As I've mentioned before, the relationships between my children, particularly Logan and Emma, are not always smooth. And as parents, we rack our brains to figure out what can do to make them kinder to each other. We try bribes, punishments, guilt-trips, and wonder whether we are at fault ourselves for the way they snipe at each other. I decided the best thing to do is to look at sibling rivalry in a Biblical way, and when I started thinking of the Bible, some quite interesting thoughts occurred to me.
Basically, sibling rivalry is rife all through the Bible. Come with me for a bit of a look.
Cain and Abel. When the very first pair of brothers in recorded history didn't see eye to eye on the way to do things, whatever makes us think the rest of us will be any different?
Isaac and Ishmael. The friction between this pair of half brothers is still causing repercussions in the world some 3000 years later!
Esau and Jacob. Hopefully none of my children will ever be compelled to flee for their life from one of the others.
Leah and Rachel. Quite a sad bit of sisterly rivalry. How about that line in Genesis 30: 15 where Rachel tells Leah, "He can sleep with you tonight, in return for your son's mandrakes." It takes share and share alike to a level we wouldn't want to contemplate.
Joseph and his brothers. I still think it was a bit unwise for him to tell them about his dreams.
David's sons Absalom and Amnon. This was a very nasty bit of sibling rivalry, festering for years before it finally erupted in violence.
David's relationship with his own brothers when he was young. I love reading the interplay between David and his oldest brother Eliab in 1Samuel 17: 28-29. We get similar sorts of comments in our household. In effect, Eliab says, "What are you doing here? I know how conceited you are. You can't keep your nose out of anything. What about your sheep?" And David responds, "Now what have I done? I can't even open my mouth around here!"
Even seemingly smooth sibling relationships like that between Moses, Aaron and Miriam had their rocky patches.
So the first thing all of this shows me is that God certainly isn't taken by surprise when my little brood get involved in fights and arguments. He knows what siblings are like. Maybe He gives them to us as a double-sided "blessing." They certainly teach us attributes such as patience and long-suffering. Is it unrealistic to expect our homes to be full of young Davids and Jonathans (who, interestingly enough, were not real brothers by blood, anyway.)
In fact, I think you can tell when you're in a Christian bookstore. Other parents, leaning over the indoor playground barriers, call, "Obadiah, stop bashing Ezekiel over the head!"
Jesus had younger brothers and sisters Himself and still never sinned! That is enough to blow my mind, even though there were occasions when his siblings grumbled and murmured about Him.
I searched the scriptures to work out what should be my response when Logan, Emma and Blake are arguing. I'm actually drawn to the response Jesus gave to the man in Luke 12: 13 who said, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" In other words, "This has nothing to do with me. Sort it out between yourselves." I love it.