Am I my brother’s keeper? Genesis 4:9

Dealing with family is always a little tricky, they have seen us at our worst and often times question the sincerity of our faith walk. This of course is nothing new; Christ experienced this to some degree when He was not accepted in His home town. I recently had the unfortunate experience of falling short with my own sister. It would appear that one ill chosen word would doom our lifetime relationship. Once spoken, tempers flared and off to the races we went…who would have the last word? Who would get the last jab or have the deepest cut? The battle was twofold for me because the Holy Spirit immediately called me out…now it was my sister; my old man and my new man all grappling for the top position. I am relieved to say it didn’t take too long for the new man to put the old man down but the damage was done. My sister, whom although I may not have agreed with, was struggling and actually needed nurturing, which was not what had just taken place. In spite of my sincere apology, her harsh words ended the conversation and we have not spoken since. I prayed, put it all before God and walked away.

Or so I thought…

I frequently see her on my Facebook and have tried to make amends, but true to her word, she ignores me. This of course lights my fuse and the inner struggle begins again, I have tried several times to appease the childishness in me and delete her from my account so I won’t see her and be hurt. Satan is always quick to give us an excuse for bad behavior if we want one! I wrestled with this for days, more out of determination because I couldn’t make it work right. I could not get her deleted from my account. Then one morning, I woke up with a scripture verse embedded in my mind. At first, it made no sense to me as I am not always so quick on the draw. Although I tried to push it aside, forget about it or rationalize it to late night snacking, it would not let go of me. Isn’t God good? That He should care for us so much that He will help us in spite of ourselves? The verse was simple and well known …”Am I my brother’s keeper?” Now this took a whole new perspective…”wait a minute Lord” I said to God, “I am not Cain and I did not kill my sister!” But the scripture followed me for days. I thought about the story, took the Bible and read it several times, still perplexed as to how this affected me. As I’ve stated before I am not always the first to get it…finally in one reading the Holy Spirit had mercy and nudged me. Do you see it is a question? My first thought was..uh? Well yeah..it always has been. Then I was challenged… look deeper. So I sat and thought about Cain and his attitude, his attitude with his brother and his attitude with God. I read the verse from several Bibles and discovered that although the word has been translated to guardian in some versions the word keeper is more predominately used and standard for the King James Version. After reviewing the words in my concordance I discovered that guardian was not even listed but that keeper was listed over forty times, although in all fairness my concordance is older.
Then upon review of their definitions, it struck me that “guardian” is more of a general overseer where as “keeper” is more of an immediate hands on detailed care giver. Furthermore, the Hebrew/Aramaic/Greek dictionary revealed the word “keeper” was rich with multiple meanings from both ends of the spectrum. These multiple meanings gave me a deeper insight to Cain’s true heart with God. He didn’t simply make the statement…”I am not my brother’s keeper.”, which would imply more of an impatient, can’t be bothered by or with my brother. He posed it in question form, which I believe took it to a different level. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” to all knowing God would seem a sarcastically mocking challenge. To make the situation worse, by using the word “keeper and its multiple definitions, he displeased God in several ways. On the one hand, the Lord wants and expects us to “cherish, retain, reserve, protect, maintain and obey”. This is not what Cain did and henceforth fell short with the Lord’s expectation. On the other hand Cain did “bear grudge, besiege, lay wait for and indulge in evil retreat”, to which he implied to God that he was innocent but was actually guilty of all of these. The real kicker was “keeper” can also mean person of authority, rank or high standing. So here was Cain telling God… I don’t care about Abel. (which he should) I didn’t do anything to him. (which he did) and mocking God by implying …How would I know, I have no authority, I’m not considered important. Now when I put all that together, I sat back and thought, now where do I fit into all this? How does that apply to me? Let me just say that if you don’t really want to know, don’t ask, because our gracious Father will give to those who ask! He simply broke it down, “Are you truly caring for you sister in her time of need? Are you protecting, preserving and maintaining all that is good for her? Are you cherishing my creation and obeying?” GULP! “Are you bearing a grudge and indulging in evil retreat? Are you presuming to be in authority by judging her?’ uh um…no …um…wow …what an eye opener! I can’t tell you that all is well between us yet, I’m trusting the Lord will help me mend that rift, but I can tell you I know what kind of “keeper” I want to be. How about you? …
Are you your brother’s keeper?

  — slc