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He Ain't Heavy - He's My Brother

He Ain’t Heavy – He’s My Brother


   Many will likely recognize the title of this week’s article as a song from 1969 by the Hollies, and Neil Diamond and the Osmond’s in 1970. This song has been recorded by many different artists over the years.   But have you ever wondered about how the title came to be?   According to Wikipedia, in 1884, James Wells wrote a book about the parables of Jesus. In that book, he tells the story of a little girl carrying a big baby boy.   When asked if she wasn’t tired, she was surprised and replied. “No, he’s not heavy, he’s my brother.   Then in 1918, Ralph Waldo Trine wrote a publication entitled The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit in which he relates the same situation as an anecdote. As it involved a Scottish girl, the reply was: “He’s na heavy. He’s mi brither.”     And, in 1924 Row Fulkerson, the first editor of the Kiwanis magazine published an article with the title: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, which was the first use of the phrase exactly as it is rendered in the song title. Finally, in the 1940’s, Edward Flannigan, the priest that started the famed “Boys Town” children’s home adopted as a slogan: “He ain’t heavy, Father, he’s my brother”. So we can see that the phrase has been well used over the years.   But have we as Christians stopped to think how the phrase applies to us and our brethren?  

   Everyone that has been baptized into Christ becomes a (Spiritual)“brother in Christ”. We have many passages addressed to “brethren” or brothers, as the Spirit directed the various letters to be written to the early church in the N.T., but the idea of brotherhood extends way back into the O.T.    The first brother (physically) was the second child of Adam and Eve. As we read Genesis 4:2 we see his name was Abel.   Then in Genesis 4:9 after Cain had killed Abel, we find the Lord’s question to Cain and the improper attitude Cain had and response he made because of his sin against his brother. He lied to the Lord.   And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?

   In Genesis 13:8-9 we find that Abraham, the one who became known as the “Friend of God” was shown to have the right attitude as his herds and those of Lot’s had become more than the land could support.   Choices needed to be made and the first choice was that there be no strife between them. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before thee? separate thyself, I pray thee, from me: if thou wilt take the left hand, then I will go to the right; or if thou depart to the right hand, then I will go to the left.  As these two were “brethren” they sought to work out differences and “get along”.

   We also know that Lot’s choice in land was based on appearances and not on how he and his family would be affected by his choice. Then, as Sodom, which was where Lot abode was to be destroyed because of its great wickedness and sin, Abraham again showed he was a brother.   In Genesis 18, for the sake of Lot, Abraham communed with the Lord and asked Him to not destroy the City if even ten righteous could be found.   Ten were not found. We see the mercy of God as He sent angels to deliver Lot and his family. But evil had pervaded that family because of their closeness with the wicked people of Sodom. Perhaps if Lot would have stayed closer to faithful brethren, things would have been different for him.

   What about God’s people in this day and age? As previously pointed out, we who are Christians are brethren.   What is our responsibility toward our brethren in Christ? Are we, like Cain going to ask: “Am I my brother’s keeper”? Are we to forget what the Spirit had Paul write to the Galatian churches in Galatians 6:2?   He wrote: Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.  Then again, when one looks to Philippians 2:4-5 Paul was directed to write: Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  This does not mean that each does not have responsibility to make every effort to serve God faithfully in according to His Word.   None can allow his or her brother to shoulder their load all the way to eternity.   Galatians 6:4-5 shows this to be the case. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.    Then in 2Corinthians 5:10 we also have the teaching that shows each soul will be judged separately. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

   While we all will be judged according to what we do in this life, there are none of us that can make it on our own. We have the help of the Lord, through His Word. But if we have encouragement and help from our brother, would not the journey through this life be more tolerable.   The Spirit had Amos write a question in Amos 3:3 that all who are “brothers” need to ask themselves.   Can two walk together, except they be agreed? That which all “brothers” are to agree upon is the Word of God. If it is followed faithfully it leads to heaven.   What do you do when your brother needs help or encouragement?   Will we let him enter eternity unprepared because he has some difficulty bearing his burden.   Remember – Help him.   He ain’t heavy – He’s my brother.           

                      Dennis Strickland – Mooresville church of Christ


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