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Keepers of Each Other

When God asked Cain, “Where is Abel your brother,” Cain responded, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” – a response that has achieved universal fame.

An interesting part of this interaction is the way Cain lies to God and then throws the question back in God’s face. Knowing God is all-knowing and surely witnessed the murder, what did Cain expect to accomplish by lying? And what was he hoping to gain by responding, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Being that the world was all still new and humanity was still learning how to exist in the world, some understand that while Cain knew that what he did was wrong, he was surprised that his action resulted in Abel’s death. He understood that God’s question was really “what happened?” and his answer was genuine – “I do not know.” Furthermore, knowing that God controls the entire universe and all people’s lives, Cain possibly thought that if anyone is responsible for guarding Abel’s life it was God, protector of all, not Cain himself. Cain was saying to God, “If you didn’t want Abel to die, you should have stopped me before I killed him.”

Passing on blame is a very human response. Nowadays, we do understand the real significance of mitigating factors in a person’s doings. Yet we also understand that despite everything, a competent adult is ultimately responsible for what they do. People may have significant hardships, but as a human they are expected to overcome them and do what is right anyway.

We all understand that we are our sisters’ and brothers’ keepers. The responsibility falls on us, too, to be brotherly and sisterly towards potential future Cains, and help and educate them, so that they do not become Cains.

This mutual responsibility should be a source of comfort as well. When times are tough, we should remind ourselves that others have our backs.