My Brother’s Question


As summer was beginning, my family was getting ready for a short vacation to one of Utah’s beautiful canyons. For some reason, my 15-year-old brother and I got into a big argument. It began as a simple disagreement that led to name-calling, then almost punching each other. Both of us were thinking of the most insulting things we could say. It was an emotional competition in which the winner was the one who didn’t start crying. I was the winner, with my brother fleeing to his room in tears.

The looks I received from my parents and siblings after the argument had ended were intense. As I stood there enjoying my “victory,” my mother interrupted my celebration by telling me of her grave disappointment. She told me how sad it made her to see us argue. My father responded by telling us he didn’t know if there would be a vacation now.

Their words rekindled my anger. Now I was not only fuming at my brother, I was also angry with my parents for their inability to understand my feelings. I was looking for someone to say I had done the right thing and that my brother had deserved what he had received. But no one would. No one, it seemed, was on my side.

While I was getting the disappointed looks from my parents, my nine-year-old brother was sitting on the corner of the couch with his face hidden in a pillow. Suddenly, I heard the sound of him sobbing. I looked at him and asked what was wrong. He raised his head from the pillow, his eyes red and tears rolling down his cheeks. He looked directly into my eyes and said, with a voice shaking from his sobs, “What would Jesus do?”

I was stunned into silence. I watched my younger brother continue to cry, and I began to feel the implications of his words. Here I was, this supposedly mature young man, being taught a lesson by someone half my age. I felt ashamed. I immediately knew what to do. I went to the brother I had been arguing with and tried to apologize. Not surprisingly, he was not in the mood to listen. I left his room and went to mine. I fell on my bed and began to cry out of shame for what I had done. Our younger brother’s words kept ringing in my head: “What would Jesus do?”

I realized how un-Christlike I had been. As I lay on my bed, my recent antagonist walked into my room, ready to accept my apology. With our eyes red and puffy, we gave each other a hug. We continued to talk for a while, and I told him what our little brother had said. Just as it had touched me, it also touched him.

We walked up the stairs together to find the rest of our family waiting for us. We had obviously made peace with each other, so my parents did not say much about the incident. Instead, we again began to prepare for our vacation.

I now realize the importance of that short question my brother asked, and I will always be indebted to him and to whoever taught him that simple question: “What would Jesus do?”

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann