Sunday, 26 February 2017

Disintegration - Genesis 4

Doesn't it bug you when life just doesn't seem fair? Two brothers in the first family recorded in the Bible find their vocations. Both are in farming, with the eldest, Cain, into agriculture and the younger, Abel, rearing livestock. They both have a sense of God and both bring an offering to worship. Yet curiously God looked with favour on Abel but not on Cain's offering - why? Sometimes life just doesn't seem fair ...

Cain goes into a sulk. God speaks to Cain (God is quite capable of speaking even when we are sulking and miserable!). God says "if you do what is right will you not be accepted?". God is saying "You can make it, you can do it ... you can be accepted"!

Yet God also says "But watch your attitude because sin is right there at you - it wants to take over, but you must not let it". How much do people view their wrongdoing as simply a passive thing? You hear people say "Oh that was a line I happened to cross, or something I fell into". God however seems to be describing it as a force with intent that wants to take over and control. Despite this God is saying that you have a choice, you don't have to let it take over. A call to get your thinking straight, your desires correctly aligned, and you can choose not to go in the wrong direction. Hundreds of years later Peter wrote that believers should humble themselves before God (i.e. get your attitude right), cast their anxieties on God (i.e. trust Him) and be alert, resisting the devil who awaits us by our faith in Jesus (1 Peter 5:6 - 9). James also wrote "Submit yourself to God, resist the devil and he will flee away" (James 4:7).

Cain goes out with his brother Abel into the fields, and then turns on him and kills him in cold blood. Of course God knows, since God sees everything, right down to the attitude of the heart. God calls to Cain, asking him about his brother, but Cain denies any knowledge. Since God knows anyway, He calls Cain to account. Note how God starts with a question, an invitation for Cain, but in the face of Cain's denial God holds him to account - we all have to take responsibility for our actions.

There are consequences - Cain is banished to a life of a restless wanderer. Cain appreciates the gravity of his situation and calls to God in desperation - to be kept from God's presence will be too much to bear. The separation from God's presence is a dreadful theme that reverberates down through history. Yet God is a God of grace - He puts a mark on Cain so that he will not be killed. If anyone attacks Cain then God will bring vengeance for him 7 times over (the 7 represents perfection, i.e. just the right amount).

And so Cain lives, has children and grandchildren, in fact 7 generations are recorded. But all is not well, relationships continue to deteriorate and evil becomes more prevalent. A descendant Lamech commits his own trouble, but then swears for his own vengeance of 77 times over, in other words relentless vengeance over and over. This is disintegration of community, the lack of brotherly love. In fact it is the opposite of love, it is hatred which breeds fear, revenge and cycles that spiral out of control ... which history is full of.

It all stems from a wrong attitude to God, to allowing evil to be the master, to not taking responsibility for your own actions.

The result is whole communities and even nations pitted against others, sowing fear, building walls to protect themselves - perhaps running the whole length of national borders.

Jesus said "There is no greater love than this, but to lay down your life for your friends". Paul wrote "Jesus is our peace, and has made the two groups one, having destroyed the wall of hostility". John wrote about the way of Jesus, to love your brother (see 1 John 3:11 - 18). And Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness. "How many times must I forgive? Is it that special number 7? Forgive up to 7 times and then I'm done?". Jesus looked at Peter and replied "No - forgive 77 times over".

When you get up each morning you have a choice to make between two ways. One that disintegrates into fear & hatred, or the other which is the way of Jesus, a life laid down in love. Which will you choose?

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