"Am I my brother's keeper",
Cain's insolent and arrogant response to God's question is a sign of his inward, unacknowledged guilt.
This is always the way of guilt—to disclaim responsibility. Cain replies, My brother? What have I to do with my brother? Am I my brother's keeper? Is it my responsibility to know where my brother is?
The hypocrisy of that is most evident. Though Cain could disclaim responsibility for knowing where his brother was, he did not hesitate to assume the greater responsibility of taking his brother's life.
We have heard much of the same thing in modern times. When Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered in 1968, many were saying these same things.
It's not our fault that Dr. King was killed. Why should we suffer for what some fanatic did? It's not our responsibility. Soon some were saying, He ought to have known this would happen.
After all, if you stir up trouble, sooner or later you will pay the price for it. No one can deny the logic and truth of a statement like that.
Yet it is very obviously incomplete. There is nothing in it of facing responsibility and no honest answering of the terrible question from Cain's lips, Am I my brother's keeper?
Two or three decades ago, Dr. Carl Henry wrote a book called
The Uneasy Conscience of Fundamentalism, which bothered many people when it first came out.
Dr. Henry pointed out that the isolationism that many Christians adopt, which removes us from contact with non-Christians, has also successfully removed us from grappling with some of the pressing social questions of our hour.
We have often been quite content to sing about going to heaven but have shown very little concern for the sick and the poor, the lonely, the old, and the miserable of our world. Isaiah 58 is a ringing condemnation of such an attitude on the part of religious people.
God is infinitely concerned in this area of life, and those who bear His name dare not neglect these areas. Let us be perfectly frank and admit that this is a manifestation of Christian love that we evangelicals have tended greatly to neglect.
The church was never intended to minister to only one segment of society but is to include all people, all classes, all colors, without distinction. These distinctions are to be ignored in the church.
They must be; otherwise, we are not being faithful to the one who called us and who Himself was the friend of sinners of all kinds. We must be perfectly honest and admit that this has been the weak spot of evangelical life, this failure to move out in obedience to God's command to offer love, friendship, forgiveness, and grace to all people without regard to class, color, background, or heredity.
"Father, open my eyes that I might see the people around me as people whom You created and whom You have placed in my path for a purpose. Teach me that I am my brother's keeper."