certainly isn’t on my “Top 10 Inspiring Heroes” from the Bible list. But if I’m honest, he’s on another of my lists: “Big-time Sinners in the Bible I Can really Relate To.”
It’s not the jealousy or the murder that I connect with; rather it’s that self-justifying question he tosses back to God that jumps off the page and often echoes in my own thoughts: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9, NIV).
Cain’s motivations in this defiant interchange with the Almighty are as complicated as any twisting and turning modern-day crime novel.
When I have this attitude, on the other hand, my motivation is pretty simple: I’m aiming to justify a self-focused life.
Let me be honest: There are plenty of days when just “keeping” my own life running—and “keeping” my beloved family—are about all I feel I can handle!
And yet, though God doesn’t directly answer Cain’s question, God does provide you and me with an answer that resonates throughout the entire Bible: yes. From laws about caring for strangers and aliens in the Pentateuch (;) to strident calls for justice for the vulnerable in the Prophets (; ; ); to Jesus’ challenge to love our neighbors—even our enemies—as we love ourselves (; ; to Paul’s teachings about hospitality (); to John’s vision of the just, peaceful kingdom of God come to earth (), the answer is yes, yes, yes.
I am called to be my brother’s . . . my neighbor’s . . . even my enemy’s keeper.1