This piece was written for and published by Christian Light Education. Here is the unedited version offered to help us all grow toward greater unity in Christ.
Brotherhood…it’s been a concept fraught with desperate need for God since the beginning of time. The first brothers, Cain, Abel and Seth, show us both the desperation and the hope inherent in brotherhood. The lessons they offer could transform our world! (Genesis 4:1-2)
The names of our Scriptural ancestors offer great instruction. The Hebrew words related to Cain speak of a spear and mourning. Knowing the story, we intuitively understand how his name reflects truth. Cain became a tiller of the ground; he served and worshipped what he could produce through his work.
His younger brother, Abel, opened the way to better living. His name implies emptiness and transition; not that his life was empty but he became the way for God to show His true desire. Abel became a steward of what God gave; he took dominion over what God entrusted to him—just as God originally instructed before the fall of man.
Then, we meet Seth; Eve understood that God offered a replacement in this child. Having revealed the only way to Himself with Cain and Abel, Seth came on the scene—and we read that men began calling on the name of the Lord! (Genesis 4:25-26)
So, what does this have to do with brotherhood in our lives today? Everything! The instruction to Cain is ours: “Do well and I will receive you; you will be in my presence. Do not do well, and you will be in the presence of sin. It will crouch at your door to devour you.” (Genesis 4:7) We live in a world of devoured lives. Too often, we follow the example of Cain, relying on ourselves, promoting our efforts and preferences. The results he produced are ours: the destruction of others and us.
Sin escalates negative behaviors. God told Cain that the very ground cried out against him. (Genesis 4:10-11) Made of the earth, his very essence rejected the path he chose. The curse of unrest within himself—and conflict with all around him—becomes a life as a vagabond and fugitive. There is no brotherhood in that.
Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9) The apostle Paul emphatically taught that we are far more than that: we belong to one another; we are part of one another. (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:25; Ephesians 4:25) Abel revealed what we all need to be—stewards of what God entrusts to us, open vessels for the purposes of God. We must die to our selfish nature and determine to follow the way of Seth: calling upon the name of the Lord.
The presence of God is the only way we enjoy brotherhood. The spirit of God: compassion, meekness, humility, forgiveness and patience produces unity. Our flesh generates division. The passion of Jesus Christ flows forth in his prayer for us in John 17; unity is the heartbeat of our Savior. (John 17:21-23) Unity with the Father and the Son allows brotherhood. May we long for it as we long for fellowship with the LORD.