ďMY BROTHERíS KEEPERĒ
1. From the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, the foundational book of the Bible, the book of beginnings in the Bible, through the book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, the capstone book of the Bible, and the climactic book of the Bible, runs a scarlet thread of redemption.
2. The thread is scarlet because redemption can only be purchased by blood. The scarlet is a thread because the progress of Godís eternal purpose is sometimes difficult to discern amidst the many details of history and the interplay of personalities found in the Bible. But from beginning to end the scarlet thread of redemption ties together Godís unfolding drama that has as its focal point the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
3. Alongside the scarlet thread of redemption, through that portion of the Bible that deals with man on earth before the end of the age, is what I have chosen to label the revelation of mutual responsibility. It is the obvious principle of mutual interdependence. It is the recognition that the Bible shows mankind to not only be a race created by God to be dependent upon God, but also the recognition that the Bible shows mankind to be a race created by God to be interdependent upon each other.
4. Allow me to provide some examples:
a. When Eve was deceived by the enticement of the serpent she did not fulfill her responsibility toward her husband, Adam. In short, she was not dependable and let him down.
b. When Adam ate the forbidden fruit that was given to him by Eve, he not only sinned against God and precipitated the Fall that has led to mankindís present misery, but he also betrayed Eve and generations yet unborn. Adam let Eve down by not being the leader God created him to be and ruined us all.
c. When Abraham yielded to Sarah and sired Ishmael by Hagar he failed in his duty toward both women, toward the son that was born from his sin, and toward later generations. He let us all down.
d. How about Davidís sin with Bathsheba? A terrible sin, that led to another terrible sin. Not only did he give ďgreat occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme,Ē but he let down so many people who had depended on him.
5. I could go on and on, but for lack of time. The essence of the point that I seek to make, the principle that I desire to focus your attention on, is found in our text for today, Genesis 4.9. Please turn to that verse.
6. To provide you with context, to this point Adam and Eve have sinned against God and have been expelled from the Garden of Eden. Despite the great difficulties associated with living under the curse of sin God blessed the first couple with many children, with our attention here directed toward the first two, Cain and Abel.
7. After a conflict between the brothers results in Cainís murder of Abel, a potential that exists whenever two brothers become angry with each other and resort to violence, the Bible records Godís confrontation of Cain.
8. Pause for just a moment here to consider. There can be no doubt that Godís plan for people involves interdependency. Remember, God created Eve for the specific purpose of helping Adam. So, the implied duties of leadership benefiting her and the more obvious duties of being a help meet benefiting him clearly show that from the beginning people were supposed to be interdependent, because God Himself said, ďIt is not good that the man should be alone.Ē
9. Yet when confronted by God after the slaying of his brother, when challenged to give an account of where his brother was, Cain replied, ďAm I my brotherís keeper?Ē The answer, of course, is yes. Yes, Cain, you are your brotherís keeper.
10. Thousands of years later, the Lord Jesus Christ taught a parable to illustrate the responsibility each of us has toward others. Turn to Luke chapter 10 and begin reading verse 30 with me:
30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,
34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.
36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.
11. In the apostle Paulís ministry we find restatements of this principle:
a. In Romans 1.14-15, Paul states this obligation in the context of gospel preaching: ďI am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.Ē
b. As well, Galatians 6.10 speaks to this principle: ďAs we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.Ē
12. We also see Paul demonstrating this principle in action when he mobilized the churches in Europe to take up an offering for the believers in Judea. Turn to Second Corinthians 8.1-4 and read with me how important this duty, obligation and responsibility was perceived by the Christians in Macedonia to be toward people they would never set eyes on this side of heaven:
1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;
2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.
3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;
4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints.
13. The question that Cain asked God so long ago was, ďAm I my brotherís keeper?Ē That was in the days when there were only brothers and sisters in a new world, but for his mother and father. His question could be paraphrased, ďAm I responsible for the welfare of other people?Ē Yes, you are.
14. In our Lordís day the responsibility was clarified as being applicable to oneís neighbors, with the good Samaritan rightly understanding that your neighbor is that person who is near at hand and who needs your help. The apostle Paul sharpened the focus even more clearly when he wrote, ďAs we have therefore opportunity.Ē
15. It was John Donne (1573-1631) who wrote, ďNo man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.Ē What did he mean by what he wrote? In part, he meant what I have been pointing out, that we are interdependent and in need of each other.
16. In a moment, after brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a song, I want to speak to you about our interdependency and our duties, obligations and responsibilities toward each other.
17. Stand as brother Isenberger comes now to lead us.
1. ďAm I my brotherís keeper?Ē That was Cainís question to God when asked where Abel was. You might paraphrase Cainís question as ďIs Abel my responsibility?Ē The rest of the Bible is written, in part, to answer that question.
2. Consider some fellow who lies beat up on the sidewalk. Do you have any moral obligation toward that fellow lying there who was beaten and robbed? Are you responsible to call 911, or to find out if the poor guy is even alive? What if you saw the guy, but you had an important appointment to get to? Would you feel the obligation to stop what you are doing, to disrupt your schedule, to perhaps risk missing a wonderful business opportunity in order to look after a helpless man?
3. Why donít we turn the situation around? Suppose you are the one who has suddenly been overcome by illness? There you are. Too weak to move, too disoriented to cry out for help, your heart racing and gripped with the fear that you might be dying. Now how do you feel about interdependency? Would you want the guy walking by who is running late for an important appointment to help you?
4. You see, things oftentimes seem very different when the shoe is on the other foot, when you are the one who needs help rather than the one whose help is needed. Cain asked if he was his brotherís keeper because he did not want to be his brotherís keeper. And he did not want to be his brotherís keeper because he had, moments before, become his brotherís killer, his brotherís slayer, his brotherís murderer.
5. The sinful nature is such that people tend to ask such questions as Cain asked, to challenge every manís moral obligation to help those in need, when they are in the very act of ignoring such moral obligations, or once the decision has been made to engage in some type of selfishness that requires ignoring whatever duties, obligations and responsibilities they might have toward others.
6. Most of the time people just know that when you are walking in the desert with a jug of water and you come upon someone who is thirsty you share your water. When you are standing in line at a fast food joint and the nice elderly woman in front of you discovers that she is a dollar short of being able to pay for her meal you cheerfully and without prompting give her a dollar, even if it means you come up a little short.
7. You are not trying to earn your way to heaven by doing such a good deed. And you certainly have no expectation of any reward from the nice old lady for doing her a good turn. No one you know is anywhere around, so youíre not trying to impress your friends. So, why do you do it? There is an inborn recognition that people need each other, that we are interdependent, that you are your brotherís keeper.
8. To be sure, there are those with sufficiently seared consciences, with incredibly hardened hearts, with a coldness to their souls, who would deny this. They would selfishly ask, ďWhy should I help him? Whatís in it for me? Why do I have to get involved? Itís none of my business.Ē Oh, but it is your business. You are your brotherís keeper.
9. Understand, the Bible does not advocate, as so many social activists these days like to pretend, that you should compensate for some lazy personís lack of foresight and industry. Itís not your duty to pay someone elseís rent who dropped out of high school and canít hold a job. In other words, it is not your job to pay someone elseís way or to live someone elseís life. In the long run, that type of welfare mentality is quite the opposite of being your brotherís keeper, since it eventually does him more harm than good.
10. So you see, there is some middle ground between socialism (where people are taken care of and become lazy because they expect others to fulfill their own lifeís tasks) and the kind of individualism we find here in the United States that reflects the attitude expressed by ďI mind my own business and expect others to mind their own business, and I donít need nobody and donít like the idea of anyone needing my help.Ē
11. We are interdependent. I plan on helping you when I have opportunity, and would like to think that you plan on doing the same thing. Further, I plan on raising my child and would appreciate your help from time to time should you see something you think I need to know, and should I benefit from hearing what you have to say. And when I see your kid with his friends in the mall I will pass on to you the kind of information that I hope you will pass on to me if the situations were reversed.
12. Do you see where I am coming from in all this? I am not an island. You are not an island. Though I expect to take care of most of my business myself, I know that there are times when I need help. And though you need to take care of most of your business yourself, I know that there are times when you will need my help. I am my brotherís keeper. God made us that way. Not only are we all ultimately utterly dependent upon Him, but He has created each one of us to be interdependent upon each other in various ways.
13. This morning, in the few minutes I have left, I want to apply this principle of being your brotherís keeper:
1A. First, CONSIDER THE CHRISTIAN
Christian, you are your brotherís keeper. That means you have certain duties, obligations and responsibilities toward other people that you are particularly equipped to deal with as a Christian, and Godís Word is explicit in showing what those duties, obligations and responsibilities happen to be:
1B. First, toward the lost.
1C. Lost people are spiritually helpless. Lost people are turned around and confused in their thinking. Their perception and understanding of spiritual things is confounded by their sin.
2C. The result, of course, is that they need to be reached with the gospel. They need to be evangelized. They need to be talked to at work, invited to church, encouraged to consider the claims of Christ, and earnestly prayed for.
3C. Our understanding of human depravity convinces us that lost people cannot save themselves, cannot find their own way out of the darkness, and are incapable of making right decisions about which church to attend, what books to read, whose preaching to listen to.
4C. This is why we are given the Great Commission. This is why we are given the Word of God. This is why we go out as a church once a week to corporately canvass and invite people to be our guests here at Calvary Road Baptist Church.
5C. My friends, the entire purpose of Calvary Road Baptist Church, our outreach and our missions thrust to the uttermost parts of the world, is to be our brotherís keepers. Thatís why you were here last night instead of socializing. Thatís why you were here last night instead of partying. Thatís why you were here instead of sitting at home watching television. You are your brotherís keeper.
2B. But you are not only your lost brotherís keeper. You are also your Christian brotherís keeper.
1C. Consider a Christian friend who is doing something wrong. Perhaps, in a moment of stupidity, a believer does something that utterly ruins his credibility as a spiritual and conscientious follower of Jesus Christ.
2C. What would you do if you became aware of such a thing? Would you sit by and watch the Christian friend engage in testimony destroying folly without comment, without objection, without feeling any sense of responsibility? Of course not. You are your brotherís keeper.
3C. In Galatians 6.1 we read these words: ďBrethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.Ē Do you know what this verse means? It means that if you see a Christian do something he shouldnít do, you donít just stand by and watch. You do something.
4C. Why do you think Paul withstood Simon Peter to the face when they met in Antioch? Remember what happened? Peter had acted one way around Gentile Christians and another way around Jewish Christians. In other words, he was acting like a two-faced hypocrite. He was not only endangering his own testimony, but his actions were confusing and might have caused people to misunderstand the purity of the gospel of salvation by faith.
5C. So Paul couldnít just sit by and do nothing. What kind of a lousy friend would you have to be to do nothing? Paul, realizing that he was his brotherís keeper, intervened and put a stop to what Peter was doing. He was willing to risk his friendship with Peter to keep Peter from doing serious damage to his own testimony and to the cause of Christ.
6C. Would to God we had more courageous Christians who faced up to their duty to be their brotherís keepers. If Peter had been your friend, would you have done anything? Or would you have stood silently by while he did something foolish that he would have later regretted? My Christian friend, as a child of God you have a duty to fulfill, toward those who are lost as well as those who are already saved, because you are your brotherís keeper.
2A. As Well, CONSIDER THE NON-CHRISTIAN
A number of you here today are not believers in Jesus Christ, which is to say that you are not converted. Duties, obligations and responsibilities toward God and your fellow man are not the focus of your life. The Bible shows us that the focus of your life is yourself. But consider these things:
1B. Just because you are not a Christian does not mean you are not your brotherís keeper. After all, God confronted Cain about his brother Abel, and Cain was not a Christian. Not being a Christian, Cain attempted to deny his duty, his obligations, and his responsibilities, but to no avail. God still held him responsible.
2B. The same is true with you. You are your brotherís keeper whether you are a Christian or not. The problem is, while you are unsaved you cannot possibly fulfill your duties, your obligations, and your responsibilities as your brotherís keeper. Your life outside of Christ is focused primarily on yourself, meaning you will pay little attention to the needs of others. Their needs, particularly their great spiritual needs, will generally go unnoticed, or unnoticed by you.
3B. Those of you who are unsaved men and women married to believers, do you have any idea of the damage you do by continuing in your lost estate and failing to be your brotherís keeper, which is to say failing to be the proper spouse to your husband or wife? God only knows what might have resulted from a union of two Christians. But instead, you are content for your marriage to cripple along, one Christian married to one Hell-bound sinner, never giving much thought to what God might have accomplished had you come to Christ and begun to be your spouseís keeper.
4B. What about you unsaved moms and dads? Ever think about your children when the issue of being your brotherís keeper is before you? What real chance do your children have with you dead in trespasses and sins? Of what eternal benefit can you be to your children as one who is the enemy of God, as all unsaved people are?
5B. And you brothers and sisters who are not saved. Have you no concern for your little brother or your little sister, as the case may be? When that sibling needs an example, where are you? As a Christian you could show others in your family the greatness and glory of God, the goodness and graciousness of the Savior, the sweetness and the sanctity of Godís Spirit. But no, you are an example of laziness, an example of sneakiness, or perhaps an example of selfishness. You are not much different than Cain, feeling no sense of responsibility for your brother or sister, whatever the case may be.
6B. Now, I know that there are always unsaved people who are more interested in the conversion of others than they are in their own conversion. You would be surprised how many times unsaved people urge me to witness to this person or to that person, all the while remaining lost themselves. That is an attempt to be your brotherís keeper. But how can you keep your brother while opposing God? How can you keep your brother while rejecting the Savior? How can you keep your brother while grieving the Spirit?
1. Make no mistake about the importance of being your brotherís keeper, my friend. It is more important than you realize, because it is part of the fabric from which you were woven by God. His plan for you and me, and for everyone, includes being our brotherís keeper.
2. Are you your brotherís keeper? Of course you are. But the question is not whether or not you are your brotherís keeper. The question is whether or not you actually keep your brother, whether or not you look out for him, whether or not his welfare is your concern and your corrective action.
3. Those of you who are not Christians are so very sad. How can you keep your spouses, your children, your friends and relatives? How can you watch over them and play a role in their ultimate welfare? The fact is, you cannot. You can only fail in your responsibility to be your brotherís keeper because you yourself are unconverted, as Cain was.
4. But you who are Christians can succeed as your brotherís keepers. Not if you are cowardly. Not if you are timid. Not if you are distracted. But only if, like Paul, you are willing to sacrifice a friendship to save a lifeís testimony. He put his friendship with Simon Peter on the line by confronting him as he did, but it paid off in the long run. My prayer is that you who are Christians will take seriously your duty to be your brotherís keeper.