My Brother’s Question


I’m thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m not at fault here.” Then my nine-year-old brother asks a question that cuts right to the heart.

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 in a very heated argument. It began as a simple disagreement that led to name calling first, and almost slugging later. Both of us were thinking of the most insulting things we could say to each other. It was an emotional competition in which the winner was the one who didn’t start crying. Sadly enough, I was the winner.

The looks I received from my parents and siblings after the argument had ended were enough punishment for me. As I sat there struggling to enjoy my “victory,” my mother interrupted my celebration by telling me of her grave disappointment. With tears in her eyes, 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.

And while I was still fuming at my brother, I was also beginning to be extremely 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 gotten. But no one would. No one, it seemed, was on my side.

Amidst all of the disappointed looks I was getting from my parents, my nine-year-old brother was sitting on the corner of the couch with his face hidden in the pillow. I suddenly stopped arguing with my parents when 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. The room was silent except for his crying. Then he said something I will remember the rest of my life. He looked directly into my eyes and said, with a voice shaking from his sobs, “What would Jesus do?”

I sat there, helpless. I watched my younger brother continue to cry, and I began to feel the truthfulness of his words. Here I was, this supposedly mature young man being taught a lesson by someone half my age. I sat there in shock, feeling so angry with myself for what I had done and for the bad example I had set. As the words sank in, I immediately knew what to do.

I went downstairs to my brother’s room and tried desperately to apologize. Not surprisingly, he was not in the mood to accept. 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. My 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 in tears, my brother came walking through the door 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 where the rest of our family was waiting. We had obviously apologized, so my parents did not say very 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 will always be indebted to him and to whoever taught him that simple question: What would Jesus do?

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann