Christian brotherhood is a wonderful yet complex relationship between individuals saved by grace and in continual need of spiritual help from God to live godly lives in a world devastated by sin. Our common heritage as God’s children makes it possible for us to help one another, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to be victorious over Satan and his wicked forces. This is why we are instructed to “carry each other’s burdens,” “instruct one another,” and work at “building up one another.”
God has structured the church like a family, building into it the positive spiritual values and characteristics needed to bring about the growth he desires. When we trust God and are faithful in our stewardship, everyone can realize, to the fullest degree possible, the benefits of our relationship “in the Lord.” But when we take our eyes off Jesus and lose our confidence in his way, we are incapable of helping, or of being helped by, one another.
In an installment of the comic strip “Cathy” by Cathy Guisewite, the young, single heroine is visiting her always-anxious-to-help-even-when-it’s-unwelcome mom and dad. As the three sit on the couch, the conversation between Dad and daughter goes like this:
Dad: “Anything you want to talk about, Cathy?”
Cathy: “No, Dad. I need you to love me, nurture me, support me, help me, fix everything for me and be there for me 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I just don’t want you to know when anything’s wrong.”
Many have experienced the frustration of a friend who keeps others at arm’s length, refusing help, but nevertheless holding them responsible. Sometimes there are understandable reasons for this kind of reticence — but those reasons can make it very difficult, if not impossible, to effectively reach out to those who need encouragement.
A key element needed by everyone in overcoming this reluctance in relationships is patience, even when the human tendency is to just quit. Paul said “love is patient,” so we should “be patient with everyone.” Although it’s often difficult, it is still crucial. Another key is continual prayer, demonstrating our dependence on God, and confidence in his wisdom to help us find the way to help and be helped.