‘Look not to your own interests, but to the interest of others.’ Paul (even the most skeptical of scholars is in accord that this is a ‘genuine’ letter, or better yet collection of letters, from the pen of the apostle himself) here settles the age-old question asked by Cain, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Christian answer, friends, is ‘yes.’ I am charged by Scripture itself to look to the interests of my neighbor, my brother, the stranger I’ve not met. That’s how we emulate Christ, Who emptied Himself and took the form of a servant. By emptying ourselves as well, and serving. By living lives that are marked top to bottom by service.
If we were all doing so, wouldn’t everyone be cared for? Instead of asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ and ‘what’s the bottom line for my pocket?’ we should ask ‘how does this impact other people, what does this do for my community, what legacy am I leaving for future generations, how does this build opportunity and justice and hope for others?’ Then our world might actually be a better place, not perfect, of course, but better. That’s how we build a society which is more accepting, even affirming, of Christian values, dear friends: by caring for others rather than by trying to legislate or shame others into living within our own moral framework. Legislation and shame don’t really work anyway, not in the long run: they just drive the thing you’re trying to eliminate underground, where it can grow despairing and dangerous in the dark. But love, active love, is pretty durned persuasive.
If I am my brother’s keeper, if I’m making sure that my brother or sister doesn’t go hungry, doesn’t get left behind, doesn’t get pushed to the margins and stripped of dignity, then it’s highly likely that my values will be seen to be worthy of respect. And it’s equally likely that those who respect my values will themselves work to be my keeper in time of need. It’s Christianity’s way of paying it forward, but on a grand scale, not just a bargain meal in line at the drive-in. All we have to do is be willing, on our small but constant scale, to keep laying down our selves and picking up His servanthood.