We have no doubt heard the phrase, "I am not my brother's keeper" usually uttered in annoyance in reference to how we may have let a church member or a friend falls into sin. The first time that phrase was ever uttered was in another context. After Cain kills Abel, the Lord asks where his brother is at and Cain responds, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper? (Genesis 4:9)"
Of course, Cain knew where his brother was at and just like the Lord gave his parents a chance to come clean, the Lord gave Cain a chance to come clean, and behold, the man followed in his parents footsteps attempting to tell falsehoods to the One who truly knows all. And when the Lord asks us a question, be sure that He already knows the answer! So let us be our brother's keeper. Let us have mentors and accountability partners that we are comfortable talking to about our struggles, and let us also be those partners, our brother's keeper. The scriptures give us many commands about how we should behave, what our conduct should be, and even admonitions to encourage one another in faith. As the Proverbs say, Iron sharpens Iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). We should strive to sharpen each other and thus engage in true fellowship in the form of prayer, Bible study with one another, and accountability in our life. Let's examine what the scripture has to say about how and why we want to be our brother's keeper. Help One Another to Carry Their Own Load The sixth chapter of Galatians brings one of the great paradoxes of the Christian life: That our faith is individual but is lived out with each other. Paul writes:
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load (Galatians 6:1-5).
Inside of this verse are several points of accountability. First, we are not to judge a Christian who falls in sin, but we are to love him enough to lend a helping hand out of the sin. We do not justify the sin, nor do we sweep it under the rug. Remember that we are seeking to hold our brother or sister accountable to the Word of God. This restoration happens gently and with love. Additionally, their sin should serve as a reminder that we are not immune to temptation. Second, we are to bear one another's burdens. This means to help a repentant sinner to handle the consequences of their actions. We do not encourage each other in this case with boasting or arrogance about our own spirituality, but with that which only comes from what the Lord has given us. In the end, it is up to us to bear our own burdens for God, but we can, and are encouraged, to seek the help and council of others. Pray for One Another It is easy to forget about prayer as a meaningful aspect to the Christian life, though it really is the connection to the heart of God. We are encouraged not just to pray, but specifically to pray for each other for all matters. James writes:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (James 5:16).
We see here that we not just to pray a general prayer, but we are encouraged to confess our sins, meaning our challenges, vulnerabilities, and even wrong-doing to each other to lift one another up in prayer. I do offer a word of caution here. I have found that this level of vulnerability should be reserved for a relationship that you trust, but implied in that is we should be seeking such a relationship if we do not have one. This is not an open-congregational confessional, nor is it like one cult that requires its members to confess their sins to the church leaders. This is controlled communication to an accountability partner. Turn Your Brother Back from Sin As we walk out our faith, we should be seeking to become more like Jesus, and that will occur in our life but we are nevertheless not immune from stumbling and temptation. Though Paul reminds us that God always provides a way our with temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), sometimes our hard hearts do not want to consider the way He provides. In the cases where we do sin, our obligation before our brother is to turn him back. James concludes his epistle:
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).
Jude likewise tells us to pluck sinners from the fire (Jude 23). The message is clear, if our brother is in sin, we turn him back. James is telling us that we will cover a multitude of sins by turning a sinner back to God. This is not a reference to someone possibly losing their salvation, but a saved person can experience long-term, even eternal consequences for sin. Our call is to keep our brother from that. Help One Another in Their Walk with God As believers, we should always be trying to assist each other in our daily walk. This means to help one another learn what it means to follow Jesus, not just socialize about our hobbies and interests. Paul writers:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16).
We see here that this is a shared event based on the Word of God. We should be sharing our own understanding of Scripture with each other and encouraging those around us to live in a manner worthy of being called Christians. As we come to know Jesus more and more, we will have greater insight on following Him and we are called to share those with our accountability partners and friends. Seek to help each other in our understanding of God. In Conclusion These are just a few of the verses that help us to understand the importance of encouraging each other in our faith. We should be reminding our friends in the faith to walk daily with a focus on God rather than a focus on ourselves. The author of Hebrews says, But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Walk out your life with other people and seek those people that we can become long-term friends, accountability partners, and missionary colleagues.