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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

the "nobody beats on my little brother but me" rule

There is a rule of brotherhood that is seldom spoken aloud, but seems to be nearly universal in it’s acceptance. It is the "Nobody Beats on My Little Brother But Me" rule. In other words, it’s okay for an older brother to tease, pick on, fight with, or otherwise torment his little brother, but if anyone else ever tries it, the older brother turns into the Great Defender of the weak and helpless.

Now I was not one (in my humble opinion) to beat on my little brother, but I will admit that there were times I pushed his buttons and otherwise drove him crazy. But, in keeping with that other seemingly universal rule (the "Little Guys Like to Hang with the Big Guys" rule), it never kept him from spending time with me.

Well, one day Glenn and I were playing Ping-Pong in our basement garage, and one of my friends came over to join us. Chris was a friend of mine from way back, and lived just up the street from us. In later years, it came out that he used to pick on Glenn, but it must have always been when I wasn’t looking. Well, Chris came over and began to play Ping-Pong with us, and after a little while began to tease and taunt Glenn. That soon turned to intentionally beaming Glenn with the Ping-Pong ball at every possible opportunity.

I think I remember leaving it well enough alone… that is, until Chris beamed Glenn real hard right between the eyes. It left a small welt and Glenn crying, which only added to his humiliation. That was enough for me – the rule mentioned earlier kicked in and my "Nobody Picks on My Little Brother but Me" alarms went off.

I’m not real sure why I responded as I did. Perhaps it was because I was basically a non-violent person and had never really been in a fight. Perhaps it was because I wanted to discipline Chris as much as punch his lights out. At any rate, I grabbed Chris and I grabbed a Ping-Pong paddle, and after dragging Chris outside into the grass, I spanked him real good on the bottom with the Ping-Pong paddle. And I told him, "Never, never mess with my little brother!"

Looking back on it all later, I could only laugh at my response. After all, who spanks his friends for picking on their little brother. But, I did what I did – and that’s the story.

There is, at the heart of this crazy "Rule", a deeper principal. That principal is that the bond between brothers is rooted in love and family. There is a connection that says in so many words, "Whatever may be between us, we are family and I love you." At least that describes my relationship with Glenn. I may have made him crazy from time to time, but behind the "Nobody Messes with My Brother" rule and the "Little Guys Hang with the Big Guys" rule was the bond of family – the bond of love. When I saw Glenn being picked on and realized that love was not restraining Chris – that brother bond was not tempering his actions – I rose to Glenn’s defense.

Jesus practiced this brotherhood in a pure way, not even tainted by the tendency to tease or "pick". His relationships were motivated purely by love and the bond of fellowship, so when he related to people, it was for their best and for their benefit.

When Jesus came to the "Sheep Gate Pool" in Jerusalem, he encountered a man who had been an invalid there for 38 years. Jesus responded immediately with love and concern and asked the significant question, "Do you want to get well?" Jesus healed the man… ending the lifestyle he had become accustomed to, introducing something new and probably frightening into the man’s life. Jesus healed the man and sent him away from that place.

There were those who saw the man and did not react so charitably. Those in the temple "picked on" the man – they said it was unlawful to walk around with a mat on the Sabbath. They wanted to know just who had "healed" him on the Sabbath. When Jesus later confronted these people, he came to the man’s defense and claimed the authority of God for the healing. He used the situation as an opportunity to teach and rebuke those in the Temple.

Jesus consistently took on the Pharisees for their misdirection and legalistic warping of the Law of God. Jesus was quick to rebuke and correct this kind of "beating on" God’s people.

I don’t know if the whole Ping-Pong spanking scenario was a picture of the Gospel or not. I do know that deep down I loved my brother and did not want to see him mistreated. And I think of the verse in Proverbs that says "there is a friend closer than a brother." Jesus love for others was of the purest and unconditional kind – he always defended and helped those in need and he expressed his love for humanity in both his life and his teaching.

There were other times that I lost control of my emotions in anger or fear, but this one time at least, I was about my brother’s business. In some way, I hope it was a dim reflection of one who was constantly about his Father’s business.

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