ďAM I MY BROTHERíS KEEPER?Ē
As I look back over the expanse of my life, I find myself becoming more and more thankful for Godís providential watch care and His use of people and circumstances to instill certain values in me in a practical and profound way. Allow me to make mention of two examples I am thankful for:
The first example is a man named John A. Conner, a giant of a man who stood about 6í 3Ē and weighed well over 200 pounds, a Texas cowboy, horse trader, and farmer who was never without his Stetson cowboy hat and never far from a coffee can stuffed with hay that he used for a spittoon. The eldest of thirteen children, John Conner never went past third grade, could do little more than sign his own name, but was a provider for his siblings from his childhood and respected by everyone who had ever heard his name. John Conner was my maternal grandfather, the man I was named for, and a towering example of manhood to me to this day. For more than fifty years in Wheeler County, Texas it was John Conner who was called upon to settle disputes between violent men, not the sheriff. It was John Conner who was called upon to calm down cantankerous drunkards, not the county sheriff. It was John Conner who hired dissolute men so he could pay them money to feed their families. It was my grandfather, John Conner, who filled his pickup with produce that he had grown, with pork sausage he had produced, and with chickens and eggs from his own chicken coop, to make the rounds of the countyís widow women to make sure they had food to eat, and to occasionally hand them money to pay for utilities. I am not sure anyone on earth ever knew what he did besides my grandmother and me as a result of riding along with him and adoring him for it. He defined manhood for me. Oh, how I miss him to this day, and how thankful to God I am for him.
The second example is my own brother, who I admired for a number of reasons while we were growing up, though I will at present list for you only one reason. I am not sure if parents count the cost to their children by frequently moving them as they are growing up, uprooting them from first one school where they make friends, to another school where they are forced to start all over again. The result can frequently lead to an inability on the part of oneís children to form deep and abiding friendships that last a lifetime. My brotherís ability to make those kinds of adjustments was far superior to mine because he has superior people skills. One of the ways he adapted to each new classroom environment was to spend the first day or two in the new school quietly observing the classroom dynamic, where there would invariably be one rather helpless boy who was constantly set upon by the other kids, usually in a ruthless and cowardly fashion, bullying the weak and helpless kid to tears. Kids do that kind of thing because they are cowards by nature, which is why they need parents, teachers, and other adults to provide careful oversight. Once he had figured out the lay of the land in the classroom my brother would then approach the defenseless kid and kindly and tenderly win his confidence and become his friend, his real friend, and his protector. Once he won that kidís trust, life for that defenseless kid suddenly changed. He no longer had to be afraid to go to school. He no longer had to be afraid of kids stealing his lunch money or taking his snacks from him. He no longer had to worry about someone taking his glasses, or ridiculing him, much less threatening him. Why not? My brother, who was always the toughest kid in his class, let the bullies know that there was a new sheriff in town, and if they so much as looked crossways at his friend they would be dealt with in a very painful way after school as they tried to make their way home. His friend in Fort Totten was Andy. He had twin brothers (who would be candidates for special education these days) in Fort Lauderdale. It was Curtis in Warm Springs, now a Ph.D. microbiologist and one of the foremost research scientists in the United States. These were not Gregís only friends. One young guy who was certainly not physically helpless was a tremendous athlete named Dick, who was from a very poor family. So what did Greg do? He brought him over to the house two or three times a week and fried up steaks for them to eat.
Where did my brother pick up that admirable trait? From my grandfather? I donít know where he got it. However, I do know that both my grandfather and my brother were, in their own way, putting into practice something that I want to impress upon especially you men and boys who are here today. If you have your Bible with you, turn to Genesis 4.9. When you find that verse in Godís Word, please stand for the reading of todayís text. However, before we read it, let me remind you of the context: God created the universe and all that herein is in six literal days, including the first man, Adam. He then placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and created Eve, after which they disobeyed God and became sinners. Following their spiritual separation from God and expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Eve gave birth to a son, Cain, and then another son, Abel. Years later, as they were approaching manhood or after they had reached manhood, Cain had a dispute with Abel and slew him. He actually took the life of his own brother and became the first man slayer. It is in the context of slaying of his brother that we find our text:
ďAnd the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brotherís keeper?Ē
The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, Cain, you are your brotherís keeper. My message this morning will be an expansion of this responsibility of humanity to keep oneís brother:
CONSIDER, FIRST, THE SAVIOR
I might ordinarily end a sermon with the Savior as the highest and most noble example of being your brotherís keeper, building to a climax and showing the Lord Jesus to be our wonderful example of a brotherís keeper, which He certainly is. However, this morning I want to use the Savior as the model after which all else is patterned.
In the beginning, of course, the eternal Son of the living God was with His Father and the Spirit in the dim mist of eternity past, the Triune Godhead in joyful and loving communion. Excuse me for speaking in terms of it being a long time ago, but we time bound creatures really have no other way of relating to eternity, which is actually outside the limitations of time. Allow me to say that before the beginning, before God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1.1), before the Word who is God made everything that was made (John 1.3), and before He (which is to say Jesus Christ) created all things that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; things that were created by Him, and for Him (Colossians 1.16), He was in no way a man and therefore had no obligations toward a nonexistent race. He is sovereign, doing what He chooses to do. However, He did choose to create mankind, Adam and then Eve, and He did then Himself become a man by means of the virgin birth, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, when He was born of Mary in Bethlehem.
By humbling Himself to be born into the human family by means of the virgin birth, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, took upon himself a real and genuine humanity that was joined with His eternal deity in one Person, the God-Man. Now being a man, He assumed all the duties, obligations, and responsibilities that accompany membership in the human race. He went about doing good, attending to the genuine needs of others, and generally discharging His responsibility to be His brotherís keeper. However, He was His brotherís keeper to a degree not possible for other men, because He is a man who is also God. It was entirely a matter of grace, you understand, because He did not have to become a man in the second place, or to create man in the first place. Recognizing that caveat, understand that the Lord Jesus Christ is His brotherís keeper in that He offers salvation full and free to all who are His brothers in the human race. He suffered the death of the cross as an atonement for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God. The invitation is extended to everyone in the human family to turn from their sins and to trust Him. Additionally, when someone comes to faith in Christ and is adopted into the family of God the Lord Jesus Christís duty to keep His brothers comes into even sharper focus. Our Elder Brother in the household of God saves us from sins, saves us through our sins, and will someday save us from the presence of sins. Of course, He died on the cross, but He was then raised up on the third day. Then, wonderfully raised from the dead, He was gloriously exalted to His Fatherís right hand on high. It will be from there that He will someday return to not only reclaim this old fallen world for Himself (since it is rightfully His), but to protect and deliver His brethren from those evil men who have rejected Him.
When all is said and done, when time shall be no more and His own have been raised up incorruptible to spend eternity with Him, the Lord Jesus Christ will forever be shown to be and to have been the ultimate example of being His brotherís keeper. The only question, of course, is whether you will be His brother Who He keeps, protects, and provides for in countless ways. Or will you be His enemy who He avenges?
CONSIDER, NEXT, ONEíS FAMILY
Can we stipulate that among civilized men of good will it is accepted that you take care of your own? This, in my opinion, is a reflection of our being created in Godís image and after His likeness. To be sure, the current push among the heathens for the government to provide everything, for the authorities to pay for everything, seriously eats into that age-old ethic of taking care of your own. However, except for those occasional people who refuse to step up and prepare themselves, who refuse to obtain a job and prepare while they are young to take of others when they are older, we know that being your brotherís keeper is a good thing, for both parties, the keeper and the kept.
Who does not realize that someday your parents are going to be old and will need looking after? Who does not recognize that sometimes catastrophes necessitate rearing your grandchildren? Who does not see the need of sometimes stepping up to adopt children who but for you have nothing?
Here is my thinking: Where would you be if your parents had not discharged their duty of being their brotherís keeper toward you? However, now that they are growing older and you are reaching adulthood, you have no obligation to reciprocate and prepare yourself to take care of them? As well, you have no obligation of giving your sister a helping hand when she needs it, or your brother? It is only you who deserves a helping hand, but you feel no responsibility to be the one offering a helping hand?
You see how it goes, do you not? Even the best prepared of us sometimes find ourselves in need of help from someone in the family. And that is what family is for, is it not? Remember the line from the old movie about the orphanage in which one orphan boy is carrying his little brother when he is asked if he can manage? He responds, ďHe ainít heavy, heís my brother.Ē Brother or not, helping someone can be very difficult. However, it is what we do with family. Amen?
How about spiritual family? It is one thing to look after those youíve known your whole life. It is another thing to look after those with whom you will spend eternity, brothers and sisters in the family of God. Do you have any duty, obligation, or responsibility toward those who are like you blood washed and blood bought children of God? To the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote, ďBe kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.Ē
Remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, in John 13.35: ďBy this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.Ē Christians in Mali looked after each other when everything fell apart. They looked after each other before everything fell apart, being the only Africans in Gao who married dark skinned with light skinned Africans. Christians in Nigeria are at present looking after one another. I am sure the same is true in Ukraine, and in other parts of the world where Christians are oppressed. Can you imagine Christians in the house churches of China not looking after one another? I cannot. What if the slow economic crumble here in the USA continues, with first the loss of job and then the loss of car and home by a Christian you know who is not a blood relative? Will you offer your Christian brother your spare bedroom, or your garage? And when that couple is in your home, will you make them feel like intruders, or support and encourage them as welcome guests?
CONSIDER, THIRD, THE LOST
I suppose the most appropriate example of being our brotherís keeper has to do with reaching the lost with the gospel. Though the parable of the Good Samaritan specifically recounts one manís willingness to minister to the physical needs of a complete stranger, when his own Jewish countrymen refused to life a finger to aid him, the Savior taught the parable as a means of identifying who is your neighbor.
Crucial to understanding the parable, and learning the lesson taught by the Savior as it applies to being your brotherís keeper, in my opinion, is what He said in Luke 10.33-34: ďand when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him.Ē ďHere is the essence of being a neighbor: having the sensitivity to see a need and act to meet it.Ē Yet, of course, some see such a person afar off and make sure they are not seen by him, so they donít have to be their brotherís keeper.
I would urge you to apply the lesson of this parable, as the Lord does, to the greater need than oneís physical need, to the spiritual need. The key, of course, to being your brotherís keeper, especially if your brother is not a family member and is not a Christian, is to have compassion on him in his lost condition and go to him, having the sensitivity to see his spiritual need and then act to meet it.
Do you think the Savior dealt with either the woman at the well or the woman taken in adultery because they were particularly endearing to Him? How about the rich young ruler, all impudent and self-deluded into thinking he had kept the Law and that he could work his way into heaven? Yet Godís Word tells us concerning this obnoxious young man ďJesus beholding him loved him.Ē
The point that I seek to illustrate is the importance of a Christian seeing the lost as lost, loving the lost though they are lost, and having compassion for them to do something to reach them for Christ. What are you willing to do? What are you not willing to do? What do you actually do?
CONSIDER, FINALLY, THE CHURCH
The church relationship is a more meaningful relationship than is natural brother to natural brother, and than even Christian brother to Christian brother. With respect to natural brothers, it must be kept in mind that natural brothers and sisters will be separated by physical death, bringing to an eternal end the relationship they once had with each other. However, the relationship of spiritual brothers, brothers and sisters in Christ, are unarguably eternal relationships that will only be strengthened in the afterlife. Moreover, the relationship that exists with Christians who are part of the same body, who comprise what Paul said in First Corinthians 3.16 is a temple of God in which the Spirit of God was resident in a way not found with Christians not in the same church, merits serious study and reflection. Let me just say at this time that church members collaborate in their Christian lives to serve God together, voluntarily choose to yield a portion of our individuality so we can, like a threefold cord [that] is not quickly broken, accomplish far more for Christ in community than would ever be the case individually. Church members occupy a situation in which Christian rewards can be earned.
I could go on and on, but for the need as a pastor to address a problem that arises from time to time with respect to being our brotherís keeper. A young lost man very typically lives an incredibly selfish life, in which he is the unconscious and ungrateful beneficiary of many other peopleís generosity and good intentions. His food, his clothing, his schooling, his after school activities, the treats he is given, the love and affection that he receives and receives much pleasure from, as well his friendships. He takes these things without any awareness of his own personal responsibility to provide such things for others when the time and opportunity arises. For simplicity in storytelling, let me say that this young man is next invited to church, hears the gospel and comes to Christ, and becomes a part of the church. Over time he begins to learn some things and finds that adjustments in life are appropriate. Education must be finished. Making a living becomes important. He begins to recognize that the church ministry does not thrive on air alone, but on the faithful giving of Godís people in accordance with the Word of God. Eventually, he begins to give, and someday he may actually obey God by tithing. So far, pretty much everything in his life is oriented toward self, even the part about meeting and marrying a wonderful Christian wife. Now, the acting out of the principle of being your brotherís keeper begins. He takes seriously his duties to protect and provide for his wife, and then his children. He grows, matures, and develops. He may even willingly do what he can to help out his wifeís folks or her brother if the need arises. Thatís good. His understanding of being his brotherís keeper is developing, broadening in scope beyond his own immediate situation. Years pass. The Christian has grown and matured. God has blessed in a number of ways, and he has done more than most to be helpful to his own family, his own children, his wifeís family, and even those not blood related to him. He faithfully gives to the cause of Christ through the church and supports missionary endeavors. In his own mind, he is his brotherís keeper, and a subtle complacency creeps into his conduct. It comes to mind and then leaves his mind that someone in the church has a problem. It might be a physical problem with illness or injury or advanced age, or it might be a not so obvious piece of evidence suggesting serious financial difficulties. At any rate, because you have such a good wife who tends to many details for you, and because you have come a long way from your incredibly selfish youth, you let an opportunity pass to be your Christian brotherís keeper, your fellow church memberís keeper. Is it something you should assume the pastor will take care of? How about the deacons? Surely the deacons will tend to it. Have you ever considered that deacons might have been selected in Acts chapter six precisely because so many in the early church had failed to be their brotherís keeper (or should I say the keeper of the aged women, who were neglected in the daily ministration)? May I suggest that the reason God providentially arranged for you to become aware of the problem is because you are the one He wants to address the problem? Therefore, the phone call should come from you. The house call should come from you. The flowers should come from you. The invitation for coffee should come from you.
This matter of you being your brotherís keeper is not limited to your blood relatives. It extends to your in-laws, to your coworkers, to your neighbors, to chance encounters along the way through life, to other Christians, and certainly to members of your church. If we are learning anything at Calvary Road Baptist Church, we are learning that the western way of compartmentalizing things into this box for house, this box for work, this box for church, and so forth, is simply not a scriptural concept. Life is entirely interrelated and everything overlaps with everything else. So must it be in your life. You are your brotherís keeper. In every part of your life you are your brotherís keeper. Your example and mentor is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. However, no one can think of being his brotherís keeper so long as he maintains a selfish commitment to dodge responsibility and delay serious consideration of the gospel. Even then, should you come to Christ and demonstrate real growth and evidence of Godís grace in your life, you will ever be given opportunities to keep your brother. Therefore, whether it is blood kin, a neighbor, a coworker, an old high school buddy, an in-law, or a member of this church . . . do not shirk your duty, your obligation, your responsibility, and your high and holy privilege of keeping your brother. It is a high and holy calling, and is the best concise description of the Christian manís purpose in life. Be it your wife, your child, your elders, your friends, your neighbors, you coworkers, your brothers in Christ, and most particularly others in the body of Christ, you are your brotherís keeper.
 Def: A jarlike container to spit into; a cuspidor. Websterís New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1752.
 Isaiah 7.14; 9.6-7; Micah 5.2; Luke 1.26-38; 2.1-20
 Romans 12.10
 Luke 10.25-37
 Darrell L. Bock, Luke Volume 2: 9:51-24:53 - ECNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), page 1032.
 Mark 10.21
 Ecclesiastes 4.12
 1 Corinthians 3.11-15
 Acts 6.1
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