Summary: We still ask the third question in the Bible, "Am I my brother's keeper?" to excuse our responsibility for our fellowman.
Am I My Brother's Keeper?
This past week I installed a new ISP on my computer. I had to set up the DNS and the TCP/IP. Then I had to configure the SMTP and the POP. If you don't know what I'm talking about, maybe you'd better read the FAQ. By the way, that's the only abbreviation I'm really familiar with. FAQ means Frequently Asked Questions, and I had a lot of questions! Questions are an interesting form of communication. You can learn a lot from a person's questions, or lack of them. If someone doesn't care enough to ask questions, they're not interested. We only ask about things we're interested in.
The first 3 questions in the Bible are interesting. They tell us what the key characters were thinking. Satan asked the first question in the Bible in Genesis 3:1. He asked Eve if God really said what she thought he said. His purpose then was to cast doubt on God and his Word. He's still doing that today. The second recorded question is in Genesis 3:9 where God called to Adam asking where he was. God's purpose was to seek man and have fellowship with him. He's still seeking and calling for us today. The third question is found in Genesis 4:9 where a man asks God about our relationship to each other: Cain asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" We still ask that question today when we shirk our responsibility to others!
Since Cain, every generation has questioned how we ought to relate to our brothers. Do we love them or hate them? What if they hate us, or they're different from us? Can't we just "live and let live?" How does God want us to relate to others? John addressed questions like those in 1 John, chapter 3, beginning with verse 11. (Read vs. 11-18)
Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" was a disrespectful excuse to get God off his back. However, it's an important question that needs to be answered because it deals with our basic relationships. If we can answer this question right, we can begin to live in harmony with others. Maybe it would help answer Cain's question if we break it down into 3 other questions to define our terms: (1) Who is my brother? (2) Am I really responsible for my brother? (3) What should I do for my brother?
I. Who Is My Brother?
Verses 12 of my text makes reference to Cain's killing his brother. As we first consider, "Who is my brother?" we should remember what Jesus taught us. The same kind of question was asked of Jesus in Luke 10:29. When a scribe tried to entrap Jesus, Jesus turned the tables and put him on the spot. Jesus implied that the scribe wasn't in a right relationship with God or his neighbor. To justify himself, the scribe asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan. With that story, Jesus implied in verses 36-37 that our neighbor is anyone in need of our love.
Can we agree that all people have some kind of need? We think only the "down and outs" have needs, but the "up and outs" have needs also. I saw Bill Gates being interviewed on TV this week about the government's anti-trust suit against Microsoft. Bill Gates is the richest man in the world. But, there are things money can't buy: like true friends, good health, peace of mind and spirit. If Bill Gates isn't saved, he has the greatest need in the world. His money will never buy him answers about death and where he'll spend eternity. He needs a Savior just like every other person without Jesus.
Acts 17:26 says every person came from one blood through Noah back to Adam. Since we're all brothers and sisters in the human race, we wonder how evil people can commit horrible atrocities like those in the news this week from Uganda. The cultic leaders of the Movement to Restore the Ten Commandments have now killed more people than Jim Jones when he poisoned 912 people in 1978. This week's count was 924 dead with more graves to be excavated. Our text says if we don't love our brothers and sisters, there's no difference between us and those cultic murderers.
Who is my brother? Any one needing your love. Their race, social standing, physical features, how they're dressed, what language they speak - these should have nothing to do with your decision to love them. Under the skin their blood is just as red as yours; the same pains hurt them and the same joys cheer them. My Chorale Choir at Mississippi College used to sing: "No man is an island; no man stands alone. Each man's joy is joy to me; each man's grief is my own." All fellow members of the human race qualify as our brothers since every person has needs.