In Genesis, in the first book of the Bible, Cain kills his brother Abel, God confronts him: Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis Chapter 4: verse 9) Cain was meant to be responsible for his brother, to look after him and make sure he was safe. Cain, however, chose not to be responsible for his brother and murdered him. Jesus in his teachings said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
When an expert of the law asked Jesus: ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus goes on to share the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The central figure of the story was a Samaritan who would not associate himself or herself with Jewish people. They could not stand each other. Here was Jesus breaking through all boundaries of race, color, creed. It was the Samaritan who helped the Jewish person who had been mugged and robbed when he was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. He was left half dead on that road. The man who looked after him, took him to an inn, paid for his medical expenses and for his accommodation was a Samaritan. The priest and the Levite, walked by on the other side. When Jesus asked the expert of the law which of the three men was the ‘neighbor,’ the man answered: ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ (Luke Chapter 10: verses 36-37).
There have been times when I have seen homeless people in Redding, California and like the priest and the Levite, I was too busy and walked by on the other side. There also have been times in my life for instance,when an encounter with a homeless person on the streets of Tokyo in Japan, prompted me to bring back everything the hotel offered for the guests and bought supplies, (sadly someone had opened my bag on the way back to the United States and had taken some of the things!) and gave them away – together with my own possessions, to a person who was reaching out to the homeless in Redding, because God spoke to my heart and challenged me, asking me when I was walking on a street in Tokyo: ‘who is your neighbor?’ There was also a pastor in Redding, California who called for supplies – toothpaste, soap, facecloths, etc. She distributed these supplies to the homeless. This pastor led by example – rising up and helping others in the community, in His name.
My thoughts go back to my own brother, Vernon. We grew up in Colombo, Ceylon, now called Sri Lanka. When I think of my brother I remember the seven stitches I have – just above my eyebrow! As children we were chasing each other, I stumbled and fell and hit my forehead on a flower pot in the garden. I had to be rushed to hospital as I was bleeding profusely and the surgeon stitched me up! As children and indeed as adults, my brother and I have had our differences but there has always been a profound sense of brotherly love. Here is a picture of us as children on a beach in Colombo, my brother smiles to the camera and there am I looking out for the waves behind us, advancing to the sea shore! I keep telling my brother (to this day) that I always had to look out for him!
I can never forget his love for me, his older brother, when I was dying, as a result of typhoid fever of 105 F – rolling in bed, clutching my stomach, in excruciating pain. Every night my brother chose not to sleep in his bed, instead he picked up a mat, he came and slept by my bedside and held my hand which was dangling from the bed. A brother’s keeper. My brother didn’t say much but his actions spoke louder than words. Talk is cheap but when you love your neighbor as yourself, your actions go along way to raise people up, change lives. I so felt his compassionate heart. Once when my brother was doing some electrical work in our home in Colombo, most probably he was repairing something, suddenly he had a massive electric shock and was flung several feet high – I rushed to him because I didn’t want anything happening to him. Mercifully, by the grace of God, we were both saved – from the typhoid fever and the electric shock and we are both alive to tell the tale.
Matt Maher, wrote this beautiful song ‘Hold Us Together,’ from his CD ‘Alive Again.’ His lyrics speak to the heart:
‘And love will hold us together, make us a shelter to weather the storm. And I’ll be my brother’s keeper, so the whole world will know that we’re not alone…..’
The other song that really reminds me of my brother Vernon is: ‘He Ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.’ I have carried him when he was in his nappies. He certainly wasn’t heavy, or a burden, because he was my brother. Nor for that matter was my sister Ouida who joined us a few years later.
We are called to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper, not just to our siblings but to those who are in need, people who need to be helped and supported, raised up, to love our neighbor as ourselves – at home, in our community, in our places of work.
John Maxwell wrote: ‘When you stop loving your people, stop leading your people.’ In reply, itohankadiri observed: ‘You can only influence people who connect with you, you have to have love for the people within your influence to transform them and move them from where they are, to where they connect through a shared vision. Love is a shared value which makes this transition possible.’ Maxwell was right. Leaders need to love their people. It also means you need to be your brother’s keeper, your sister’s keeper, even in a business, corporate setting.
Leaders who come alongside their co-workers and make sure they are alright, will raise up confidence, loyalty, trust. A happy workforce is a productive workforce. When I was an educator back in the United Kingdom, I was so grateful to a former Headteacher who responded to me as a human being, when I was going through a really tough time in life. My welfare was important to her. The Head invited me to her office for a cup of tea, (some years ago), she just sat down and listened to my heart. She put me on a 4 day week on full pay, reduced my teaching workload and said: ‘Go home to your family.’ I wasn’t just a ‘number’ to her. She didn’t display any ruthlessness, on the contrary, my boss had compassion for me. As an employee my well being mattered to her. When I returned back to work to a 5 day week, I felt so invigorated and gave not only of my time to the school but also threw myself into the local community, involving my workplace in projects that were of worth and value to both school and community.
Years later, the leader of the local council and the Mayor held these projects up as exemplars as to what a successful partnership should be like – between an educational institution and the local community. The Mayor celebrated the success of these projects in the Town Hall and gave out Council Awards. The school was mentioned in the British parliament. A leadership shift happened. That all came from a single act of compassion and kindness, extended by a caring leader who had empathy for her workforce and led ‘from within,’ with her head and her heart. When you raise people up, you also raise up your entire workforce, you lift up morale and even the happiness index of your company or organization. That is the hallmark of a compassionate leader.
Jesus asked ‘which one was the neighbor?’ The reply was ‘the one who had mercy on him.’
Film clips of Matt Maher’s ‘ Hold Us Together,’ song and ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my brother,’ song by the Hollies – courtesy of YouTube.
Picture of the Good Samaritan courtesy of free Bible images.
Photographs courtesy of Pexel and Pixaby