Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”
Genesis 4.9 (ESV)
The news from the past few weeks has been giving me the unfortunate opportunity to reflect on this powerful verse in scripture. The questioning from God to Cain comes when God discovers that Cain, in a fit of jealousy, has murdered Abel. Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable to God while, for whatever reason, Cain’s was not. In a fit of violence, Cain beat Abel to death.
Unfortunately, this pattern of behavior has continued throughout human history. Anger and jealousy lead to bitterness and malice; which when cultivated and nurtured give birth to rage and ultimately to violence.
The news has been filled with violence and with it’s after effects for weeks. Mass shootings, suicides, mass stabbings, domestic violence as well as the consequences have been prominently featured on the news. Lives are being snuffed out at an alarming pace.
My greater concern is the response that I have seen. The wagons are circled. Political pundits begin their spin. We are given a litany of whys, wherefores and causes. People cry for change. Yet no change comes.
The argument against change often boils down to a staunch argument for personal rights. It is MY right… You fill in the blanks as to which rights are cited. Meaningful change is gridlocked in the pretext of guaranteeing MY INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.
I would be less than genuine if I didn’t come clean and tell you that I used to be one of those. I am not so sure that I am any more. Each innocent that dies convicts me that much more.
I am reminded by scripture that I am my brother’s keeper. As a resident alien, that is a citizen of the Kingdom of God, (where my first allegiance lies) I AM MY Brother’s Keeper. My rights are of less value than serving others. It seems to me, when John applies Jesus’s words (quoting the Great Commandment) that he is reminding us of our first responsibility to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves and to surrender my rights for the good of others. As a refresher, John says, Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down his life for one’s friends (John 15.19).
John further amplifies this teaching of Jesus, saying: By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or in talk but in deed and in truth. (I John 3.16-18 ESV). As I reflect on each new incidence of violence, this verse convicts me more and more.
The operative word I hear in the rhetoric on both sides of the equation is the word MY and PERSONAL. The older I get, the more I wince when I hear those words proclaimed loudly. So much hurt is perpetrated in the defense of MY ideas, MY rights, MY needs, MY tastes, and MY will. In a culture where ME and MY are lord, community is destroyed. People are destroyed and the Kingdom suffers.
I think it might be time for the Church, for those who comprise the Church, and for those who consider themselves to be members of the eternal Kingdom of God to lay aside MY in favor of the more scriptural WE. WE are all members of one Body…the Body of Christ. I wonder how the world would change if we began to look at ALL issues through the lens of the Body of Christ.
Perhaps it is time that we who are followers of Jesus Christ are willing to surrender our right to our personal rights to see peace come to earth, or at least a little more peace come to the earth.
Anyway…that’s my recent pondering…