Summary: A justification for being a good neighbour
My Brother’s Keeper
Donovan W. Myers
Rosemount Missionary Church
Am I my brother¡¦s keeper? Cain¡¦s question to God after he had killed his brother is interesting, if not infuriating. In my mind his question was insincere, dishonest and defensive. He knew what he was doing, and in fact, had done. His hands were still bloody and the smell of dead flesh lingered with him. He had not forgotten. He could not claim temporary insanity or loss of memory. He knew his guilt. He also knew God¡¦s plan for people to live in community and how the progression of God¡¦s created order was so engineered to make relationship possible. It was God¡¦s desire for relationship that led him to create man - Adam. It was man¡¦s need for companionship that led to God giving him a woman - Eve - made out of his rib. It was in order to fill the need for continuity and replenishing the stock of relationship-sharers that God gave Adam and Eve children. So that Cain and Able were a direct answer to the need of man to live in community and share relationship.
Whereas man was told that he should have dominion over plants and animals he was instructed to share fellowship with his human counterpart. Therefore, when we ask the question, ¡§Am I my brother¡¦s keeper?¡¨ the answer comes quickly, clearly and convincingly - ¡§Yes you are!¡¨ This must therefore remind us of our duty and warn us against any disregard for our fellow-man. But, what does it mean to be your brother¡¦s keeper? It is simply to esteem each other better than yourselves. It is to show fundamental regard for human life and the dignity of each other. It is to treat each other as you would like to be treated.
In order to understand what the story says about being your brother¡¦s keeper, you have to first find out what is the central message of the story. Its essential message comes in two parts. Firstly, it speaks of the Depravity of the human heart. It is capable of murder and cover-up. It is a call for us to be reminded that the heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things. It is a warning that we not underestimate the power of sin. For selfishness and desire for own benefit and fulfillment often out weights our altruism. So that to look at Cain¡¦s despicable act, is not to say, ¡§...how could he have done such a thing?¡¨. Instead it is to say, ¡§¡Kthere go I, but for the grace of God¡¨.
Secondly, the story speaks about the Grace of God and the power of His redemption. After all that Cain was guilty of, verse 15 indicates that God set a mark on Cain. This was his gracious sign to reassure him of his protection of his life. So that even though he deserved to die, God forbade anyone to kill him.
With those two great truths - the sinfulness of man and the grace of God - what are some lessons to be learned from the story. Let me point out three.
FAILURE TO BE YOUR BROTHERS KEEPER IS TO OFFEND GOD. Cain¡¦s anger against his brother was really directed towards God. You know the saying, ¡§If yu caan ketch Harry, yu ketch ¡¥im shut.¡¨ So that Cain was angry because God refused his gift. But his hand was too short and he could not reach to God, so he killed Abel instead. But God had refused his gift because he failed to meet God¡¦s demands. So in effect, he was the source of God¡¦s displeasure against himself. It was his fault. If there was any reason to be angry or if there was any cause for upset, Cain had only himself to blame. Yet he lashed out at his brother in retaliation.
Many times it is difficult to deal with the limitations and insufficiencies within ourselves or other persons. Let us remember that our brother is made in the image of God and we must respect that. So to attack rather than embrace him is to hit at who GOD is - for he is God¡¦s image bearer. Remember too that the work of changing a person is that of the Holy Spirit. So we must back off and not try to subject others to our agenda and timing. Be careful to note that simple animosity can lead to murder - don¡¦t harbor it. Talk about it, resolve it, but don¡¦t harbor it.
FAILURE TO BE YOUR BROTHER¡¦S KEEPER IS TO REJECT YOUR OWN HUMANITY. The mistake that Cain made was to think that he had silenced Able by killing him. But the sound of his blood was heard. The blood which is the commonality of life shared between the two. If the tie is so strong, then in killing Able, Cain was really trying to kill himself. It was an act of Self Negation. We usually attack those things in other persons that we see in ourselves. Things that we do not like. Cain tried to rid himself of his insufficiency by getting rid of the standard by which he was judged. Instead of working to improve and change, it is easier to attack. Instead of working on himself, he killed his brother.