Genesis 4: 1-12, NKJV
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, ‘I have acquired a man from the Lord.’ 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. 4 Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, 5 but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. 6 So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’
8 Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ 10 And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth.‘”
I pray that all of you had a good Easter week. I saw reports from a lot of our sister churches in the US and here in Canada of visitors, salvations, and baptisms. It is good to hear that the Kingdom of Heaven is expanding and growing. It is good to see people standing and publicly declaring their love for our Lord Jesus. One sister church had eight baptisms in one day; we had one join the Guelph church where I am helping to pastor. The people are inviting friends and instigating Bible-question fellowships, and we are seeing growth in many areas.
Over the course of the last few weeks and just today, I have watched some videos and seen some news feeds that made me ask a few questions. Over the past few years, and in particular the last 2 with the COVID mess, we have had a serious infringement on our rights. This, of course, has brought this to the front and center with many people. I sadly listened to an interview with Glen Beck this week with Pastor Artur Pawlowski, a minister here in the Province of Alberta. He is an immigrant whose families fled the regimes of Europe to come and find freedoms in Canada. He was arrested multiple times and kept in horrible circumstances by our government for holding services during the COVID lockdowns.
I encourage you to hear the interview for yourself and draw your own conclusions. But at the end of it, he was asked if it was all worth it, and he said, “Yes, I do not want my kids and grandkids to lose out on the rights they are to have.”
Later this week, I saw another video, and the professor was talking about the fact that we have raised a people that are all concerned about their rights but have not been taught responsibility. He put it this way, “Your rights are my responsibility, and the vice-versa is also true. My rights are your responsibility.” As I was thinking about this, the passage up top came to mind, and I want to explore that a bit here and explore the responsibilities that we have to and for each other.
- Sins’ Quick Progression
Many of us are familiar with this story; it is the very first murder recorded in history. Cain and Abel are brothers born to Adam and Eve. One of the sad lessons we learn is how far sin will take you, from eating the forbidden fruit to your kids murdering each other in a very short period of time. How fast sin infests us and takes over our lives. It eats away at the very fabric of our lives, our families, and our societies.
Cain and Abel both offered offerings to God. Cain offered a blood sacrifice; this was the God-established acceptable sacrifice that paid for sin (see Genesis 3:21). God made tunics of skin to cover the shame of Adam and Eve; these tunics would have been provided by killing an animal or two and clothing Adam and his wife. God established that a blood sacrifice was needed to cover our sinfulness and shame.
This, of course, was a picture of the shed blood that Jesus would offer for us at that Passover in 32 AD. Thus, for Cain to offer a bloodless offering was simply an affront to God. It is clear that he is angry with God (see verse 6). God simply points out that if he would obey, his sacrifice would be accepted as well. Abel made a choice to kill his brother out of jealousy rather than humble himself and obey God. He chose not to be his brother’s keeper. He chose to kill his brother over jealousy and, frankly, hatred for God’s laws and ways.
- Where is Abel your brother? Verse 9
God knew where he was. Abel was dead. But God gave Cain the freedom to come clean, admit his wrongdoing and accept the consequences. Cain did not do that. Rather, he states, “I do not know.” Obviously, he did. Why did he lie to God? We do it all the time as if God does not know the truth about all things, even the bad things. We lie to ourselves first of all and then to God. Both know the truth.
God confronts him with the truth; you did it. You killed your brother. I know, and I saw it all. I know where the body is. His blood is screaming out to me, and there needs to be a consequence. Go back to verse 6, and we will see that all of this came around when Cain’s anger got the best of him. He was angry at God, and since he could not hurt God, he hurt Cain.
We have a natural aversion to killing people. Most soldiers and even most police officers have to learn the skills of killing a person. There is a barrier that pops up; the sanctity of life that comes to the forefront for us. God put that there because, unlike the animals, we are made in the image of God. So how angry was Cain that all of the natural prohibitions that God put in place were done away with and he killed his brother, not just any other man – his brother. We see this kind of anger and hatred repeated again in Genesis 37: 18-20 (NKJV)
“Now when they saw him afar off, even before he came near them, they conspired against him to kill him. Then they said to one another, ‘Look, this dreamer is coming! Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!'”
Joseph’s own brothers, save one, conspired to kill him and eventually sell him into slavery and lied to their dad that a wild animal killed him. They carried out this hoax for more than a decade, about 13 years actually before God brought the truth to light. Joseph became his brothers’ keeper, and he fed and cared for the very men who wanted him dead.
In the New Testament, we often look at Peter on that fateful night in the Garden when Jesus was arrested, and there are elaborate accounts of Peter’s denial of Jesus. But tucked away in Mark 14: 49-50 (NKJV), we find these comments,
“Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest Me. But this has happened that the Scriptures would be fulfilled.’ Then everyone deserted Him and fled.”
Everyone deserted Jesus that night, all of them except John. We know that John went into the trial with Jesus, and Peter was in the courtyard. How did Jesus handle them fleeing? How did He act or react to them after the events? We meet him in the Garden by the tomb, and He sends a message to the disciples via Mary. This is what He says, Matthew 28: 9-10 (NKJV),
“Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ They came to Him, grasped His feet, and worshiped Him. ‘Do not be afraid,’ said Jesus. ‘Go and tell My brothers to go to Galilee. There they will see Me.'”
Go tell MY BROTHERS; this was how He addressed the men who abandoned Him on the hardest night of His earthly life and left Him after all the love He had showered on them. Jesus that day was still His brothers’ keeper, and He still loved them no matter what they had done.
- Am I My Brother’s Keeper? Verse 9
The answer is YES!! When I was a young man, one of my mentors who had served in the US military for many years told me that, unlike the military, the Christian Army goes back to make sure its wounded are dead. This is the very opposite of being our brother’s keeper. I have seen ‘Christian’ men so angry that they tear down the character of another brother and hurt them so that they leave the ministry, leave the Lord’s churches, and emotionally scar their children. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have felt it in my heart and borne it in my mind. You and I are responsible for each other, and we will answer to God for it. We are called to carry each other and make each other better. In Proverbs 27:17 (NKJV), we see this very familiar verse,
“As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
We often quote part one of the verse, but the second part says that he ‘sharpens’ the countenance of his friend. He lifts his face, which makes him joyful or more confident. The idea of sharpening is not just about the skills; it is about the very psyche of the brother or sister. When we take responsibility for each other, we are able to truly lift each other up, not just with a smile on the face but with a smile in the heart and mind. When we truly become responsible for each other, we will rejoice when the other obeys God, and we will lift them up rather than kill them. Often, we do not kill people with a knife but with words. We say hateful and hurtful things to them and about them. Or we cut them off and shun them.
One of the harshest criticisms from those both outside and inside the Lord’s churches is the sad way that we treat each other. Too many of us have or know of someone who has been hurt by someone in a church. The stories are hard to hear, and they are hard to believe at times. The carnage is horrible; the numbers of bodies lost along the way continue to stack up, and the ramifications are horrendous as we lose the next two or three generations from this one harm. Many of these wrongs, as we can learn from Cain, come when we are jealous that God is blessing someone for obedience. And rather than follow step, we hate their obedience; and like Cain, since we cannot hurt God, we hurt His children. And yes, this happens even amongst the saved, not just the lost.
Somewhere along the line, we will need to make a conscious decision that we will be our brother’s and sister’s keepers. We will pray for, love, serve, encourage, and defend each other. We will hold each other in high regard and do all that we can to ensure that we never are involved in nor sit to the side and watch the character assassination of a brother or sister. The wounds that can be inflicted by our harsh anger-filled words would leave them wishing we had killed them; it would be less painful.
Many of you have contacted me to pray for you, and I do. I will put your request to the churches I serve, and we will pray. But to the best of my ability, I will try to be your keeper, and I pray that you will be mine. Take a look at Philippians 2:3 (NKJV),
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
If we take on this mindset, we will not have any issues with jealousy and anger. We will have emotional and spiritual safety in our friendships and our churches. We will draw in the hurting and love them like Jesus. But it starts with understanding that, YES, I am my brother’s keeper, and we take responsibility for each other.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church
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