“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”” (Genesis 4:9, ESV)
I make excuses.
When I forget to take out the trash, I do it. When I make a mistake, I do it. When I pray, I do it.
It’s rare that a day goes by that I don’t make an excuse for something that I’ve done or failed to do.
Truth be known, you are the same. None of us like to take blame.
Excuses are a rhetorical way of avoiding blame. More specifically, each time we make an excuse for our failures, whether it is a moral failure or some other, we are trying to avoid a couple of things.
Excuses are attempts at avoiding responsibility and accountability.
We often try to avoid responsibility because we desire absolute or extreme autonomy. We don’t like the idea of being tied down to some obligation or duty. If we can avoid it, we will. Obligations or responsibilities are things that tend to force us to make decisions based upon something other than our own selfish desires.
We don’t like to do a thing because it restricts our freedom to act for our own benefit, so we make excuses to avoid those types of responsibilities.
We also make excuses when we have failed to fulfill a particular responsibility and are held accountable. For example, when most folks have a fender bender, they find things like mechanical failures to blame their inept driving. The “brakes didn’t stop the car fast enough” rather than we weren’t paying attention.
If our boss confronts us about a mistake we’ve made, we usually find some technical difficulty or even another employee on whom to blame our slack. We don’t like to take the blame.
The same is true for us spiritually.
We constantly attempt to pass the buck when it comes to our sinful behavior. We do not like accountability. Even in confession to God, we often minimize our sin as if God is ignorant of our wicked heart. It’s kind of the default position of being human and although we are already justified and at once sanctified, we are yet temporally being sanctified. We should be mindful of our proclivity towards excuses when we pray and confess openly to our Omniscient God.
As servants of God, we make excuses to avoid our responsibility to him and our brothers and sisters in him. If we are faced with a difficult circumstance with another person, we avoid dealing with it biblically because then we might be responsible to do an uncomfortable thing.
We may be called to ministry (service) in the Church. Many times we avoid that call by making excuses about our abilities or talents rather than being obedient. Ministry is difficult and cramps our style, or at least confines our freedom a bit.
Sometimes excuses are what we give rather than joining a church. The covenant involved there both makes us responsible to that fellowship and renders us accountable to it.
The good news is that making excuses is not necessarily a Christian thing.
The bad news is that making excuses is historically a human thing.
One of the biggest and oldest excuses of all time has translated into a major Christian excuse, unfortunately. In fact, it’s rhetoric that is found in the early chapters of the first book of the Bible, is answered throughout the rest of the Bible. The excuse of Cain, dripping with anger and hatred, is answered by friendships like David’s to Jonathan, refuted by proverbs, explained away by the preaching of Jesus, and finally sufficiently and fully exposed by the cross of Christ as Jesus acts as the true and complete “brothers keeper”!
Let those, therefore, whose consciences accuse them, beware lest, after the example of Cain, they confirm themselves in obstinacy. For this is truly to kick against God, and to resist his Spirit; when we repel those thoughts, which are nothing else than incentives to repentance. -Calvin
You’ve guessed it by now. Cain’s excuse is ours. His fist held in the face of God we replicate each time we refuse to love our brother or sister, serve them, and obey Christ’s words. We excuse ourselves from loving Christ each time we fail to serve our brother or sister, by serving his Church. Our slack fulfilling our duty to become our brother’s keeper is testified to by the blood soaked soil where they lay victim to the attack of abhorrent worldviews, false teaching, and poor reason.
Apologist, are you your brother’s keeper?
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, ESV)
This was the extent of Christ’s final answer to Cain’s rhetorical excuse, “am I my brother’s keeper?” Jesus laid his life down for us.
Would it be so hard for you to step up for your brother? Do you have time? Will it mess with your tradition or schedule? Will you be responsible? You are accountable.
You see, apologetics is not merely defending the Faith against the New Atheists. There is a great battle taking place for the lives of our brothers and sisters. It is being waged on a spiritual plane but the casualties will be apparent to us all very soon. I’m sure that it’s obvious by now that he or she needs you, your service, your keeping. This is apologetics at its very core, the keeping of your brother, and the antithesis of Cain’s excuse. So may I ask apologist, are you your brothers keeper?
“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;” (1 Peter 5:1–2, ESV) …
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” (1 Peter 5:8–9, ESV)
 Calvin, J., & King, J. (2010). Commentary on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis (Vol. 1, p. 206). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.