Monday, October 14, 2019

My Brother's Keeper

The last post may have been a little confusing, as it looked at only one angle of the circumstance. What I don't want you to take from it is this idea that the only person you have to worry about in the world is yourself, that you should be constantly focused on your own deeds and doing, or that nothing that happens to others - including your enemies - is your business. That wasn't the point at all. And in fact, the truth is quite the opposite.

For isn't truly caring about others what love is all about? And love is the highest law. 

So it's not that we shouldn't care what others are doing. It's not that we shouldn't invest ourselves in helping even our enemies to overcome their hurts, trials, and sins. Rather, we absolutely should give freely of ourselves in love to help anyone and everyone that we can...because that's what Jesus did. 

What we cannot do is let our own happiness or "success" be staked on the outcome of that. Our lives are not dictated by what others do. Our joy is not dependent upon others. Our peace, our prosperity, our promise doesn't boil down to someone else; we live the faith from our own heart, not from circumstance. 

Which brings us to the heart of the question: am I my brother's keeper? And the answer is...sort of. 

This phrase takes us back to Cain and Abel; it is the response that Cain had when God asked him where Abel was, though both knew exactly where Abel was - Cain had killed him. "Where is your brother?" How should I know? Am I my brother's keeper?

It's another story, like that in Jeremiah, that has this undertone of needing to do something about our enemies in order to secure our own righteousness. In Jeremiah, the people attempted to heal Babylon; in Genesis, brother killed brother. Remember, Abel's sacrifice was accepted and Cain's was not, so he figured that if he eliminated his brother, then his would be the only sacrifice, and it wouldn't have to be better than anyone else's; God would have to accept it. 

But the blood of Abel, the blood of the "enemy," cried out to God from the earth and condemned Cain anyway. And he says, am I my brother's keeper? 

The answer should have been. 

Because whatever you do to your enemies, it doesn't change your life. It doesn't change your righteousness. It doesn't change your circumstances. Whether you heal them, the way Israel tried to heal Babylon, or you destroy them, the way Cain did Abel, you are accepted...or not...based on the way that you live your life, not on the way that someone else lives theirs. 

On this account, then, you should live your life in a way that helps all to live the same kind of life by love. That is, you should labor to help everyone to live a righteous, redeemed life. You should invest yourself in loving others well so that they can see the love of Christ. You should help them to restore their broken places, to overcome their trials, to break free of their chains. You should bring food to the hungry, clothes to the naked, companionship to the lonely. Take care of orphans and widows. 

Are you your brother's keeper? Yes. That's what love is. 

You just have to remember that your life does not hinge on what your brother does with that love; it depends only upon how well you love him in the first place. Brother, neighbor, alien, stranger, enemy - love them all. For this is what we are called to do. And doing this, we show our righteousness. Doing this, we show our faithfulness. Doing this, we show our heart. On this, your life is judged. 

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