The concept of being your brother’s keeper (or your sister’s keeper) is not new. In fact, Cain coined the phrase when feigning nonchalance before God after murdering his brother. For the modern-day Christian, the concept of being one another’s keeper is actually a concept that is firmly rooted in scripture. How so?
Genesis 4:9 reads, “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ And he said, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?’” In an unprecedented attempt at hubris, Cain tries to cover up the murder with a lie.
What does it Mean to be a “Keeper”
Translated from the original Hebrew, the word refers to someone who “watches over,” “guards” or “clings to” someone. Fast forward to John 13:34, when Jesus Christ commands his disciples to “love one another, even as I have loved you.” Once again looking back at the original Greek translation, this verb refers to an “active love” that Christians are to have for God, fellow believers and even enemies. It is not a stretch to combine the concept of being someone’s keeper with the concept of having an active love for the person. After all, being a keeper demands activity that easily combines with showing love to someone.
How Far is too Far (or: Why Does She Not Listen to Me???)
Being someone’s keeper who seeks to live out Christ’s command to love one another does not have to be difficult.
• Avoid violence. Do we really have to spell out that you should not act out violently against a fellow believer? While none of us is likely to wait in a dark alley for a fellow Christian with the goal to commit violence, there are the non-physical types of violence that deserve a mention. Quarreling and then not pursuing a resolution, gossiping with others under the guise of “seeking help” and letting others feel the brunt of our anger fall under this category. The same is true for forming cliques that do not include some believers because they are a) (not) in leadership, b) struggling or c) do not fit in because they are young, old, single, married or whatever else separates them from us.
• Avoid pride. In 1 Peter 3:8, the writer counsels us to “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” It does not urge us to run someone else’s life, get upset when they don’t do what we tell them to do or assume that we know better because we have been in the faith longer. In contrast, we may warn those who are going down wrong paths, comfort those who are struggling with the burdens of life and exercise patience with everyone – which includes those who suffer from the consequences of their sins.
Are You Your Brother’s Keeper?
The answer is “yes.” Whether it is a family member, a Christian or a non-believer, or even an enemy, you are called to be someone who loves as Christ did. And this makes you a keeper (literally and figuratively).