A while back whilst I was studying Genesis chapter 2, I came across a little quote that put the story into practical terms for us today. I think it also applies to chapter 4:
“A story rooted within our space and time, but a story which catches us up into itself and confronts us with the truth about ourselves”
It’s important to remember that the story of Cain and Abel, however well known it is, and however distant it feels, is still a story which catches us – “up into itself”. We don’t have to look far to see ourselves in the characters and dilemmas which they face.
It is a story of jealousy, denying responsibility, lying, doubting our self-worth. It is a story of passion, hate and murder. (We might be inclined to think murder is far away from where we are, and then Jesus comes and broadly re-defines it as hate.)
The story of the man who killed his brother. Is a story of warning about the power of anger, jealousy and hate to destroy us.
In this post we’re going to examine Cain’s sin(s) and take lessons we can apply to our own struggle with sin.
1) Sin hi-jacks our Legacy
Again, this isn’t a foreign concept to us 21st century readers. How many church leaders have had their legacy re-defined as one characterised by their greatest moral failures? We are no longer surprised when politicians are accused of abusing women, or when priests are found to have manipulated children in horrible ways.
Sin has the potential to overwrite our entire life’s work. Especially the hidden sins. This is important to remember, especially in light of Jesus’ words in Luke 12:2-3 about hidden things being revealed.
It seems few people appreciate the city Cain built, or the accomplishments of his children also detailed in Chapter 4. Did you know that he also spent his life building a city? No, his sin caught up with him. It overwrites all his other accomplishments. His legacy is the man who killed his brother.
This is real, for me and for you. Let us fight to rule over sin.
I guess this is where the good news of Jesus’ gospel comes in. No matter our past, God completely forgives those who put their trust in Jesus. He is able to use the “worst of sinners” to accomplish His legacy (1 Tim 1:15).
2) Sin is a choice
What we see in Cain’s life are the multiple avenues and choices he makes in order to disobey God. Firstly, in temptation, God plainly explains to Cain: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it’ (verse 7). Cain is here given a choice, does he continue in despair and jealousy, or does he seek to do what is right.
As we know, Cain chooses murder.
But then, even after Cain has killed his brother, he is offered another choice. Either repent and confess his sin, or try to hide it and run away from God? We don’t know what would have happened, if Cain had turned to God and apologised for the murder of his brother.
But we do know, later on in the Bible, that King David would sleep with Bathsheba, kill her husband and get her pregnant. However, in his confession and repentance, God’s grace is shown to be powerful to pass over his sin.
Instead, Cain’s response is famously: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Inferring blame on God. He chooses to deny responsibility. And in so doing he refuses to accept God’s grace.
Sin is a choice. And our response to our failures is also a choice.
3) The Choice we face
The picture presented in Revelation 3:20 is a counter piece to the picture God gives Cain. In Genesis 4, Cain is told that Sin is crouching at His door. In Revelation, the Church is told that Jesus is standing at the door knocking.
Who do we open the door to?
Do we confess our sins, or do we hide them? Do we turn to Jesus to forgive us, or do we avoid responsibility, and tell ourselves its not that bad.
4) Our Sin affects others
We don’t know an exact reason why Cain’s offering wasn’t accepted, whilst Abel’s was. Although there are several very convincing theories. However, we can see a parallel in Cain and Abel with that of the Pharisees.
Cain’s offering was rejected by God, he couldn’t enter God’s presence on that occasion. And so, in his jealousy, he prevented Abel from ever entering God’s presence.
In the same way, the Pharisees are accused by Jesus: “You have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering” (Luke 11:52).
We need to be very wary, about the impact our lives have on the faith of other believers. This is one of the reasons Paul gives for abstaining from meat altogether, because of the consciences of other believers (1 Cor 8).
In an age, when the promotion of individual freedom is held as one of the highest values. The Bible asks us to limit our personal freedoms for the sake of others. This is love.