A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
– Proverbs 17:17 –
The bible says this is what friends do and that this is what brothers are born for.
Q) Is this your experience? A) Probably not…at least, probably not entirely.
It’s more likely that you have been hurt by your friends, vice versa, and that you have shirked the risk of taking responsibility of the adversity of a brother (or sister, obviously).
This is hard-core because it is rarely easy or risk-free to love others, (even friends), or voluntarily enter into adversity with them as they meander or even hurtle into trouble. By nature we want to protect ourselves from the cost and the risk of Christ-like friendship and brotherhood which, at the core, demands the laying down of life itself (John 15:13).
Whether or not the bible is distinguishing between brothers and friends here isn’t my main point (that’s another article). My main point is that Jesus would mean us to take responsibility for loving at all times and embracing the adversity of others. I am aware of times, as I’m sure you are, when I have hurt my friends by not being loving. Brothers and sisters, I am sure that is also the case when you have preferred self-preservation to the entering into of the high-risk adversity of your siblings.
But this isn’t good enough. This one, small verse forces us to look at the quality of our friendship and brothering of others and, ultimately, asks if we really are friends or brothers at all.
This is what friendship is; this is what friendship is not.
Harbour-side Punch Up
I remember one occasion, roughly 15 years ago, when my brother and I were in our late teens. We had both been out with our ‘friends’ separately for a few drinks in Torquay and didn’t actually see each other until the end of the night by the JP (Jacket Potato) van.
As I approached the JP van and Torquay’s harbour-side with my ‘friends’, I received a text on my Nokia 3210 saying that my brother had been involved in a fight and was hurt. Knowing that my brother wasn’t a fighter at all, I felt a strong inclination to want to fight on his behalf. But I’m not a fighter either. The fact was though that my brother had been attacked, was hurt, and was at risk of being more hurt.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been anywhere near having a fight with anyone, (it’s not in my nature), but on this occasion I was ready to rumble with the whole of the harbour-side to protect my brother who was bleeding and shaken up. I squared up to the lad who’d hit him and gave him an option to go immediately, (that was my suggestion to him), and he did. I think he could see that I was ready to enter into to my brother’s adversity with him.
Fight as Though For Yourself
I have guys in my world (including my actual brother) who I would very quickly identify as my hard-core friends. Not mates. Friends. They’re guys who’d take a punch for me, or even a full-on beating. They’re guys who would enter into my own adversity and fight for me as though they were fighting for themselves, even though they could easily walk away and distance themselves so as to self-preserve.
I have had other ‘friends’ in recent years who have not wanted to enter into my adversity but rather draw their boundary lines and stay away, even in the name of ‘wisdom’ or of something pretending to look like that. In these moments that have proven themselves not to be friends or brothers. Why? Because friends love at all times (not only when it suits) and brothers are born for adversity (not only when it’s all peachy).
As a disciple and follower of Jesus, there is nothing more important to me that growing in love for God. This trumps making disciples because it is the greatest commandment. I’d want this as my epitaph.
I’d also want on my epitaph that I grew more and more as friend who loved at all times and a brother who was born for adversity.
There is much adversity in this life. May this little verse spur us on to fight for others more than we would for ourselves.