August 4, 1999

"Am I my brother's keeper?"

_____"Then the Lord said to Cain, 'Where is your brother Abel?' 'I don't know,' he replied. 'Am I my brother's keeper?'" (Genesis 4:9)
___In his award-winning book, "Brother to a Dragonfly," the Baptist preacher and civil rights activist Will D. Campbell records the history of the relationship with his older brother, Joe. In the prologue that summarizes all of our experiences, he writes, "Yet we were there, Joseph Lee and I, sometimes in a nearness approaching, surpassing illness. And sometimes so far apart that neither could hear the cry of the other."
Sam Underwood Pastor
First Baptist Church
Farmers Branch

___So it is with brothers. And sisters. Like a thread that holds our lives together, the Bible tells us of brothers who struggle with each other and with God. Esau and Jacob--one a deceiver, the other deceived. One fears for his life; the other breathes murderous threats. Joseph--the father's favorite who is cast so far away from his brothers' presence that only strangers can hear his cries of dereliction. Moses and Aaron--one who stammers his way through life; the other so glib of tongue.
___Then, of course, the most famous of unnamed brothers, the elder and the younger--one spent his father's blessing in riotous living; the other stayed close to the stoop while holding his father's love at arm's length. For him, his brother was as good as dead.
___"And while they were in the field, Cain attacked Abel and killed him." The violence of one brother against another should not surprise us. The Bible and life's experiences remind us that anger and hatred, sin, lie crouching at the door of our lives, ready to overwhelm us, to use us for its evil purposes.
___Nor should we be surprised by the presence of God in the midst of such evil. His questioning, his demanding, his outrage at evil remind us that wherever we go, we are not far from his presence.
___"Am I my brother's keeper?" When Cain answers God's question, "Where is your brother?" with "I don't know," he reveals not only his ignorance of his responsibility to his brother, but also his ignorance of God.

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