What does it mean to be my brother’s or sister’s keeper?
The question takes me to Genesis 4. Cain had sinned. God encouraged him to repent. Instead, Cain vented his anger on his innocent brother Abel—and killed him.
God posed the question of Abel’s whereabouts to Cain who shrugged it off with another question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
God’s short answer? Yes.
So, what led Cain astray?
1. Relationship with God
It was off. Though Scripture doesn’t give the specifics of Cain’s sin, it does say his offering was not accepted. Motive, heart, the offering itself—something was off and that something was obvious to both Cain and God.
Cain’s response? Anger. God’s response follows.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’” Genesis 4:6-7 NIV
2. The Slippery Slope
When we are frustrated and angry, as Cain was, it’s easy to focus on ourselves and to spiral down, down, down. Cain nursed his anger which fed his sin.
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:13-15
3. Enemy Identification
God identified the issue for Cain: sin. However, Cain refused to deal with it. Instead of repenting and asking for forgiveness, Cain took his frustrations out on the nearest target, his innocent brother.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
From the early books of the Old Testament to the Gospels and epistles of the New, Scripture proclaims God’s command to love and care for one another. “Love your neighbor” appears in Leviticus and the “one another” verses fill the New Testament. Clearly, being our brother’s keeper ranks high on God’s priorities.
When my relationship with God is off, my relationship with others is affected too. When I’m struggling with temptation or a particular sin, I’m on edge until I’ve walked through it. God has given us two key points of focus: Himself and others. When we focus on loving Him and loving each other, that focus safeguards us against sin. The body of Christ offers a powerful community of acceptance, encouragement, and edification. We need each other.
I am your keeper and you are mine. James 5: 19-20 says, “My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”
That’s a win-win for us all.
We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers.
1. When has someone dumped on you in a fit of anger? How did you respond? When have you dumped on someone else? What drove your behavior?
2. When God convicts you of sin, how do you respond?
3. Practice grace. Think of a time when someone dumped on you. What could have driven that behavior? Make a list. How do you feel after making a list? What do you think they need? How will you respond?
4. Chose a “one another” verse to practice and memorize. (Check out this link for those verses.)