Bible Bites

Bible Bites

Thankful for Your Bretheren

Some of the most amazing words in the New Testament are those of Jesus about His apostles in John 17. For example, "And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them" (verse 26).

Why are such words so amazing? They indicate a profound thankfulness for weak, vacillating men who had given Jesus all kinds of problems with their immature faith.

How Could Jesus Be Thankful for Such Men?

Key #1. He was able to see the good within each of the apostles in spite of their glaring weaknesses. For this reason, horrendous apostolic blunders such as Peter's impulsive words on the mount of transfiguration, his sinking beneath the waves, Thomas's skepticism and the childish feuding for preeminence were not met with angry disgust, but with gentle, yet stern, rebuke. Jesus was not blinded to the good in the apostles by their defects and was therefore able to be sincerely grateful for those qualities that shallow, impatient eyes would have overlooked.

Key #2. He gave everything He had to help them. It is an amazing fact that we are most thankful for those for whom sacrifice the most.

My wife, Beverly, and I had to give up our sleep, sanitary concern (dirty diapers), free time and innumerable other small blessings to take care of little Leah when she was born. At that time she seemed to give only slobbering, early morning yelling sessions and dirty diapers in return.

Yet, it seems the more time we spend, bleary-eyed at 3 A.M. in the rocking chair, and the more we exert ourselves in other ways for Leah and older sister Rebecca, the more deeply grateful we are for them.

As parent's sacrifices for their children deepen their gratitude for them, so the incomprehensible sacrifices that Jesus made for His apostles, His emptying of Himself (Philippians 2) and thousands of hours of prayer and teaching must have made it possible for Him to express such deep thanksgiving for them in spite of their sometimes serious faults.

How Can We Be More Thankful for Our Brethren?

Too often brethren are at worst a source of intense aggravation, or at best people with whom we can very politely discuss "niceties" two or three times a week. How can we cultivate that fervent love and closeness that produces such strong feelings of thanksgiving as those demonstrated by Jesus toward His apostles?

Key #1. We must follow the example of Jesus and learn to see more than the weaknesses of brethren, but the good as well. Sometimes the odd turn that a brother has, the weird idea, or the time he offended me five years ago become so big in my mind that I can see I good in him, much less be grateful for him.

This inability to cope with any deficiencies in other brethren has perhaps been the greatest obstacle to peace and growth in the kingdom. While sects that emphasize closeness among members have grown by leaps and bounds in spite of hard-toswallow doctrines, growth among true brethren has often been stunted by a lack of love brought on by a lot of growling, snapping and yapping at each other that reminds one of a stirred-up dog kennel. In such all-too-common flareups, brethren seem about as thankful for each others as the Iranians are for the Iraquis. And they wonder why they don't grow! When some take every weakness in a brother as if it were a sign that he has fallen from grace, is it any wonder that such brethren seem to be sitting in their foxholes suspiciously peering out at each other while emitting low, threatening growls?

Satan has won many battles because we have simply overlooked Jesus' example of patience with His apostles in spite of their shortcomings. Don't misunderstand me. Jesus did not ignore weaknesses nor participate in error as some extremists would have us do. But neither did He treat all faults as if they were signs of hopeless depravity.

Weaknesses in sincere Christians must be corrected, but with due. time, gentleness and patience (2 Timothy 2.24-25).

Key #2. We must give ourselves to our brethren. Do you feel a need to be more thankful for your brethren? Follow the example of Jesus and give yourself to serving them. Have them in your home for dinner or dessert. Go on a picnic with them or out for ice cream after services. Attend a meeting with them or go to a ballgame. Pray with them, study with them, cry with them and give your money to them when they need it.

Unhappily, we often do not open ourselves up to our brethren because of a growing emphasis in our increasingly urban society on privacy and formality. Some brethren have gotten so polite with each other that they would seldom think of visiting one another without formal invitations, fine china and complicated entrees with foreign names. All this formality tends to limit the all important contact outside of worship services. After all, who wants to drag out the crystal glasses once or twice a week? With less giving and exchange there is less thankfulness for each other; and with less thankfulness, churches become cold and dead.

Christians must burst through the shell of shyness that the urban formality has produced so that they can give freely of themselves to each other with confidence and openness. When brethren share our homes, our activities and our hearts, then we can learn to be truly thankful for them.


The world is too evil to face without this close brotherly relationship that God has given us. Look at those fighting evil alongside of you. You need them and they need you! Remember the keys to Jesus' thankfulness for His apostles and be thankful for your brethren, even if they have some weaknesses. Fight Satan with them, fight for them and go to heaven with them.