“Am I my brother’s…?”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4:8-9
How do you answer this question? Are you your sister’s or brother’s keeper? Be careful, for you might fall into a trap unwittingly laid by Cain when God asked him about his brother. Rather than admitting his evil act, Cain tries to hold God in abeyance. How sadly silly and foolishly futile! God knew. He was inviting Cain to confess his sin, just as he had done with Adam and Eve after the Fall. But Cain was living out the legacy of Adam and Eve’s sin.
Murder was the centerpiece of sin’s sad impact on the first family. But murder was not the first. It was preceded by Cain’s resentment toward God for God’s rejection of his offering. It was followed by his unwillingness to confess his sin and seek God’s mercy and help in redeeming the situation he had caused. And it was confirmed by his arrogant denial of his proper relationship to his brother.
Cain was not his brother’s keeper. God had not intended that. Nor does he intend that today. But he was his brother’s brother. And God intends that for us today. We don’t need to keep our brother or sister – except in severe cases of urgent need. But we are to honor and respect each other as brothers and sisters in our families, and possibly even more so our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Keeping implies taking undue responsibility. It means taking responsibility for someone’s actions – which is not ours to take. It usurps the rightful consequences or benefits of another’s actions. It undercuts the responsibility that others’ rightly have in any situation in which they exercise their will. It removes the freedom that another human should rightly have to deliberate, decide and do in any given situation.
But if I am my sister’s or my brother’s brother, I am responsible to her. I’m responsible to be truthful with him. I’m responsible to be gracious to him. I’m responsible to listen, speak, share, support, and even to ask for these considerations from her. I’m not keeping my sister or brother. I am relating to them in respectful consideration, love, and humility.
Jesus is the perfect example of this. He was willing to let Judas betray him – sad as that was for him and evil as it was on Judas’ part. Yet he was dedicated to his brother apostles – even to Peter who came back to Jesus in repentance in the end. He asked Peter, “Do you love me?” three times. He deeply desired Peter’s love. He also loved Peter and showed that in every encounter.
What a wonder and a blessing to be sisters and brothers of Jesus and to each other. Whatever mess we may have made of things, he stands ready to restore and sustain us when we come to him in the humility and confidence of true brotherhood.
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Today would have been my father’s 100th birthday. He was a kind and gentle man, one of integrity and faith. He died 36 years ago. I wish I could visit with him today.
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. 11 And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” 13 Cain said to the Lord, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. 14 Behold, you have driven me today away from the ground, and from your face I shall be hidden. I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. 16 Then Cain went away from the presence of the Lord and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. – Genesis 4:8-16