November 04, 2019

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Genesis 4:1-10

“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

—  Genesis 4:9

My kid brother died years ago. It was heartbreaking. Unlike Cain, I hadn’t killed my ­brother, but Cain’s question to God exploded in my soul. Suddenly I knew the answer: “Yes, I am my brother’s keeper.” I’d wanted to protect my little brother.

After leaving Eden, Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain, a crop farmer, and Abel, a shepherd. Eventually Cain offered some fruits of the soil to God while Abel offered the choicest parts from the firstborn of his flock. God honored Abel’s gift but not Cain’s. So Cain got angry.

God warned Cain to control his anger, to do what was right, and to prevent sin—lurking at his door—from devouring him (1 Peter 5:8). But instead Cain killed Abel.

“Where’s your brother Abel?” God asks. And Cain unwisely responds, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

As a Navy chaplain, I learned that shipmates care for one another. That was all God was asking of Cain—like “At the very least, do no harm!” So it should be for us.

Kneel today at the foot of Jesus’ cross, where “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), to save us from sin and death. In his strength, we can obey Jesus: love the Lord your God, your neighbor, one another, and even your enemies (Matthew 22:36-40; John 13:34-35; Matthew 5:43-48). We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

Father, you give us brothers and sisters so that we can care for them. Guide us to do as you ask. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

About the author — Norman F. Brown

Chaplain Norman F. Brown graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1969. He served aboard destroyers during the Vietnam conflict and ashore in San Diego, Calif., as an instructor. By then God had made clear his call to work in pastoral ministry, and Norman entered Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1980. Chaplain Brown pastored churches during his ministry career but spent most of his time as a navy chaplain. During one assignment he served three years at Holy Loch, Scotland, where he and his wife, Ruth, encountered the Iona Community and their emphasis on spiritual disciplines. Chaplain and Mrs. Brown have three married children and nine grandchildren.

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