Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The First Family

Now let’s consider this week’s lesson (Matthew 5.21-26) in story form.  Remember the first baby ever born on earth?  His name was “gotten one,” or Cain.  He had a little brother named Abel, and together these boys and their parents (Adam & Eve) were the first family to be on earth. 

As they grew, Cain became the first farmer and his little brother was the very first shepherd.  After a while they decided to offer sacrifices to God.  Cain offered up his best stuff (fruits and veggies), and Abel gave his best: barbecued rack of lamb.  Since God is not one of those weird vegetarians, He naturally loved smelling the barbecued meat much more than the smell of Cain’s crispy cabbage and burnt broccoli.  Poor Cain … was apparently a vegetarian, and being low on protein he was always a bit wimpy and weak and so he had a breakdown.  He just couldn't believe God would like his brother’s barbecue more than his smoked cabbage, and he became upset. 

Well, you know how the story ends … Cain was the first person to commit murder.  Obviously Moses hadn't come yet and there was no Torah, Bible or 10 Commandments, but he surely broke them.  Now I’m not saying that all vegetarianism leads to depression and murder, but…. 

What’s cool is that God spoke to Cain before he murdered:
“If you do well, won’t you be lifted up? And if you don’t do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”  Genesis 4:7
Do you see what God did there?  He doesn't tell Cain: “Thou shalt not murder,” but instead God warns Cain.  He tells him how to overcome his “issues.”  If Cain will just “do well,” then he will start feeling better!  But if not, then “sin is crouching at your door,” like a lion about to pounce on poor Cain and rip him to pieces. 

This is Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 5.21-26 in story form.  Don’t hate people, don’t call them names, don’t be mean or ugly or harsh.  But really it’s more than just rules, Jesus was telling them to “do well,” and to focus on asking for forgiveness for the things they had done, rather than focusing on the bad things done to them. 

Go out of your way to mend fences, build relationships, apologize to people and do the right thing.  When you are tempted to be upset with someone, find something good to do – especially go out of your way to apologize to others you've wronged.  If you allow your anger, hurt or frustration to overtake you, you may not murder like Cain did, but you will certainly be doing wrong and open to other temptations.  Your mood will not improve, and you will be tempted, so long as you refuse to accept your own failures and make amends. 

The first two people ever to be born on earth became permanent examples.  Throughout scriptures Cain is the “type” or model of evil, and Abel is the model of innocence – one who was killed for doing the right thing.  We can’t all be great in God’s kingdom, but we all can avoid the sin of Cain – if we will follow the advice of God to Cain and Jesus to his disciples.  What if Cain had gone to Abel and confessed his anger and asked Abel to help him be better next time?  All of human history would be different.  What about you?  Will you make amends, will you seek revenge, or will you simply try to forgive in silence and not have anything to do with your brother?

We have all sinned.  Don’t let it destroy you, or tempt you to hurt others.  Instead, go out of your way to recognize your failures and make amends.  Only then can you begin to understand grace.  Only when you are generous with the undeserving will you truly be like Jesus.

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