The Bible tells us that Cain made offerings to the Lord, but the Lord did not look with favor on them. Cain grew angry. So angry that he killed his brother Abel. The killing was not by accident. It was not a momentary fit of rage, but a planned, ruthless act committed after inviting Abel into the fields and away from watchful eyes.
When the deed was done the Lord asked Cain about his brother. Cain answered with a question that lives on in infamy: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Perhaps this question has compelled the preparation of more sermons than any other. Who is my brother? Who is my neighbor? What duty do I owe my brethren? What duty do I owe my neighbor?
The brothers John and Charles Wesley were at the heart of the Methodist movement during the 18th century. They responded to the question of being their brother’s keeper very differently than Cain had. Although they had times of disagreement and estrangement, each focused on serving the Lord. That focus and that service always brought them back to a better relationship with God and with each other.
A Charge to Keep I Have was written by Charles Wesley after reading a Bible commentary by Matthew Henry on Leviticus chapter 8. In that passage, God gave the Levites a charge to watch over the tabernacle. Henry extended that charge to each of us today. “We shall every one of us have a charge to keep, an eternal God to glorify, an immortal soul to provide for, one generation to serve.”
Neither Wesley nor Henry had Cain in mind when they wrote their words, but the words strike the very message that Cain needed to hear. It is the same message that we need to hear today. Read the words of Wesley’s first stanza:
A charge to keep I have,
a God to glorify,
a never-dying soul to save,
and fit it for the sky.
Cain did not keep his charge. He chose a path of death and destruction. Will we choose another path? A better path? God has given us our charge. May we keep that charge today and every day!
Follow the Path!
[Use with Honoring God in Our Way, day 14 of A Labyrinth Pilgrimage]