Many people might remember this as the title line to the song of the same name performed by Neil Diamond in 1970. The song was originally written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell in 1969. But where did this idea come from?
Roe Fulkerson used this line in a column published in Kiwanis magazine in 1924, and it is said Edward J. Flanagan, the founder of Boys Town used it in 1943. In 1918 Ralph Waldo Trine used a form of this famous phrase in his publication “The Higher Powers of Mind and Spirit.”
So, we see the phrase has been around for a while, but it may have been originally penned by Rev. James Wells, M.A. in 1884 in his children’s book “The Parables of Jesus” (page 163). Rev. Wells uses the term to describe the shepherd carrying the lost sheep back home on his shoulders (Luke 15:1-6).
This is the idea the apostle John wants his readers to understand in 1 John 3:10-15. If we say we are God’s children then we will love our Christian brothers and sisters by our actions, not just our feelings. John continues by using Cain and Abel as examples. We know the outcome of this story, how Cain killed his brother Abel, but the burning question is why did Cain act so drastically towards his brother?
God had revealed to both brothers, as to all the others alive at that time, what was considered an acceptable sacrifice to offer in worship to God. But it wasn’t just about following the rules laid out by God. It was about a heart attitude of repentance and a worshipful attitude for whom and what God is (Psalm 51:16-17).
John goes on to explain his “Cain and Abel” example. The righteousness of the upright reveals the sinfulness of the wicked, and the latter hates the former for it. The wicked don’t envy the righteous because of their righteousness, but the wicked hate the righteous because their wickedness stands condemned by the very presence of righteousness. Cain resented the fact that his brother Abel’s offering found acceptance while his didn’t. Cain didn’t look to change his attitude or position about worshipping God, because he was only willing to worship God on his own terms. So Cain’s response was to lash out at the righteousness of his brother, which stood as a condemning contrast to Cain’s own inadequate standing before God.
John continues with the idea that the truly righteous child of God will demonstrate his/her love for God by how they treat their brothers and sisters in the Lord. These acts are also evident through the fruits produced in the believers action and life (Galatians 5:22-23).
So what’s John’s point? If you are going to call yourself a Christian, if you’ve truly asked Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, then your life must demonstrate this by how you treat others, especially those who are in your spiritual family. As the author of Hebrews reminds us, “…let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
To “consider one another” is to help carry their burden, encouraging them in the faith, worshiping, rejoicing and sharing with one another, just as the good Shepherd (Jesus) carries each one of us through the trials and tests we each must face. Just as Jesus carries us, we too must be willing to carry each other as well, for this is a true mark of the Christian family.