Rev. Jim Abrams
This text from Hebrews takes me all the way back to an early story in Genesis. Two brothers are in a field. Each grew up under the same roof, raised by the same parents, faced the same challenges to their survival, served the same God, and shared the same memories and experiences as the other. It would be easy for the outsider to look in and conclude that these two were more than close, they were family. Yet one brother nurtured and fed a sinful jealously toward the other. He hardened his heart toward his brother like curing clay in a kiln until the time was right. Then, in that field, where no one would find out, Cain killed his own brother.
Sin has that affect. It attaches itself to our heart like a clearcoat of varnish over a freshly sanded hardwood floor. It promises to protect our hearts from the harmful foot traffic of our world and the scraping that happens when the furniture of our lives gets rearranged by changing circumstances. The covering prevents us from being rubbed raw by the friction caused by family relationships. A single coat shines nicely, but one coat is insufficient to protect from clumsy spills and careless dark stains. After several coats have been applied, our hearts are thoroughly insulated and protected from the wear patterns caused by exposure to real life. A hard heart may be unbreakable, but it’s also unmoldable. It cannot entrust itself to another and therefore it cannot love. Death is the result.
A hard, unmoldable, unloving heart will not entrust itself to the care of Good. Hebrews warns against this faithless disbelief by saying: “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” The Genesis story leaves me with this haunting unanswered question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8-10). The writer of Hebrews answers, "Yes." We do bear responsibility, not only for the density of our own heart, but that of our brothers and sisters. Yes, we are charged with keeping our sisters and brothers soft and tender so they remain responsive to the molding touch of God. So they remain responsive to the desperate touch of a world in need. Yes, we bear some responsibility for their hearts because if we hold firmly to our confident faith, we become partners together with Christ. Partners with Christ makes us more than close, more than family, it makes us Christian.
Dear God, keep our hearts soft and responsive to your embrace that we may be used to draw others into full confidence in you and so become partners with Christ in whose name we pray. Amen.