First Mennonite Church
June 2, 2019
Where Is Your Brother/Sister?
Texts: Genesis 4:1-10; Luke 10:25-37
It has often been said, “The Bible is the answer,” or, “Jesus is the answer.” Often, as well, is the case that these propositions are offered to those who are not too willing to search the Bible for answers, nor have much disposition to read Jesus’ words to get solutions to their troubles. Therefore, these propositions as to where people should get answers from for their troubles and questions might not be too useful. But for us, who believe we know where to get answers from for life, asking the right questions becomes extremely important. How would we be able to reflect the values of God’s kingdom if the questions we pose to the Bible are irrelevant to life today? So, then for us, asking the right questions to the Bible is critically important to inform our Christian practice? We should also remember that if we were to ask the right question to the Bible, honest search for its answer will prove to be a challenging task.
For the next couple of weeks, I would like for us to consider some specific questions, not those arising from us, but those that do from the Bible itself. I do believe that if the question arises or comes from the Bible itself, the Bible will not only answer the question, but more importantly, the answer should matter to us greatly. In the Bible there is a list of questions asked by God, Jesus, or the characters that populate the biblical narrative. I certainly do not intend to deal with every question asked in the Bible, but will be selective. I also want to invite your participation. If you find a question in the Bible that you would like for us to consider, please call my attention to it.
Today, we will start with the third question found in the Bible. That means we will be starting somewhere in the book of Genesis. The first question that appears in the Bible, interestingly, comes from the mouth of the serpent to Eve: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” This question and its source is so interesting, because it not only questions God’s authority, but also distorts God’s very word. As for the second question, if you guessed, I am sure you rightly guessed which it is. The second question found in the Bible comes from the mouth of the Lord: “Where are you?” Again, it is so amazing that God’s first question is probably the one he has always been asking humanity since the dawn of time. God continues to ask you, me, and every man and woman, “Where are you?” But the question we will be reflecting on today is the third question found in the Bible. This one is again from the Lord God and directed to Cain. Let us read the story in Genesis, chapter four, verses one to 10.
Cain and Abel were the children born to Adam and Eve after they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. Cain was a farmer; so he planted and harvested his crops. As for Abel, he preferred shepherding animals. Abel tended his flock. And the Bible says that “in the course of time both brothers brought an offering to the Lord. Cain offered the fruit of the ground, while Abel the firstling of his flock.” Whether it was Cain’s casualness or half-heartedness in how he regarded his offering reflected in the way the story is presented when it reads: Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, but the Bible tells us that God had no regard for Cain nor his offering. As for Abel, we read: he brought of the firstlings of his flock, denoting he was thoughtful about what he should bring to the Lord. And we are told that the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering.
Without further explanations, the Bible says that Cain somehow knew God took no pleasure in him nor his offering and Cain was burning with anger and jealousy towards his brother Abel. Such was Cain’s burning anger that his countenance fell—that is, Cain’s demeanor and state of being was completely different than he used to be. God took notice of it and came to dialogue with Cain. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it,” God warned.
Cain invited his brother to go out into the field. Maybe, Cain said to Abel, “Come see my new variety of vegies I am growing this year.” But Cain’s intent was murderous. He took, maybe, the spade with which he ploughed the ground and stroke and killed his brother then and there. It is here when God made the third question that appears in the Bible. God came to Cain and asked him, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain’s response was nowhere close to being answer. Cain was not only rude but also deflective, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”
The question, where is your brother or sister, for that matter, is question that deals with the very basic of human relationships. It’s a question that is directed to each of us at a personal level, but it is also has a universal implication. It is a question that interrupts our present but which also has eternal consequences. It is a question that pries into what we consider, our private lives, because the question reminds us that we are not islands, but that we are inherently interconnected with one another. It is a question that even if we would like to avoid it, we cannot because this question comes from the very mouth of God, the Creator of every human being.
If we can answer this question rightly, we not only would have the potential to live in harmony with others, but it would also testify that we are living up to the standard God intended for the human family. Maybe it would help answer Cain’s question if we break it down into 3 other questions to define our terms: (1) Who is my brother/sister? (2) Am I really responsible for my brother/sister? (3) How should I care for my brother or sister?
The question, who is my brother is, was differently stated by the teacher of the law who asked Jesus, who, then, is my neighbor? Just like Cain, the teacher of the law wanted to deflect the command to love thy neighbor as thy self (KJV). In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows that every human in need is the neighbor we need to love. Of course, I do not intend to make you feel responsible for every man, woman or child that is in need around the world. The Good Samaritan showed compassion to the one he met on the road, who was bruised and half dead. In other words, our neighbor is the needy, sick, hurting, and down on his luck-one we come upon as we go on our day. Our brother or sister is the one who sit by our side here in church as well.
Are we really responsible for the brother or sister? The painful answer is yes. Yes, we are responsible for our brother’s or sister’s wellbeing. This obligation is so interrupting. We often hear people, or even ourselves saying, “I mind my own business and you mind your own business.” Others would prefer to live according to the rule of “Good fences make good neighbors.” The practice of such principle is one of “do not interfere with me and I do not have anything to do with you.” But for you and me, the Bible has various commandments of mutual obligation. And this leads us to the third question: how should I care for my brother or sister?
Love one another (John 13:34).
Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves (Romans 12:10).
Stop passing judgment on one another (Romans 13:14).
Accept one another (Romans 15:7)
Instruct one another (Romans 15:14).
Forgive one another (Colossians 3:13).
Pray for one another (James 5:16).
Encourage one another (2Cor. 13:11).
Serve one another (Galatians 5:13).
Offer hospitality to one another (1Peter 4:9
And the list goes on.
These commandments remind us that we do have an obligation towards our fellow brother and sister. We should also remember that all of these commandment are summarized in one: to love one another. This one commandment is repeated time and time again throughout the New Testament. And Jesus commands us to love even the enemy. Love does not make distinctions. Love knows no boundary.
When God came to Cain asking of the whereabouts of his brother, Abel, God reveals to Cain something that has been the perennial experience of humankind. The Lord asked Cain, “What have you done? Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! God place full blame on Cain for the innocent blood of his brother crying out to God from the ground. The blood of thousands of innocent aborted babies is crying out to God, pleading for justice. And one day, those who refused to raise those children will have to confront their Maker who will asked them to listen to those cries. Those who helped carry out the abortion will also have to listen to the cries of the innocent clamoring for justice.
The blood of the innocent victims of war are clamoring to God for justice as well. And one day, those who killed them and those who authorized their killing will also have to listen to the voice of their victims, men, women and children whose death is simply listed as the collateral damage. It is not collateral damage in the eyes of the One who listens to the cries of their blood.
In the e-newsletter of our conference, e-Update, Pastor Tina Schlabach, pastor of Tucson Mennonite Church, asks for prayer for Dr. Scott Warren. Last week, the trial of Dr. Scott began in the federal courthouse in Tucson. Scott was charged with two counts of felony harboring and one count of felony conspiracy for giving water, food, and shelter to two migrant men. He faces the possibility of 20 years in prison, if convicted. Scott is a volunteer with the organization No More Deaths, an organization that puts water out in the desert for migrants walking through the desert wilderness. God’s words to Cain, is a reminder to the conscience of this nation that the blood of hundreds, if not thousands, of migrant that have died in the Sonora Desert and along the southern border is crying out to God for justice.
The blood of those 12 people killed last Friday as well as the blood of all victims of gun violence is clamoring to God. And every killer, regardless of who he is, will one day be asked by God, “Listen; your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground, from the streets, from the alleys and even inside of churches, synagogues and mosques.”
The question, where is your brother, is a question that reminds us that we are interconnected. Each one of us is like a threat in a spider’s web. You touch one strand and the whole web is shaken. You cut one strand and the whole web is weakened and affected. In the story Jesus told, the action of the Samaritan was not for the sake of becoming a hero, although his deed has been remembered throughout the ages and is still remembered. The act of love the Samaritan did came out from seeing that the badly beaten man was a neighbor, who above all, was one like himself, a fellow human being, no more, no less. The injured man was one who needed a friend, a brother. The Samaritan man felt in his own flesh the pain of the half-dead man. He saw in the wounds of the victim his own wounded body as well.
The question God asked Cain, I said, is personal, but also of universal implication. So wherever someone is suffering or dying, we should remember that his world is our very same world. Whoever is suffering or dying should be regarded as a brother or sister and to whatever degree possible, we are called to do something about it. We are interconnected. The question, where is your brother, is an interrupting and nagging question. It is bothersome to be burdened with such great task of having to know where our brother or sister is. And it was no wonder why Cain responded God the way he did. But I truly believe, we are better than Cain.
Let me close with the words of the apostle John who wrote: For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
Where is your brother or sister? May the Lord help us to answer this question with love. Amen.
 Schlabach, Tina. PSMC e-Update, May 27, 2019.