Brother vs. Brother

The Civil War was a nasty confrontation. New estimates have bumped figures beyond 750,000 deaths. Given the war lasted four years, the math equates to 500 soldiers dying per day—every day. Added to this was the familial aspect—many accounts of family fighting against family—brothers even at war against one another. One such example was the brothers James and Alexander Campbell. James lived in Charleston and fought for the South. Alexander lived in New York and fought for the North.

As providence would have it, the two brothers found themselves pitted against one another at the Battle of Secessionville—the Union Army’s attempt to regain Charleston. The brothers were fighting within yards of each other but were unaware until the battle was nearly over. At its conclusion, James (South) wrote Alexander (North):

I was…during the whole engagement doing by Best to Beat you but I hope that you and I will never again meet face to face Bitter enemies in the Battle field. But if such should be the case You have but to discharge your deauty to Your caus for I can assure you I will strive to discharge my deauty to my country & my cause.

Later, Alexander would write his wife about the brotherly ordeal:

I wish this war was over for I am sick of it….Its rather too bad to think that we should be fighting him on the one side and me on the other…I hope to God that he and I will get safe through it all and he will have his story to tell about his side and I will have my story to tell about my side.

Most of us have had wars. Perhaps we are in one now. The saddest and most consequential ones occur when it is “brother” against “brother”—a battle between Christians. Fallen that we all are, living in a fallen world, and with the Deceiver egging from the shadows; battles between spiritual kin is going to happen.

Most are unnecessary, but I would argue some are. Delineating which are necessary and which are not is beyond the scope of this blog but sometimes in the name of “discharging your deauty to your cause” you will find yourself on opposite sides against a brother redeemed by the same blood as you. How should you then fight? What are the rules of engagement? May I offer a few?

  • Remember you have the same Father.
  • Ask often, “What is my sin that has brought us to this battle?”
  • Fight with a heavy heart and always on the lookout for a potential truce and treaty.
  • Stay away from a “scorch earth” policy that invites collateral damage.
  • Always be mindful others (non-believers) are watching and there is great danger of damaging the Kingdom.
  • Remember that each side is convinced they are on God’s side and that God is on theirs.
  • Stay away from claiming you know the motives of your adversary—are you even aware of your own?

Some have joked through the years about Euodia and Syntyche. The only time these two women are mentioned in the Bible is when they are having a spat. And there they are in our Bibles, at each other’s throat forever.

Listen to the Apostle Paul as he advises these two faithful soldiers in God’s army: “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord…” (Philippians 4:2) Paul’s main concern is that they should “agree in the Lord”; which is a different instruction that they should “agree with one another.” The apostle realizes that because of who we are, there are going to be differences (battles even) between believers. When we find ourselves in one, the rules of engagement above are offered to help us remember we fight against family—family who will be with us in heaven forever. Who knows, God may even have us live next door as neighbors!

The question isn’t whether we will have battles with brothers—we will. The question is when we do how will we fight?

Pastor Rich Hamlin
April 3, 2014

*The letters between James and Alexander Campbell can found here. Or, see the book, “Him on the One Side and Me on the Other.”

1 comment

  1. I’m always concerned about the “brother vs. brother” battles; I’ve been engaged in one for years. Conservative vs. liberal, Christian vs. unbeliever, etc. etc. I have to remember that ultimately they are still my brothers. Blood is thicker than water; if they need help, we’re there – If we need help, they come. Unspoken differences still exist, but they are submerged when a family crisis occurs. It is one source of comfort of coming from a large family.
    The parallel to the War between the States holds if the brothers are subscribed to an ideology that puts others in control of their lives and their actions. We might see that if a Christian brother has to confront a Muslim brother in an ideological conflict.

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