Home > John's Blogs, Triangular Christianity > Am I my brother’s keeper?

Am I my brother’s keeper?

I was looking through the book of Genesis and reading Victor Hamilton’s commentary on it.  I came to the point where Cain murders Abel, and Yahweh asks him, “Where is your brother?”  Cain’s answer has become a modern cultural retort: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  Most of the time, when people say this (including me) the implied answer is “no.”  But is that the correct answer?

Since this blog is called Triangular Christianity, I wanted to look at that question in light of the New Testament teaching. It seems that Triangular Christianity might inform the answer to Cain’s question. Hamilton’s commentary says Cain implied the answer was “no,” but Hamilton says that the correct answer is “yes.” Not everyone agrees.

In fact, some say that the Bible nowhere says that we are our brother’s keeper. For them, the correct answer to the question is “no.” People in this camp actually have persuasive arguments.

However, I am in Hamilton’s corner on this. Am I my brother’s keeper? I think we sometimes misunderstand the question. It’s not, “Do I have authority over my brother (or sister) and can I control his (or her) activity?” It’s not, “Do I have complete responsibility for my brother?” The essence of the question is, “Should I watch out and care for my brother?”

If that is the correct question, I think the NT answers that question “yes, you are your brother’s keeper.” I am to love my brothers and sisters in a way that is self-sacrificing. I am to give up what I want for their good. It seems to me that this is Triangular Christianity boiled into its most basic form. Community is not just fellowship and small groups – it is self sacrificial love for those who are not loveable.

There is a problem, though. When faced with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I want to answer with a resounding “no!” After all, independence is the American way. Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

In God’s Trinitarian relationship, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all do what is in the best interest of the other. This is the relationship I am called to with my brothers and sisters. I am their keeper.

I would be interested in anyone who thinks the answer to Cain’s question should be “no.” Why might this be a legitimate answer? (There are legitimate reasons to take this approach.)

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