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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Exploring right relationships

Scripture makes our responsibility clear

In Genesis 4:2-16 we find the famous, yet tragic, story of the brothers Cain and Abel. At the climax Cain kills Abel, and afterward the Lord questions Cain concerning Abel’s whereabouts. “I don’t know,” Cain said. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Scripture consistently points to an affirmative answer to Cain’s question. The concept of justice we find in it has everything to do with being our brother’s and our sister’s keeper—no matter who we are or who our brother and sister are—because justice has to do with being faithful in our relationships with one another. It seems to be what God intended for us all along, according to the witness of Scripture.

In Genesis 18:19, God gave justice as a mandate to Abraham and his descendants to pass on as a blessing to the nations. God used justice as the hinge of a relationship with one another in the Mosaic law. God let justice drip from the prophets’ mouths and allowed it to bathe Jesus’ consciousness.

Through Jesus’ teachings, God allowed the early church to wrestle with issues of right relationship with one another and with the wider community. Through those same teachings, God continues to challenge the church to struggle with issues that have to do with keeping one another and the world in right relationship. That keeping of one another is what I call justice.


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