Bible Focus: Genesis 4
Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.Genesis 4:6-8 CSB
I once found myself involved in a squabble with a couple of co-workers. I’ll call them Rob and Sherry (which were not their real names). Their squabble didn’t involve me directly, but I considered them both friends, and I wanted them to get along and have a good working relationship.
So, in good faith, I decided to attempt to make peace between the two. I believed that Rob had it in his power to stop the squabble. I felt Sherry had already exhausted her options to make peace. So I went to Rob privately and gave him some advice on how he might set the relationship right.
Rob’s response was not what I had hoped. He asked me why I was criticizing him and taking Sherry’s side in the squabble. I tried to explain that I was actually on his side as well as her side; if they could come to an understanding, it would be a positive experience for everyone. (Including me.)
Unfortunately, I failed to convince Rob that my motives were caring and generous. He continued to insist that I had taken sides, and their squabble remained unresolved. In addition, my friendship with Rob took a hit, and it was never quite the same again.
We humans tend to be suspicious of unsolicited advice, even from those who say they care. Perhaps we especially suspect advice from those who say they care. Life teaches us that people hide their real intentions. Everyone seems to have an agenda. We find it hard to believe that someone would operate from a totally altruistic motive.
The first man and woman fell to temptation and disobeyed God’s one command to them. Their sin brought a terrible curse on creation itself, and they were subsequently expelled from the garden paradise that God had specifically made for them to enjoy and manage.
As the man and woman scratched out a living in the land outside the garden, they started having children. Their first two sons were named Cain and Abel. The boys grew up and learned how to work: Cain in the fields, Abel with the flocks. They each brought offerings to God. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s, and this made Cain angry.
The Bible is not clear why God rejected Cain’s offering. However, Cain himself must have known the reason, because after Cain become angry, God told him that he would be accepted if he did the right thing. “Sin is crouching at the door,” God told him. “Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:8 CSB). Even though Cain had presented an unacceptable offering, God was still trying to help Cain make things right.
Unfortunately, Cain was not able to recognize God’s wisdom and goodwill. Cain also could not master the sin that was growing in his heart. The sin mastered him instead, and the result was Abel’s murder and Cain’s banishment.
Thousands of years later, by the inspiration of God, the apostle Paul would write this about sin:
So I discover this law: When I want to do what is good, evil is present with me. For in my inner self I delight in God’s law, but I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I myself am serving the law of God, but with my flesh, the law of sin.Romans 7:21-25 CSB
God must judge sin, and that presents a problem, because us humans have all walked a sinful path. We may not have murdered, but we have all fallen to sin’s mastery. But here’s the good news: Jesus offers us freedom from the penalty of sin and the power to walk in victory over sin. We cannot master sin on our own, but Jesus can.
Featured image by Ferhat Deniz Fors on Unsplash