“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” Genesis 4:9-10
I sometimes find myself deeply conflicted. That statement is possibly the greatest truth I shall utter today. For me to allow myself to boast or lead any of you to believe that I’ve got it all together would be a lie worthy of a whipping….well, maybe just a tongue-lashing. Should a person who has been granted a reprieve from the hell of addiction through the mercy and grace of a Higher Power in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous climb down into the slime pits with the dirty and grimy rhetoric of politics? Doing so inevitably will challenge the message of the Lord to love my neighbor as myself. I could be tempted to say things not totally spiritual. I could show a degree of judgmental thinking. I could possibly, in the heat of my inner passion, name-call. How do I reconcile brotherly love with neighborly discord? Ahh, the torture of internal conflict.
Am I the type of citizen who tries to discern between righteous behavior and disingenuous behavior in the secular and political world? Do I voice my opinion? Should I follow the lead of Jesus who turned over the money-changers tables in the temple, who showed anger with the Pharisees, who challenged the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his culture? I don’t believe I was saved from the hell of alcoholism to ride the fence. I will either involve myself whole-heartedly and sometimes vociferously or recede into apathy’s woodwork hoping that justice will prevail without my input. Either choice is a viable option and I certainly don’t know if either is the right way.
I accept as a resolution to this internal conflict that a conscience has been installed within me which is uniquely mine. What works for me might not be right for you. I should not expect my brother/sister to process circumstances in our society and our culture in the same way I do. I love my Higher Power with all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind. Yet, my reaction and my behavior toward external circumstances will never be identical to yours. That’s the beauty of a mysterious, indescribable, undefinable, universal entity named many names by various cultures. Therein is the wisdom of covering my heart with the love of Jesus and “practicing these principles in all my affairs” when encountering the dirt and grime which is the gist of our world today. That is the essence of “Solidarity: I am you, you are me, we are united as One.” Wherever my path takes me, I know that I can never, ever, follow this course perfectly. I have not yet received from God an application for sainthood.
But, should I see myself as my brother’s keeper? Do you? What if the entire world would see itself as its brother’s keeper? Hey, bro, I’ve got your back covered. Adam and Eve in the folklore of Jewish literature had a number of children. If we believe the 1st book of the Torah to be literal, then the resulting incest between the first brothers and sisters produced the civilization who were forefathers of Abraham. The first murder is recorded in Genesis 4. Cain slew his brother Abel in a fit of jealousy. He had reason to believe that the Lord favored his brother’s meat sacrifice over his own offering from the “fruits of the soil”.
When confronted by the Lord, Cain’s response was, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
Yeah, me too. That’s my first thought whenever injustice, poverty, intolerance, oppression, hatred, or racism are perpetrated upon my fellow-man. We live in a world of “every man for himself”, “he who snoozes, loses”, and “what’s in it for me?” I am the first to admit that my feet don’t always rush to the aid of my neighbor in need. But, that’s where conscience kicks in and that inner voice won’t let me alone, it gets louder and louder until I do something.
One of my favorite contemporary Christian songs by Matthew West tells of a man who sees the inhumanity in the world and implores his Lord to do something about the abuse and injustice he sees. God answers, “I did. I created you.”
That’s quite a directive, isn’t it? We were created to do something about our fellow man’s plight on earth. Cain asked many centuries ago, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The question continues to boggle the mind of mankind today. Like Cain, many of us would sooner be exiled to an existence apart from God than follow his directive. Today I know the right answer is yes but that does not guarantee a right heart or a right action. Rightness comes from the willingness to be a better man than I was yesterday. Not yet a saint, but working on that application. Gonna need a bucketful of references.