Where Is Your Brother?

#mikkikimmitravels

Siblings . . . 

Sibling rivalry was real in my house. We didn’t have arguments; we had wars. I remember frying pans to the face, doorknobs to the teeth, and golf balls to the head as things that actually happened between my siblings and me.

Thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that when I met a Christian family who behaved very differently, I wanted to know what this Jesus thing was all about. I didn’t know people could act that way with their brothers and sisters.

I’m very grateful to say our kids never engaged in fisticuffs. (Grateful because they didn’t and also because I got to use that wonderful word.) Jesus made quite a difference in my outlook on appropriate sibling behavior.

God’s children do not, however, always follow this pattern. Almost the second question in the Bible, after God asks the leaf-clad Adam and Eve where they are and why they’re hiding, comes the question he addresses to their oldest offspring.

It’s a pretty serious question.

Where is your brother?

When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground. When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.

“Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

One day Cain suggested to his brother, “Let’s go out into the fields.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother, Abel, and killed him.

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” (Genesis 4. 2-9)

Spoiler: God knows the answer.

Cain must know God knows, so why he gives this patently flippant answer is anyone’s guess. Although, I suspect we know too well why all of us give God absurd answers to things we don’t want to look at too closely.

I don’t know. Am I supposed to be looking out for my brother?

Apparently, we were still pondering it in Jesus’ time, because someone had to ask Jesus exactly who his neighbor was, and Jesus had to tell another story that asked the same question God starts the whole human race with here—Where is your brother/neighbor?

Everywhere.

That was Jesus’ reply. Are you your brother’s guardian, Cain? Why yes. Yes, you are. I’m surprised you didn’t know that. It’s the way I made people to be.

In his new book Everybody, Always, Bob Goff suggests that God created us as one big neighborhood on this earth–all made for one another no matter where or how.

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God decided it wasn’t good for people to be alone, so he made us for one another. Then he made it clear right after the first sin that we were going to have to take that very seriously, because the world was going to get a lot harder. We would need to be one another’s guardians, or no one would make it out alive.

That’s one of the scariest parts of our current obsession with tribalism. When we start to form our groups, deciding who’s in and who’s not, denying brotherhood to those who are outside our boundaries, we become cadres of Cains, denying to God that we have any responsibility in the welfare of anyone beyond what we’ve declared are our lines.

Even when our brothers’ blood cries out from the ground.

To make this easier, we find reasons they don’t deserve our attention. That’s why Cains find it easy to believe sensational news stories with questionable data. If we can make it Abel’s fault, our hands are clean. Humans, and by humans I mean me, will do just about anything to avoid guilt.

“I don’t know. Am I my brother’s guardian?”

I think we’re helped in our answer by the words just before this story. Eve gives birth, and she also gives thanks to God. Remember, the birth process was going to be rough, and Eve not only accepts this part of the curse but gives gratitude to God for bringing her through it and giving her a child.

Gratitude

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Eve’s approach too life oozes gratitude. She chooses to live, after her first unfortunate choice, with constant thanks to God for his provision of everything she needs.

Cain, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have inherited this attitude. We don’t know why God chose to accept his brother’s offering and not his, but he responds with anger. He feels cheated. He wants what he thinks he deserves. He chooses resentment rather than gratitude.

Interesting studies into the attitudes that have created our tribalism in the US point to the same conclusion. Those who choose resentment also choose to close themselves off to their brothers. One study reported by the Washington Post reveals that, 

 Economic anxiety isn’t driving racial resentment; rather, racial resentment is driving economic anxiety. Racial resentment is the biggest predictor of white vulnerability among white millennials. Economic variables like education, income  and employment made a negligible difference. When white millennials scored high on racial resentment they were 42 percentage points more likely to indicate feelings of vulnerability than those who scored low.

People who would prefer to blame and resent rather than open their arms and hearts in gratitude for their lives are the people who refuse to see “brother” in the refugee, immigrant, person of color, or sister.

Interestingly, this is true regardless of the person’s actual economic or physical circumstances. The well off are just as likely to shut out their nonwhite, non-American-born brothers as the poor if they are already inclined to resent others for what they think they don’t have.

It’s as old as Cain. And as devastating.

The answer isn’t anything complicated. It’s gratitude. Choosing to be thankful for everything God provides to children of Adam and Eve who don’t really deserve anything at all but who are granted so much.

It’s utterly impossible to take the attitude of Eve and have the heart of Cain. We can’t revel in the undeserved graciousness of the Lord and refuse to invite your brother into the circle.

If we live consistently grateful, humble lives, we will always know exactly where our brother is. He’s all around us. He’s everyone. And we are his keeper.

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*I’ve signed up for the Human Race again, raising money for World Relief and refugee resettlement. These wonderful people I have come to know and love as I work with them more and more are certainly those God calls our brothers and sisters. With God’s help, I’m going to walk it and meet my fundraising goal! If you’d like to donate to my walk, please follow the link. I and the amazing refugee population I know and love would appreciate it greatly!

me, the bag lady. aka, what have you got to lose?

It’s Thursday, aka, risk-taking day. And I’ve got one no lady ever talks about. I weigh 160 pounds. There—it’s out there. Said. In public. In Bold. On the internet for eternity with no way of ever, ever making it “not there.” Like those pictures of you in college.

I talk a lot about body image. I talk a lot about how damaging it is to girls in particular for society to hold up its perfectstrange and unrealistic ideal to them and demand their worship. I absolutely believe no one should feel inferior to anyone else based on a 3-digit number that pops up when they step on that scaledemonic instrument of mental torture. That’s just dumb. And any and all other synonyms of dumb. 

Numbers don’t verify your worth–on a scale, in a bank account, or on your birthday cake. .

But how much do I believe it? Enough to tell the world (or that small portion of it that reads this) what those numbers are?

Yes. Because if I can’t do that, you shouldn’t believe me. Period.

1-6-0.

But—the risk today is not just telling you how much I weigh. Because honestly, why should you care? It’s not going to cure cancer. (Neither is anything else I say, but there is more important stuff here. I promise.) The risk is—I’m going to do something about it, and I want people to join me. And hold me accountable.

These bags are heavy, people. That smile is
totally a grimace of “I want to put this
down now!”
I’ve come up with (what I consider) a genius way to motivate me to lose the last thirty pounds I’d like to shed. Here it is. See that picture? That’s 30 pounds of food. Beans, chili, pasta, oatmeal, tuna, etc. No, I am not going to eat it. That is not the genius idea. That would be a counterproductive idea.

What I am going to do is donate five pounds of this food to the Food Pantry for every five pounds I drop. So when I reach my goal, hey—I helped myself and a whole bunch of hungry people! It’s a win-win from my vantage point.

See, I’ve tried a lot of other things. A LOT. And I have dropped 20 pounds since my transplant surgery. But that was some years ago, and it’s time to get real. The rest is not going to melt off in some Swedish sauna somewhere. It’s going to take work. I’m not good at work. Physical work, that is. Let’s just say, if gym class had been part of our high school GPA, that valedictorian speech would have been someone else’s, not mine.

But—I think this one may just be a winner, because 1) I am motivated, 2) I love to give things to people, and 3) I am risking public humiliation if I don’t at least make a respectable showing. I mean, you know now. That’s powerful motivation.

I have no idea if I can make this goal. It would represent something I haven’t seen since Lindsay Lohan was still adorable and sober. (No, I’m not dissing Lindsay. I actually pray for her. I hate seeing lost kids destroy themselves.) The medical profession is skeptical, since they say folks on prednisone can’t lose weight. But trying is better than not trying, and something is better than nothing.

And if you’re going to aim for something, why not make it what you’d really like, rather than what you think you’d settle for? 

I mean, I have three daughters. Suppose one of them comes home one day and says, “Hey, mom, I’m going to marry this guy. I’d like to do better, but I’m not sure I can, so why not take what I can get and call it good?” 

I would not say, “Oh, that makes total sense to me. Go forth and be blessed.” I would say…well, I probably should not print what I might say. Suffice it to say, it would not go over well in the Richardson household. Because we aim for what we want. So if I fall short on this, so be it. At least the goal wasn’t too short.

Here’s where you come in. I think this could catch on. I think a lot of us love to give to people. I think many, many of us would love the idea of taking our extra pounds and using it to feed people who are hungry. (NOT literally. Gross. I am not going all Sweeney Todd here.) And, I think a lot of us would like to be healthier. Not skinnier. I am not promoting unhealthy body images. Not ever. Healthy. Healthy is a worthy goal, and an attainable one, and one too many of us disregard on the way to the donut table at church.

So, would you like to join me? It’s easy.

  1. Go buy as many pounds of food as you would like to lose to be healthy (not skinny). (I weighed some cans and boxes of pasta I already had at home to get an idea of how much that was.) Look on the website of your local food pantry to find out what their biggest needs are first.
  2. Lift those bags. Feel all that extra weight? Do you want to carry that around? I don’t either. That’s an eye-opener right there.
  3. For every five pounds you lose, or one pound even, move that amount of food to another bag to donate. I’m probably going to bring mine in all at once, but you can do it any time you want.
  4. Share this post around so other people can join in the giving and the conversation.
  5. Comment here, or keep the conversation going here on my Facebook page. Tell us what your goals are, your concerns, your joys in the journey.


I would love to know how you’re doing. And I would love (seriously, I would) to have you ask me how it’s going. To keep me on track. We need each other. I do. Because let’s face it. I’m a self-control wuss who folds at the smell of a chocolate chip cookie. I NEED you. 

Let’s do healthy together. And bless hungry people. I see win all over this.