Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?"
The answer, in a nutshell, is yes, you are. We are. As children of God, we are responsible for the well-being of each other. Cain, in a fit of jealous rage, has just killed his brother Abel, the first (but sadly not the last) murder in the Bible.
There are two important insights to be gleaned from this account. First, violence is not an appropriate way to resolve conflict. Though the Bible has more than its share of violence, the bottom line is that reconciliation and peaceful means are always God’s will for human relationships. We are all brothers and sisters, and are ultimately responsible for each other’s safekeeping.
The second insight, perhaps much closer to home for us, is that sibling rivalry has been prevalent since the beginning of time. Naomi Rosenblatt wisely reflects:
Regardless of our best intentions and highest hopes as parents, grown children are autonomous beings who make their own choices in their lives. If God cannot control the behavior of His creatures He created in his own image, who are we to think we can or should control the conduct of our grown children?
—Wrestling with Angels
Sibling rivalry was particularly troublesome in a kinship society like that of ancient Israel, but this story has much to teach us, as parents, sisters, brothers, even friends. Life is precious; human relationships can teach us more about God’s loving care than any book can, and each of us is indeed called to be "keepers" of God’s loving and peaceful intent for the world.
Help us, O God, to honor one another, particularly those family members who seem so hard to love. Protect us from violent thoughts, but more especially from violent actions. Amen.
Copyright © 2010 Margaret Jones.