"Where is Abel thy brother?" (Gen. 4:9)
God has a way with questions. Sometimes, He will cut through all our religious pretensions and get right to the point. This was a difficult one for Cain to answer. I am sure there were a hundred other questions he would have preferred. This question is never on the comprehensive exam they give in seminary. This is a "brethren question." It is a good question for "brethren" to answer. "Where is your brother?"
There are a hundred other "brethren questions," but this the hardest. We would love to spend hours discussing "brethren principles." We meet experts who are glad to answer questions about "breaking bread," or the "clergy." Some would delight to answer questions about why they meet in a "hall" instead of a "church," or what are the differences between "membership" and "fellowship." "Where is Able, your brother?" Now, that’s a hard one.
Perhaps there was a foot sticking up out of the sand somewhere that was all too obvious to those passing by. God just had to ask. Even if the body was "six feet under," the Bible says that the blood of Abel refused to be silent and was calling out. Yes, God can ask hard questions.
We often avoid the important questions by attending to the easier ones, like: Where we worship on Sunday, who has the most truth, or what kind of good vegetables we put in God’s basket this week. We may even talk about our obedience to "this" or "that" of Christ’s commands. We might call everyone’s attention to the "do this" of one thing that we are "doing," while God is more interested in the "that" thing which we are not.
One way the Jews got around such difficult "brethren questions" was to be very exclusive in defining just exactly "who" our brother is. Unfortunately, we have done this all too well. We have thousands of groups, sects, denominations, assemblies, and churches. "Oh, that foot sticking out of the ground?" "That one?" "I don’t know Lord; I think that must be a Samaritan, or maybe an unbeliever or an infidel." Am I my brother’s keeper? And, just who is my brother anyway?
The bottom line is that we are responsible to care for the welfare of each other. We are to love God with all our heart, to love the brethren, to love our neighbor as our self, and to love our enemy (I think that just about covers everyone, don’t you think?). Even if we disagree about how to worship God, or are convinced that our offerings are better than theirs, God still holds us accountable for how we treat others as much as how we treat truth. Where you are in your spiritual journey is my business. By the way, where are you? How are you? Forgive me for not knowing where you are. I shall try to do a better job in answering God’s important questions this year. I hope we are both closer to God this year than last (if that is possible), and should God ask us such a hard question, that we will be "ready, willing," (and as much as we are able) to answer honestly. And if we have trouble keeping Abel in our heart, may we at least do our best to keep him in our prayers.