Greatest Friends, Biggest Enemies

Willow Creek | May 24, 2021

This past weekend, Ed Ollie Jr. gave a message on sibling relationships called “Frenemies from Birth.” Ed used the story of Joseph and his brothers to illustrate the severity of strains that can arise between siblings. Our brothers and sisters can be our greatest friendsor our biggest enemies.


Family can be hard. Every relationship in a family is so unique, and the balance to keep those relationships healthy is so delicate. Fathers and sons. Mothers and daughters. Brothers. Sisters. There are so many relationships happening at the same time. We want to be full of love and dependable and gracious in each one of them, but we’re going to inevitably fail. It’s easy, especially in our families, to get caught up competing against one another instead of building each other up.


Joseph and his family had several dysfunctional relationships: Joseph’s dad showed favoritism, and Joseph’s brothers were full of jealousy and hate. Maybe Joseph should have been a little humbler and subtler in his younger years. All of their relationships were taut with tension. Where there should have been boundless love, there was love based solely on action. Where there should have been encouragement, there was pride; there wasn’t selfless love. Although recorded in Scripture thousands of years ago, Joseph and his brothers often mirror our sibling relationships today. 


When we look at our own relationships with our brothers and sisters, are we comparing or are we loving? When one gets a promotion, do we secretly wish it was us? When a baby is announced, do we hide our jealousy? In our minds, do we compare our children to their children? Maybe some of us still fight to be the favorite child, too! 


Joseph eventually became a man of power in Egypt, and his brothers came to him for help. Instead of holding his position over his brothers and making them pay for their past wrongs, Joseph showed incredible grace and mercy. He forgave, served and loved his brothers. 


In our relationships with our siblings, are we doing the same? Are we able to forgive past wrongs? Do we jump in and serve when they need help? Do we love even when they don’t deserve it? Or do we play the role of Joseph’s brothers, full of jealousy and hate?


In his message, Ed quoted Jesus in telling us we must love others as we love ourselves. Especially with our siblings, that can be so hard. We want to earn the most, have the brightest kids, and be the favorite child, but that’s not what we’re commanded to do. We’re commanded to love, not show off, not be the best, and not have the most. Is it time we start reversing some of the dysfunction in our own families? 


How can we start? We start simply: Let’s apologize for words we shouldn’t have said. Let’s encourage instead of trying to one-up. Let’s congratulate and praise each other’s accomplishments instead of wishing they happened to us. 


We’re called to be better, so let’s be better. Using Joseph’s later life as an example, let’s show our own brothers and sisters grace, service, and love. Let’s end our roles in family dysfunction.  Let’s be an example to our siblings, and to our own sons and daughters as well. Let’s cheer on our siblings, let’s encourage them, and let’s ultimately be the brothers and sisters we’d want to have in our own lives.