Modern Violence: The Mark of Cain

Does anyone remember the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible? Cain, a skilled farmer and tool user, was angry that his offering to God was not accepted.  His brother, Abel, made a living just by seeing to the needs of his flock of sheep.  His offering of the best of his animals and their best portions was accepted by the God he relied on.  In an English translation of the Septuagint (the Greek language Old Testament compiled and translated 200 B.C. in Egypt), God Himself gave comfort and instruction to the dejected brother; “Did you not sin? Even though you brought it rightly, but did not divide it rightly?  Be still; his recourse shall be for you; and you shall rule over him” (Genesis 4:7 from the Orthodox study Bible).  Rather than find comfort and instruction from the One he claimed to serve, Cain took a tool and killed his brother who, like him, was made in the image of God and had every right to live.  Cain would later mock the Creator.  The merciful one heard his cry for survival, as he offered no repentance, and allowed him to live and his descendants to create a society.  But this society was based not on a security from the Holy One.  It was based on wandering and human skill with God seen only as a tool for their dominance.

cain-and-abel

Compare Cain to Jesus Christ. First, Our Lord rejected Satan’s offers of self-gratification, arrogance, and earthly rule.  He made these rejections by strictly adhering to His heavenly Father.  As a result of this, Jesus was able to fulfill the prophecy about Him: “A bruised reed he will not break, a smoking flax, He will not quench” (Isaiah 42:3).  He cured people of all sorts of illnesses, even an unclean woman who should have been stoned to death for appearing in public (Mark 5:25-34) .  He healed people of demon possession, even one whom his society had given up on and preferred to have him kept ill rather than lose their questionable livelihood (Luke 8:26-39).  Rather than wish the worst on His tormentors, Christ asked:  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do (Luke 23:34).  In a sense, Jesus took the advice that Cain ignored, “Be still; his recourse shall be for you; and you will rule over him.” Indeed, there is no one else we can turn to for the salvation of our souls as our knees bow and lounges confess that He is Lord (Philippians 2:5-11).

As Christian as we want to claim ourselves to be, we tend to base our existence on the mark of Cain. In our anger and frustration with things not going our way, we refuse to be still and wait to rule with (much less rule over) our brother.  We take tools to overcome, even people who mean us no offense, those who are in a weaker position.  In extreme cases, there is murder and warfare.  For most of us, we dehumanize and insult others who don’t share our point of view.  Whether or not blood is spilled; the humble and obedient example of Christ is ignored in favor of imposing and defending our point of view as right and all others as wrong for the sake of what we can gain in this world.

christ temptation

But, the Christian is not a citizen of this world. We belong to the kingdom to come and are to live as sojourners here.  Our tool is the cross with which we offer sacrificial love to those who love and hate us.  Our first and foremost responsibility is to do what Cain failed to do; repent and be still.  Repent because we are all sinners seeking salvation.  Be still because God accepts those who repent and obey His will despite their fallen state.  And if we are obedient even unto death as Christ was, we can fully enter into the fullness of His kingdom.  While still living, we can experience a peace in mind from Christ that goes beyond Cain’s understanding.

Let us expel the mark of Cain and imitate Christ. Through the scriptures, we can reject the roots of sin.  By this rejection, we can devote ourselves to genuine love for others; especially those in need and are disturbed by the evil one.  We can be forgiving no matter what injustice we may bear in this life.  Upholding our mark in this world may give us offspring, land, cities, comfort, and other things for survival.  But, these are temporal and will prevent us from obtaining a place in the world to come if we put too much emphasis on them.  We Christians should know and must do better.

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