One of the most poignant questions asked in Scripture is the one that Cain asks God: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4.9). Within the story of Cain & Abel, the implied answer is obvious – “Yes”. Abel has a responsibility to “keep” (watch over, care for, preserve) his brother. And he is accountable to God for this.
We live in an era where one of the dominant cultural themes is expressive individualism. We are told that we need to be free to express ourselves, in what ever form that expression takes. Anything that stands in the way of this individual expression is wrong, and should be thrown off as oppressive. Even our most fundamental bonds, those of family, are regarded as negotiable. You either choose to accept or reject them. There is no obligation other than what you choose to accept.
As Christians we can affirm some of this idea. God has made each of us, he knows each of us, and each of us is capable of relationship with him. Just read Psalm 139 – each of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139.14 NIV11).
However, while the Bible affirms our individuality and worth, it shows that the self-centred individualism of our current era is a distortion. As God is essentially relational – three distinct individuals in eternal relationship with one another (one God, three persons) – we are most human, reflecting God’s image, as we, as individuals, are in relationship with others. We are made for one another, and this is a great blessing.
The local congregation is called to be a wonderful expression of God’s design for us. Called together in Christ, we are called to “keep” our brothers and sisters in Christ. We see this in the “one another’s” of the New Testament.
– Be devoted to one another in love (Rom 12.10).
– Honour one another above yourselves. (Rom. 12.10).
– Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God (Rom 15.7).
– …encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace (2 Cor 13.11).
– …serve one another humbly in love (Gal. 5.13).
– Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Eph. 4.32).
– …teach and admonish one another with all wisdom… (Col 3.16).
– …spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10.24).
– …love one another deeply, from the heart (I Pet. 1.22).
Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes. And praise God, our elder brother, Jesus, has “kept” us first.
Pastor | Trinity Church Brighton
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