Sunday, March 14, 2010

Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Today our youth and young adults read Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel.  Abel is the younger brother and gives a better offering to God: the choice fatty cuts of firstborn livestock. Abel, however, just gives fruit of the Earth - not first fruits and not the best fruits.  God acknowledges Abel but not Cain.  Cain is jealous and angry, and despite a warning form God to master sin, kills Abel.

Many of the youth at the study were older brothers.  They shared what it is like to have the responsibility of being the older sibling.  One described it as being, "the Guinea Pig." I asked what it felt like to be "shown up" by a younger brother or sister?  Response: Depressing, because the older is expected to get things right and show the younger how to do it.  But I ask: Why can't the younger sometimes teach the older?  Everyone present acknowledged that they had at one point learned something significant from someone younger than themselves (myself included).

Later, God wonders where Abel is and asks Cain.  The response is classic: "Am I My Brother's Keeper?"  Even though the language is biblical, everyone present at the study knew what it meant, and admitted uttering the very same words about something similar to their parents.  I asked: What was your parents' response?  The answer was unanimous: Yes, as a matter of fact you are your brother's keeper! So God punishes Cain, but it was so severe that Cain requested mercy, and God showed mercy.

Why is it assumed that the only the old must teach the young about God?  God accepts Abel's offering and rejects Cain's because the one is appropriate, not because the person who gave it was older/younger.  It is tempting for some to think that age, sex, race, language, etc. entitles favoritism by God.  But this is not true.  All creatures are precious to God. Youth have just as much worth in the eyes of God as do adults.  Young people have a critically important role to play in the world.  What we do matters!  This is clear from the story of Cain and Abel: the choices and consequences of young people are widely felt.

If you are reading this blog right now, I hope you realize just how important you are.  The choices you make affect everyone around you.  If you think what you do doesn't matter, you are wrong!  It matters a great deal, young or old you are a child of God!

Note: Picture is from "Brick Testament."

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