Proverbs 18:19 A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
The longest known siege in history started in 1648 on the small Mediterranean island of Crete. During the Ottoman-Venetian wars, the Ottoman Empire besieged the city Candia, Crete’s capital. The fight to take the city lasted 21 years. It all started when a Catholic organization known as “The Knights of the Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem” looted an Ottoman ship carrying treasure to Constantinople. The Ottoman forces attacked in kind and took over the island, all except the capital. But the city was well fortified and protected, and for the next two decades, countless lives and fortunes were lost in the battle until Candia finally succumbed to the never-ending onslaught.
A hard-won battle taking down a fortified city designed to resist attack is the image Solomon has in mind describing the attempt at repairing a busted relationship with a brother. Whether in families or in churches, brothers in the flesh or brothers in Christ, when we are hurt by the wrongdoing of brother, it’s going to leave a mark much deeper than if it were an enemy.
Why? Well, it doesn’t take much effort to get the relationship of an acquaintance back to the normal. You aren’t that close anyway, so you don’t have far to fall, or don’t have to far to travel back. But, with a brother, it’s different. We love and trust our brothers. We don’t expect the betrayal. When brothers have bonded in struggles, fights, blood, sweat, and tears, there is a bond that develops that is like no other. So when that love is betrayed it shakes us to the core. We expect our brothers to have our back, not stab us in it. We expect our brothers to walk with us. Why is it sometimes easier to let things slide with an acquaintance than a brother? We show more leniency toward an acquaintance because we are either trying to win them to our side, or don’t expect as much from them. That’s also why we are harder on our friends and brothers than we are those outside the camp. A brother’s sin is a betrayal of both the relationship both people have devoted so much to and the big part of our life we share with them.
You need to guard your relationship. A small matter can cause irreparable harm, and once the offence has been committed, it’s very difficult to win them back. Because the bond is close, it’s very easy to take advantage of a brotherly bond. Once the brotherhood is broken, it takes great effort and struggle to make it right again. I’ve known brethren at odds a lot longer than Ottoman-Venetian conflict. Though it is possible to win him back, it would be better not to sin against him in the first place or when we sin, quickly ask for forgiveness.