My Brother's Keeper

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been sharing about the importance of the body of Christ. We’ll never fulfill the call of God on our lives alone. We can’t function separated from the body and the body doesn’t function well without all of its parts! This week, I want to continue along that same vein with the familiar story of the world’s first murder. Genesis 4:2-7 tells of Adam and Eve’s two oldest children:

“Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So, Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it. Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.”

In just a few verses, we see that Cain’s anger led to murder, not because he hated Abel, but because he resented God’s favor. He was given the opportunity to repent before he took Abel’s life. Even though it was before Jesus, God encouraged Cain to rule over the sin trying to destroy him. Instead, Cain’s bitterness turned destructive, and he took his brother’s life and ruined his own.

Then, just as God asked Adam and Eve where they were after they’d sinned, God asked Cain a question saying,

‘“Where is Abel your brother?”

Cain replied, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?”

And the LORD said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.’ (Genesis 4:9-10)

God already knew what happened to Abel, but Cain had to give an account. 1 John 3:11-15 encourages us to learn from this tragedy:

“For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

We may not physically murder, like Cain did, but when we harbor division, anger, or resentment toward our brothers and sisters in Christ, we produce spiritual destruction. Jesus likened anger to murder (Matthew 5:21) and the Bible says that we will give an account even for the careless words that we’ve spoken (Matthew 12:36)!

When we come to Jesus, we come to “the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:24).

The Father sent Jesus to reconcile us to Himself and to one another. How much more do you think the blood of Jesus cried out to the Father than the blood of Abel? The blood of Jesus is the propitiation for our sins and the reconciling power of God in the church. Every drop of blood that spilled from His temple where thorns pressed cried out. Every drop of blood that poured from His back, torn open by the cat of nine tails, cried out. Every drop of blood that flowed from His hands and feet as they were nailed to a cross, cried out. His blood cried out in love, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).

The cry of His blood allows us to love our brothers like Cain did not. We see this emphasized over and over again in the Scripture and I want to share a few things about that love within the body of Christ:

  • Love is sacrificial.

1 John 3:16-18 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”

  • You can’t love God without loving His people.

1 John 4 20-21 says, If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

  • Love is unselfish. Do we actually love each other as much as we love ourselves? Do we consider others more significant than ourselves? Do we concern ourselves with the interests of others like we do our own? 

Matthew 22:37-40 says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Philippians 2:1-7 says, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."

  • Love shows honor.

Romans 12:10 says, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor."

  • Love bears one another’s burdens. It forgives and protects.

Galatians 6:1-2 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

  • Love keeps watch. The church is established with leaders for guidance and protection, but we are responsible for each other, as well.

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

There are countless more scriptures we could look at that emphasize the importance of the body caring for one another (See 1 Timothy 5:12-15; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 15:1-3; Jude 1:22-23; Ephesians 4:14-16 to name a few). However, Jesus summed it up perfectly when He said,

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

Cain’s bitterness toward his brother kept him from fellowship with his family and with God. When confronted, he bitterly asked God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

God didn’t directly answer Cain’s question, but I believe the resounding reply in the word of God is YES. You are your brother’s keeper. Cain did have to give an account for his brother and in the same way, we are responsible for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are one body. We’ll all stand before God alone, but none of us will get there by ourselves. We need the body as much as our hands need our feet. This week, I want to encourage you to embrace the body of Christ around you. We are members of one another in Jesus. There is strength, safety, fellowship, and power when we are united in love for God and each other. As Jesus said in John 15:12-13,

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

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