Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?Concordia Lutheran Church

Ezekiel 33:7-9

 In Jesus Name

 

May the peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ be your sanctuary, your refuge, and may you always welcome the journey there!

Cain’s question should haunt us….

There is something special about having friends and family around us.  We see that today, as some have come long distances to help their friends celebrate forty years of marriage.

But there is a challenge for family and friends as well, for no one can disappoint us, no one can hurt us, no one can challenge our ability to love, as much as they do.  It seems like it has always been so, well not always.  Once Adam and Eve screwed up in the garden though, there has always been tension in families, and among friends.

We see it especially in the relationship of their first two sons, Cain and Abel. The challenge of loving each other was brutally sacrificed to bring some sense of relief to the pain and jealousy that found a place in Cain’s heart.

The reason that I bring him up this morning, is a question he once asked of the Lord.

Am I my brother’s keeper?

The son of man hears the answer to Cain’s question, and the answer is found in our Old Testament reading today.

“Now, son of man, I am making you a watchman for the people of Israel. Therefore, listen to what I say and warn them for me.

Yes, we are to work to keep your brothers safe… for if something happens to them and they are unaware, the passage from Ezekiel tells we are held responsible.

That is a heavy burden, yet is our mission in this life.

The Apostle John wrote about this as well:

20  If we say we love God, but hate others, we are liars. For we cannot love God whom we have not seen if we do not love others, whom we have seen. 21  The command that Christ has given us is this: whoever loves God must love others also. 1 John 4:20-21 (TEV)

We have to be watchmen for each other…we have to warn each other, as best as we can, for this is the will of God.

We have to care for the wicked folk too!

As we look at Ezekiel’s watchman, it helps to make the connection between the words watchman and keeper. It’s the same word in Hebrew, to guard them.  TO be on guard is to work for the safety and peace of those entrusted to your care.   A peace and safety corrupted and destroyed by sin.

But note in the Old Testament reading, those entrusted to the watchman’s care are called the people of Israel.  They are named, appropriately, after the one whose name means to struggle with God.  Not after Abraham, the father of Nations, or Isaac, laughter, but Jacob/Israel, the one who wrestles, who fights God.

It goes on to say that these we care for are wicked, and are certain to die unless they change their ways.

Great description of the people we have to keep safe!  Oh wait – he’s describing the people of God.  Uhm, that means the description could very well be of us.

Wicked here means those who are guilty, those who have violated either God’s law or His will.   Scary thought, if that is the definition of evil.  Do we realize we embrace evil when we sin?  Paul said it this way,

29  Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30  They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31  They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. Romans 1:29-31 (NLT)

All those people are evil, right?  Do you hear that it includes those who gossip and quarrel? That it includes those who are proud and boastful? What about those who do not show kindness or mercy?

It is them we are called to warn that certain judgment is coming.

Some of you may contend that the watchman are just the Old Testament prophets, and maybe the apostles and evangelists of the New Testament.  We might bristle a bit when we realize it includes the pastor, and that it could include deacons and vicars and elders.

But what if I said that each of one you is called to care, to help your brothers and sisters stand firm in the love of Christ Jesus?

That keeping them, guarding them in Christ by warning them is what we do, because we are called to love them?  Think about it for a moment, is it loving to allow someone to do harmful actions?  Maybe we can’t prevent them, Ezekiel seems clear about that, but we can call them to repentance.  We can call them back to Christ.  We can love them that much because He loved us!

Let this mind be in you…. Which is in Christ!

So what do we do with our past? What can we do when we screw up and fail?  What do we do with our sin?

What do we do with those times when we failed to be our brother’s keeper, to serve Him as a watchman?  When we’ve allowed them to be in bondage to sin without warning them, or when we failed to call them to repentance?  When we’ve failed as watchman, guards, and keeping them safe?   What about when we’ve rejoiced that they got what they deserved, ignoring our responsibility to call them to trust God?

Well, we don’t “do” something.  We listen.

When we confessed it we need to listen and hear of the faithfulness of Jesus to forgive us, and to cleanse us of that sin.   Maybe we need to hear His absolving us again. Maybe we need to hear the words of our baptism, that we are united with His death and sin has died to us.  We need to hear that His blood was shed, His body broken, that we would live forgiven.  We need to hear (and therefore proclaim) His death, until He comes again.

You see, ultimately, this prophecy is about Jesus as well. He is our watchman, our guardian; He is our brother who is our keeper.  He is the one who warns us, and makes possible the very repentance, the change of heart and mind that repentance is.

That is why Acts talks of repentance being granted to the Gentiles, even as it was to the apostles and disciples who were Jewish.

He’s called you out of wickedness, into a life filled with hope, with goodness, with joy as we see Him at work.  As we see Him take people that are gossips and haters and do not show mercy, who struggle with God, and re-create them into children of God.

This is why the cross happened; this is why He died, taking on the burden of the death and condemnation that awaited us.

That is how a brother acts towards his brothers and sisters.  He sacrifices Himself, so that they may live. That is what it took to get our attention, to reveal not just the existence of God, but His love for us.

For our brother, our Lord, Jesus our savior is our watchman – He is the One who is our Keeper, as He keeps us firm our heart and mind in the peace of God our Father. AMEN!

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on September 7, 2014, in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I like your answer to what are we to do. “Listen to Jesus say, your sins are forgiven.” This is the first time I have heard this said, with this angle of listening.

    Far too often its believe he has forgiven you and accept he has forgiven you. I like this emphasis as it echos from psalm 116: 1- 2

  2. Craig,

    One of the treasures that Luther kept from his days as a Roman Catholic was an insistence that the words of the gospel be heard as the sacraments were distributed. it is something I treasure, and one of the reasons I am glad I discovered the theology I resonate with!

    He wanted people to hear the words of institution at the Lord’s Supper, especially the “shed for you”. He wanted people to remember their baptism at the beginning of the day – to remember that they and their day was claimed by God, and at the end of the day, so hearing the words said over them, they could sleep in peace knowing their sins were removed from them.

    And one of those things that Luther said that he prayed would never fall into disuse was private confession and absolution. We need to hear the pastor/priest/brother in Christ say the words “in the stead and by the command of Christ” that our sins are forgiven. We need to hear those words and take comfort and rejoice. Sadly it has fallen into disuse among us, though people still hear it weekly in our service.

    Yes – we need to hear it, we need to hear God say to us that we are His children. That we are welcomed home. That all is very good.

    And in Christ, we can hear it.

    Thanks for the comment!

    (and sorry for the long response… it is though a very special thing to hear!)

I love to know your thoughts on this... please respond!

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