Am I my brother's keeper?

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  1. In Genesis 4:9 the ancient brother, Cain, is asked by God, Where is your brother, Abel? Cain replies, I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?
  2. The text seems to imply that God believed that Cain was, indeed, his brother's keeper, and he had a responsibility for him.
  3. That is a revolutionary idea in our culture where it's every-man-for-himself.
    • One of Bev's coworkers told us about going to a restaurant where she saw a family sitting at a table eating, each texting on their respective cell phones.
    • What an image. In the company of family members while encased in a cocoon of privacy.
  4. Am I my brother's keeper? Indeed!
    • Do I have any responsibility to acknowledge that the person sitting or standing next to me exists?
    • Do I have any responsibility to meet the needs of the other? To consider what they may be thinking or feeling at the moment?
    • Do I have any responsibility for the impact of my choices and actions on the other?
  5. Am I my brother's keeper?
  6. What would we do if we discovered that Jesus painted a different reality? How would that affect us if we had to change the way we think about our place in the world and our relationship to it?

I. Created for Community:

  1. Genesis is important theology because it gives us insight into what was going on in the mind of God as the world was being created.
    • Among other things, we see a God that is communal. Even His name is in the plural, Elohim.
    • As He creates He talks to Himself. Let US make mankind in OUR image.
    • And as He creates man, He realizes that man by himself is a lonely creature. "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner," Genesis 2:18.
  2. The person who wrote the book Ecclesiastes said this.
    • 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
    • 10 For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.
    • 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone?
    • 12 And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one. A threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
  3. God created us for community, and we have that hunger.
    • But we use bogus methods for achieving it.
    • In much the same way that the people of Babel tried to create a tower. Misguided attempts at community.
      • So we text each other instead of opening our homes.
      • We keep things like alcohol (misused) between one another so that the real us is not present.

II. The One Another Passages:

  1. The Greek phrase translated one another is found in numerous places in the New Testament. It is so common that it clearly identifies an ethos (character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a group).
  2. The texts that use this one another idea visualize a community where people exist for mutual benefit. For example:
    • Wash one another's feet, John 13:14.
    • People will know you are my disciples if you love one another, John 13:35.
    • We are members of one another, Romans 12:5.
    • Welcome one another, Romans 15:7.
    • Wait for one another, 1 Corinthians 11:33.
    • Bear one another's burdens, Galatians 6:2.
  3. These passages describe:
    • Reciprocity.
    • Intentional behavior toward others.
    • Self-sacrifice.
    • Modeling the way Christ lived.
  4. The idea of one another is in opposition to the ideas of neglect, indifference, and hatred.

III. Barriers to One Another:

  1. What Jesus models for us and called us to is difficult work. Very difficult.
  2. It goes against the fabric of human nature to be this receptive and unconditional toward others, especially those who may not be part of our chosen circle/s.
  3. Like when traveling through W.Texas and stopping at a Dairy Queen in a small town. Like Mule Shoe, Texas. People stare at you. No one says, "Welcome to our town." Group acceptance or rejection based on a thousand things:
    • How you dress.
    • Whether you are of a particular political persuasion.
    • Whether you are liberal/conservative in any sense.
    • Whether you are hard or easy to be around.
    • Whether you have offended someone in the past.
    • In the case of DQ, what your license plate says.
  4. Other things also affect our inclusion of others.
    • Selfishness about our homes. Not wanting to be hospitable. "My house is too ______."
    • Schedules. "I'm too busy." Also priorities. Selecting other things above this.
  5. To think in the way of Jesus requires a radical reshuffling of our priorities. Paul said this. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! 2 Corinthians 5:16.


  1. Cain asked God, Am I my brother's keeper? Without saying it, we know God believes we are our brother's keeper.
  2. However, our culture has grown increasingly apart. C.S. Lewis' vision of Hell is of a place where people, when they quarrel, simply move out farther and build a new house. There is no movement inward toward the center of society.
  3. So what are the implications for us today? Indeed?
    • What if I make my life so frenetic I have no time for anyone? Especially my fellow disciples.
    • What if I allow worldly pressure and values to govern the way I live my life?
    • What if, the worst idea of all, I find saying no to Christ easy because of my topsy turvy values?
  4. Jesus said that the chief thing that testifies to our discipleship is our love for one another. Truly.
  5. Dear God, help us to keep in proper order our relationships with one another. Please keep us from allowing other desires and values to supercede our love, first for you and then for one another. In Jesus' name I pray this. Amen.
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