel to our age. Yet, it is good for us to be reminded that such misplaced affection is the result of a culture that lies in the devil, controlled and subdued by his way of thinking. Paul tells the would be soul-winner to approach that work this way, “gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses” (2 Tim. 2:24-26a). What’s their problem? They are in “the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26b).
We encounter people every day whose choices are the result of having come under the sway of the devil. They have shaped their lives, their goals, and their desires, by the way he says that fulfillment, satisfaction, and pleasure are derived. For many, they do not know another way much less the way God has laid out in His Word. Perhaps if we remind ourselves how people got where they are, we can help them get where Christ wants them to go. So many are looking for a better way and they know they have not found it. Let us invest ourselves in them and through that relationship show them “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).