three men sitting together looking out over a city
March 7, 2024

Suffering Sinners, Arise as a Band of Brothers

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The men who come to Harvest USA often lack meaningful friendships; the famine of true brothers in their lives is sobering and sad. Battling sexual addictions, unholy desires and relationships, and gender-related pain is truly a war—a war against the “world, the flesh, and the devil” (Eph. 6:12). In this battle, we need one another. We need a band of brothers.

In June 2019, D-Day veteran Harry Billinge responded to a BBC journalist who thanked him for his service:

Don’t thank me and don’t say I am a hero. I am no hero. I was lucky. I’m here. All the heroes are dead, and I’ll never forget them as long as I live. . . . All I know is Normandy veterans love one another beyond the love of women. If you was in a hole in the ground with a bloke, you got to know him. Marvelous men! My generation saved the world, and I’ll never forget any of them.

It’s intriguing to hear this man speak of other men in this manner, as I’ve witnessed how difficult it is for men to develop deep spiritual friendships. But why is that? Could we ever see one another as this veteran soldier saw his brothers in arms?

How the Mighty Have Fallen

David certainly did. He was profoundly sorrowful over the significant loss of the men of Israel after battling the Philistines (1 Sam. 31, 2 Sam. 1:11–12). King Saul and his three sons, including Jonathan, died at Mount Gilboa. David grieved so profoundly that he wrote a song of lament honoring the mighty fallen men (2 Sam. 1:17–27). He regarded Saul as the divinely anointed king and Jonathan as his dearest friend. In his eyes they were heroes. Their deaths represented a tremendous defeat to the nation.

Beloved, I know suffering is painful, but such is our calling.

After recognizing Saul and Jonathan’s loyalty and companionship (2 Sam. 1:22–23), David made separate tributes to each of them (vv. 24 and vv. 25b–26). Women were to weep for Saul, who provided them with significant benefits during his reign. And for Jonathan, the one who occupied a unique place in David’s heart, he poured out words of suffering and affection. He said, “I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women” (2 Sam. 1:26).

Liberal theologians have taken this passage to mean that David and Jonathan were in a gay relationship, but that conclusion is not Scripturally warranted. Our culture seems unable to acknowledge a deeply loving and sincere male friendship without sexualizing it. Instead, the context of Israel’s death and defeat in battle gives a mournful picture of the love David expressed in this lament. He stood at the precipice of the beginning of his reign and stopped to respect and honor the fallen in battle, much like the veteran, Harry Billinge, did in remembrance of his friends. Indeed, their love was so inexplicable and bound in dignity that its semblance could only be compared to something “surpassing the love of women.”

Jonathan, who could have been David’s chief enemy, risked his own life by refusing to take the throne of Israel. He died in full support of David’s kingship. Oh, how beautiful is such friendship—love so profound that life was not spared but given up for a covenant between brothers. Truly, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And as this points us to Christ, who calls us “friends” (John 15:14), we remember that he was not spared but given up for us all (Rom. 8:32a).

Don’t Be a Lone Soldier

These are magnificent examples, but so many men do not pursue deep and spiritual friendships. I have often witnessed how hearts are prone to wander alone on the battlefield against sexual sin and even perish on top of that hill—as if true manhood is about compartmentalizing our sins and sorrows by pushing them deep into our fragmented hearts. We don’t realize how damaging this is to one’s spirit and body.

Here, two options remain: keep silent while your bones waste away (Psalm 32:1–4), or repent and ask for help (1 John 1:5–10). Nothing in us can save (Acts 4:12). Do you believe that? Or will you be ashamed of the gospel and suppress the truth?

I remember feeling trapped this way. Frowning, looking down, I approached a brother and said, “Please, I am so sorry, but could you help me?” I felt like the criminal on the cross who pleaded, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42). Can you imagine the distress in his voice and heart? He knew his place, that his hour had come. Yet he asked, out of all things, to be remembered. He didn’t ask to be taken down from that cross, but to be remembered. Christ was his last hope. 

As his image bearers, God created us to live in fellowship with one another.

But this friend—my brother in arms—heard my plea, embraced me and my sorrows as if they were his, and spoke to me of the cross of Christ. He said that this—trusting Jesus as we follow the way of the cross—is how we suffer well.

Puzzled, I begrudgingly asked, “Suffer?! More?!?” And he said, “No, suffer well.”

I was hurting, and this wasn’t easy to receive. Suffering does not often pair with wellness. But he reminded me that it was from the total desolation and humiliation of the cross where Christ, looking at the criminal and all who were mocking him, uttered one of the most powerful statements in redemptive history: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Today! Not tomorrow, but that same day! What peace and comfort must have inundated that sinner’s heart despite the horror of the cross. Our Savior—the ultimate Brother, the conquering Messiah—never left him alone. This is true for you and me.

Faithful Friend, Arise

Beloved, I know suffering is painful, but such is our calling. Turn to Christ and, until he returns, “rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12a), suffering well for his sake (Phil. 1:29). But please, don’t do this alone. Walk with a faithful friend where, even imperfectly, there is a dying and rising with Christ each day (Heb. 10:24–25; Rom. 1:11–12; 6:8–14; Gal. 6:2). Make no mistake, this is how “iron sharpens iron” (Prov. 27:17a). As his image bearers, God created us to live in fellowship with one another.

We are not made to be alone (Gen. 2:18) but to be in fellowship—a people set apart for holiness, a body with many members whose head is Christ (1 Pet. 1:16; Eph. 4:15–16; 1 Cor. 12:12–27). Therefore, arise, band of brothers, arise! (Rom. 8:15) Together, march on for Christ’s glory.

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Yohan Huh Prudente

Director of Men's Ministry

Yohan is the Director of Men’s Ministry for Harvest USA, overseeing the direct ministry to men. Yohan grew up in South Korea and Brazil with missionary parents who labored with church plant ministries. He graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary and lives with his beloved wife, in the greater Philadelphia area.

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