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If you searched the Bible for passages about sibling love, you wouldn't find much. But the fact of the matter is that the Bible has lots to say about sibling love!

We often talk about love and wanting our children to love each other. But what does “love” actually look like? Are we talking about some warm fuzzy feelings? Or is love an intentional choice, an attitude, a purposeful reaction?

Let’s examine a familiar passage about love from I Corinthians 13 and lay it out as it might look applied to the relationships of brothers and sisters.

[Sibling] love is patient;

I know that I have struggles.  I know that she does, too.  I want to keep on loving her, even when it seems like it will take a long time for her to understand or improve.

[Sibling] love is kind;

God gives generously and without reproach.  I want to do the same for him.

[Sibling] love does not envy

I can be happy for her to enjoy something that I don't have or get.  It gives me joy to see her happy!

or boast;

When I talk to him, I want to think about how I can encourage and bless him, not on how I can promote myself or make myself feel (or him think) that I am better than him.

it is not arrogant

I do not assume that my opinion is the only right opinion or that my perspective is the only one that matters.  Instead, I assume that there is much I can learn from her and that her thoughts and ideas are valuable.

or rude

I know that the words I choose, the tone of voice I use and what my body language says matter.  I know that, while my intentions are important, it is also important that I communicate them carefully.

It does not insist on its own way;

The universe does not revolve around me.  My needs and my desires are important.  But they are not the only ones that are important.  Letting him have his way can tell him that his needs and desires matter to me.

it is not irritable

I know that I am a sinner.  Other people around me have to deal with my sins.  Isn't it a little silly of me to behave as though I don't deserve to have to deal with her sins?

or resentful;

I need to keep a clean slate with him.  I want to deal with problems quickly, rather than keeping a list of his faults and offences.  If I find myself quickly reacting negatively, or saying things like "He always ..." or "He keeps on ..." this might be a sign that I'm not keeping short accounts.

it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,

My value does not come from being better than other people around me.  Therefore, when I see her fail or fall, that doesn't make me any better of a person.  My reaction to her struggles should be compassion, not delight.

but rejoices with the truth.

When we have a dispute, I should be most interested in getting to the bottom of the matter.  I want to know what is true (even about my own heart) more than I want to be "the winner".

[Sibling] love bears all things,

Jesus bore my sins on the cross to death.  And through his grace I can bear the hardships and sufferings that come as a part of my relationship with him.

believes all things,

I should not jump to conclusions about her.  I should not assume the worst.  Instead, I should give her the benefit of the doubt and approach her with questions rather than accusations.

hopes all things,

The same God that is living and active in me is living and active in him.  I am watching with hopeful expectations to see the beautiful things God will work in his heart and life and in our relationship with each other.  Like a sailor in the crow's nest scouting for the next bit of land, I'm ready to take note and to give thanks when I see what I'm on the look-out to catch sight of!

endures all things.

I will not give up on her.  She might need some space.  I might need some space.  But we're not "done".  How many chances does she get?  Not seven.  Seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22)

[Sibling] love never ends ...

Love never ends...
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

One more thing  before you go

Dear Mother,

If you are anything like me, you might be rubbing your hands together, cracking your knuckles and preparing to print this out and go preach a morality sermon to your children.  Could I ask you to do one thing before you head down that road?  Would you please go through this list one more time and instead of reading from the perspective of one sibling to another, read it from the perspective of a mother to her children.

(Go ahead.  I'll wait while you look it over.)

Was that painful?  If so, don't panic.  All of the "ouch" moments are actually extremely, hugely, magnificently excellently valuable opportunities for modeling love to your children.  Pull out your heart and place it on the table in front of your children.  Get out the microscope and let them take a look.  Point out what you see that doesn't match what you read above.  Tell them you are sorry for the times you've treated your agenda like it was the only one that mattered.  Explain that speaking rudely to them - or anyone - isn't loving and you want to grow in that area.

Then, take them with you as you go to the cross.  Pray - out loud, right there in front of them - and show them what we do with sins and failures when we find them.  Confess.  Thank the Lord for his free grace and forgiveness.  And then invite them to do the same with you.  That would be a great way to start the "sermon" (Matthew 7:4). 😉

  • Brilliant Lynna!! I’ll be reading this and duscussing it with my kids. Thank you!!

    • Thank you, Ana! That’s great! It’s so important to have time to talk about these things when there isn’t a “struggle” in the middle of happening. 🙂

  • You are literally talking to me right here! I was reading it, thinking I should print it, then rereading it and feeling convicted! Thanks so much for sharing.

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    Lynna Sutherland is the mother of eight kids ages teen to toddler. She hosts the Sibling Relationship Lab podcast and writes about sibling conflict resolution and sibling relationship building. Lynna believes that the gospel transforms sibling conflict from an obstacle to an opportunity and loves to show other parents the freedom and confidence of gospel-centered parenting.