May 282017

We Are Our Brother’s Keeper by Elder Sivaraj Prasad

Romans 14:7 reminds us that we do not live for ourselves.

Has it ever dawned on us that we are responsible spiritually to God for other people?  For instance, if we allow any turning away from God in our private life, everyone around us suffers.  Ephesians 2:6 says, ‘And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”  And 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.”  If we allow physical selfishness, mental carelessness, moral insensitivity, or spiritual weakness, everyone in contact with us will suffer.  We may ask whether we can do this work ourselves.  The answer is it is God alone who makes us able to do all that we do (2 Corinthians 3:5).

The phrase “my brother’s keeper” occurs in the context of the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:1-9.  After the Lord God had expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for their disobedience, Cain killed his brother Abel out of jealousy because God had found Abel’s sacrifice acceptable, but had rejected Cain’s.  After the murder, the Lord, knowing full well what had happened, asked Cain where Abel was.  Cain’s response was “I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?”(Genesis 4:9).

Every man is his brother’s keeper in that we are not to commit violent acts against them or allow others to do so if we can prevent it.  This sort of “keeping” is something God rightfully demands of everyone, on the grounds of both justice and love.  But Cain’s reply indicates a total lack of any kind of feeling for another human being.  Basically, in the absence of brotherly love, and the overriding presence of selfishness, it kills affection and gives rise to hatred.

Christians are to be the keepers of other Christians in two ways.  First we are not to commit acts of violence against one another.  This includes violence of the tongue in the form of quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behavior (2 Corinthians 12:20).  Second, we are to exhibit brotherly love toward our brothers and sisters in Christ with a tender heart and a humble mind (1 Peter 3:8).  In this way, we “keep” those for whom Christ gave His life.

God calls us to a way of life exemplified by Him and His Son, Lord Jesus, as recorded in Romans 5:7-8, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.  But God commendeth his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

We can come to understand and apply the kind of love and sacrifice our Lord Jesus made for all humanity. The Bible describes it as being our brother’s keeper, one who unfailingly “keeps” his brother or sister.  Such constancy is more than an immediate and unplanned sacrifice for others, commendable as that is. To be your brother’s keeper means to consider your neighbor’s needs at all times, whether he is present or not.

A brother’s keeper is one who understands godly love as expressed in Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16-17).  That kind of love is embodied in the final words of Lord Jesus as He hung dying on the stake: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  This is what Lord Jesus asked of the Father for His murderers.

This kind of love for others is not a part-time job but a way of life.  It follows the example of the Good Samaritan at all times.  Ultimately the way of life God desires for us involves God’s calling (John 6:44), repentance from dead works and faith toward God (Hebrews 6:1-2).

So, as Christians, we are to be our brother’s keeper.  As Paul wrote in Romans 14:19, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace and things wherewith one may edify another”.