The lesson is pungent, and though told from antiquity, those who seek truth and who strive to live righteously clutch the story, delve deeply into its essence, and insist on knowing the significance to their own lives. The book of beginnings–the Genesis–had taken scant time to make the metamorphosis from paradise to murder, for in verse 8 of chapter 4 are the chilling words ” . . .Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”
Think about it. These are children of the first humans, Adam and Eve who were created in the image of God, and by Him, were given dominion over the earth. Now, a few years later, one of their sons killed the other. It worsens. Verse 9 sees God staring at Abel, if you will, calling him to account: “. . . Where is Abel thy brother?”
who? Me? Talkin to me? Stammered and stuttered about no doubt, then finally through his lying arrogant lips, Cain spoke back to God. I don’t know. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Oh, Friend, what bloody words are those, for rising as a toxic cloud from a tainted mass sound the cries of Abel, spiraling upward so that it was God who heard those awful sounds.
Cursed, Cain. You are cursed. ” . . . a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” verse 12
But what does that mean to me, you ask? I have no inclination to kill anybody, much less my brother. What do these words mean to me? While I don’t purport to have anything approaching a full understanding of Scripture, I submit there may be no generation more in need of understanding the lesson–indeed the warning–in this account than we who currently populate the earth.
Wider in scope than the mandate against physically killing one’s brother is the clear implication here and in other scripture that God will call us to accountability concerning the treatment of our brother.
Our brothers’ keepers? Are you kidding? This is the ME generation, I’m busy, I’m stretched thin already, have my own close ones to care for, my own home to maintain, my job, my own church commitments . . .Things are tight, don’t have a lot of money, need to work more . . .need more education, must attend another conference, concerned for my own children, am stressed, need a vacation . . .
During the past few years I have attended home mission churches more than at any other time during my adult life, and this has no doubt contributed to my deep sense of the neediness of our brothers in small churches. Do we understand what a blessing it is to these congregations to just show up? Can we possibly know how it feels to have 20 or 30 members, and then have a family from another church decide to visit a mid-week service or a revival service at the home missions church? To see an unfamiliar car pull into the parking lot, a smiling family emerge, then join in with the singing, the praying, the worship is as brilliant light shafted against a cloud-darkened day. Ever think of asking your pastor if you can help out in one of these churches for six months or so? Ever think of offering to take care of a Christmas program or an Easter program or a children’s choir or a youth outing for a home missions church . . .? Ever think of skipping a restaurant meal and giving the money to a small church, or offering your skills to the pastor for a needed project? (While in particular, I am speaking of ministering to home mission churches today, I believe this scripture has a wide arm and would include our neighbors, a stranger on the street, welcoming new people in very large churches, etc.)
Many of you have tended your brother. I know it. Not long ago, a home missions church in Arizona had a particular desperate need; some of you learned of the situation, and immediately tended that brother. I wept when I heard it, and I weep now on recalling your generosity.
Are you my brother? I ask myself today. . . and do I care at all? Later this afternoon as I walk about my village, God help me to look into the eyes of those with whom I come in contact and to fully understand this issue of brotherhood, and to altogether comprehend my crucial and personal responsibility.