This week I listened as Dr. Lawrence Reddick III spoke at the Martin Luther King Jr Breakfast Celebration. He shared about growing up in Alabama and being bussed to the “colored” high school. He shared how he was forced to sit in the back of the bus as a 6 year-old boy just trying to get to school. He remembered the separate water fountains and bathrooms. He recalled the prevailing sense of fear that the African-American community lived in daily.
For some reason, in my own bubble of privilege, I had forgotten that it wasn’t really that long ago that racism was legal. I had forgotten how fresh this wound really is. I had forgotten because I wasn’t the victim.
In Genesis 4, when God asked Cain where his brother was, Cain responds with a question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain had just killed his brother because of jealousy and pride, and now that he was confronted with that reality, he said that his brother was not his problem.
But God disagreed.
Cain was responsible for his brother and now Abel’s blood was crying out from the ground.
As I listened to Dr. Reddick describe his childhood of segregation and racism, I couldn’t help hearing Cain’s response “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I could hear myself responding just as Cain did, “That’s awful, but it has nothing to do with me.” While none of the things Dr. Reddick experienced were my fault and there is no way I can undo them, I have to start asking myself what brothers (and sisters!) of mine are experiencing oppression, systemic injustice, and pain today which I am at minimum ignoring and at worst contributing to?
In order to break through the ethos of divisiveness we are building in our culture, I must hear God’s question “Where is your brother?” again and with fresh ears.
I will see the “other” as my brother.
I will refuse to demonize those who disagree with me or oppose me.
I will deal with my own sin first before pointing out the flaws of another.
I will offer the same grace that God has shown me to everyone around me.
I will open my eyes to the pain of others — even if their pain is not my pain.
Am I my brother’s keeper? Absolutely. So where is my brother? Where is your brother?
Rev. Jason Allison is senior pastor of Terra Nova Community Church in Delaware. For information, go to www.terranovacc.com.