Who is my brother’s keeper? Luke 9:46-48 Genesis 4
1st UCC – Carlisle 11/10/19
Today’s worship is meant to invite each of us to again look at our purpose. What are we meant to do in this life to demonstrate our faithfulness make an impact as Christians? While our relationship with God starts with a belief and trust in God, our Christian faith is not solely based on feelings and thoughts. We must also recognize that the depth of our relationship and connection to God has to do with the words and actions we demonstrate in our lives.
One of the foundational qualities of being a Christian has to do with taking care of one another. This can be found as early as the first book of the Bible. Allow me to take a little time this morning and first consider the story of Cain and Abel. To have a quick recap of this relationship. Eve gave birth to two sons: first Cain and then Abel. Cain was a farmer and Abel was a shepherd. And it appears as though the brothers did not get along. Imagine that, brothers not getting along. I am not sure how it is for a number of you here today, but it took over twenty years before my brother and I could co-exist. We still co-exist amicably today. Of course that might be because we only see each other about once a year. Well, there was rivalry and jealousy. And Cain ends up killing his brother due to jealousy. And when God comes looking for Abel, Cain offers the following phrase: am I my brother’s keeper?
Now we can surmise that Cain was looking to avoid getting caught for his murderous action, but there is a basic point for everyone to consider in what are our responsibilities to the people around us in this world.
If we look at Cain and Abel, we can see that they were family, they were siblings, so there was not just a random connection with one another. They had a relationship and more than likely some responsibilities and accountability toward one another. In additions, Cain was the eldest brother, and so it seems that he would have had some obligation in watching out for his younger sibling. So we can see the bonds and duties to family members. But the Bible does not only call on family members to look out for one another. Scripture speaks to us on a number of occasions about how we need to be treating one another. In the Gospels, Jesus spoke several times about the two fundamental rules we are to follow. The first rule comes from the book of Deuteronomy, found in the Hebrew Bible.: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second fundamental rule Jesus states is as follows, and love our neighbor as ourselves. These statements point to our interconnectedness and also our obligation to build others up around us. These two rules point to the call for us to care for other people including, family, friends, community, and beyond. Jesus gave a statement in John 13:34 that he called a commandment Jesus said, “a new commandment I give you, Love one another as I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
This faith we have, connected to God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit does call for us to be in community with one another. God created us as individuals to interact with one another. And as we are called to be in connection with others, it is expected that we can take on the role of caretaker. There are examples in the words of Jesus which support this, as well as writings elsewhere in the New Testament.
This notion of caring for others may be contrary to some societal tendencies. There could be a tendency to avoid worrying about other people and instead being concerned about other people. It would probably be good to recognize that while we care for others we still need to care for ourselves. We are part of the beloved family of God and it is imperative that we watch over ourselves, but we must not focus solely on ourselves that and ignore the people around us, which are a part of the community that we belong to.
Our interactions with people need to be healthy and constructive. I do not believe that being someone’s keeper means that we are to nag at a person about their bad habits or controlling what they say or do, making their decisions for them, or bailing them all of the time out of their problems when they make bad choices, lying for them when they are in a pinch or any number of other things?
The idea of keeper is to guard, watch, protect, oversee; but it doesn’t mean that we take on ownership for what others should be taking ownership for. We don’t enable people to continue doing wrong, cover for them by lying for them in order to keep them out of trouble. We don’t do for people what they should be doing for themselves. We don’t bail people out of situations time and time again. Being a caretaker for someone does not mean that we make all of the decisions for that individual. Continually offering advice and input and attempting to contain and control their lives is not what is meant here. Instead we guide people, we can offer assistance and love, but the role of the caretaker is to also build independence in the individual, to give them the tools and the wisdom and to make wise and loving decisions of their own in time. That is what is meant by a caretaker.
The scripture(s) that was/were read today all reinforce this idea of caring for others. Particularly it mentions those who are more vulnerable. This is part of our purpose as Christians, to care for those less fortunate than ourselves. One specific area mentioned in scripture a number of times are orphans. This may not be the only body of people in our society in need of assistance and help, but it is a rather clear segment of society that can benefit from the help of others. There are people in the world working to help the orphans and others who are vulnerable.
November is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. While all adoption-related issues are important, the particular focus of this month is the adoption of children currently in foster care. This is one avenue to help people in our society. There are other ways, but I think that we need to understand our lives as part of the family of God, and as Disciples of Christ. It is not just about ourselves, it comes down to us extending ourselves and finding ways to help the people around us. We all have different skills and resources, but that does not prevent us from realizing the difference we can make in other people’s lives. We can have an impact on others, a transformative influence that can allow for growth and success to occur, within the lives of individuals as well as in a community
Thanks be to God and may the people of