Defrauding a Brother

I don’t have a great deal to say about this next chapter—on Christ as our Elder Brother—because most of it is very good. The mistake that Aimee Byrd is making is the same one again. She says a number of valuable things about the biblical relationship of brothers and sisters, some of them even glorious things, while assuming that they will readily transfer across to friendships.

But I really don’t want to be impossible to please. Here is a sampling of some of the things that she says that are quite good, and that I quite appreciated.

The sibling relation is no trivial thing:

“Aristotle considered it equal to the relationship between a parent and child, ahead of the marriage relationship, and Sirach gave it the highest honor, over friendship and marriage” (Loc. 1808).

The truth of this is assumed from the earliest parts of Scripture.

“Abel is described over and over again as Cain’s brother, to remind us of the affection and responsibility that Cain was to have toward Abel” (Loc. 1826).

We are faced, routinely, with stark, alternative ethical choices:  

“Adam and Eve should have driven out the serpent; instead it drives them out” (Loc. 1839).

For those who are concerned about incipient feminism, there is this:

“The Son of God is male, and to use a gender-neutral term would lose the force of this connection between the Son of God and the redeemed sons of God” (Loc. 1901).

I liked her description of worship over against the coming eschaton. We are preparing, looking forward to, and anticipating the great event. We conduct “dress rehearsals for this new household every Sunday” (Loc. 1952).

The problem is in the pivot. We are adopted as sons of God because we are adopted into the Son of God. We are truly one household, one family. The unity that we have with our brothers and sisters in Christ really is a unity that outranks all other bonds—familial, political, vocational, national, or ethnic. But this does not automatically map onto one-on-one friendships, and if you want to map one onto the other, you really need to show your work, which Aimee is not doing.

Let me give just one example of this, and then we can wait for the next chapter to say any more.

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified” (1 Thess. 4:3–6).

Paul is telling the Thessalonians to abstain from fornication, and not to be driven by, as Aimee would put it, reductive lust. Great, and we are all agreed. Everyone should know how to possess his own vessel (perhaps his own body, or perhaps his spouse’s) without giving way to the lust of concupiscence. But what happens if you don’t heed this injunction?  Paul says that if a man goes beyond this, he defrauds his brother.

Aimee is arguing that a man’s brother/sister relationship with a woman invites him to seek a deeper level of fellowship with her. Paul is arguing that a man should take into consideration one relationship beyond that. For example, when a young unmarried couple are messing around in ways they shouldn’t, and then afterward break up, they not only wrong God in the breaking of His law, and harm one another, but there is the additional element of defrauding a brother. Who might that be? A man he might never meet is his brother, and he is in the back seat with that man’s future wife. And this is described as a sin against brotherhood, which means that lawful jealousy is a factor that brothers must take into consideration as an essential part of our obligations as spiritual siblings.

Of course, Aimee is not arguing in favor of the immorality—she is strongly and plainly against it. But rightful jealousy kicks in long before anybody touches anything. While Aimee sees the sibling relationship as expressed in a tight friendship between a man and a woman, it can be just as much a sign of sibling loyalty to a brother to stay out of a tight friendship with his beloved.