WEEK SIX, DAY THREE, COMMON ENGLISH BIBLE COMPANION
WEEK SIX THEME: LOVE
DAY THREE THEME: LOVE IN ACTION
SCRIPTURE: I JOHN 3:11-24 (CEB)
“This is the message that you heard from the beginning: love each other. Don’t behave like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he kill him? He killed him because his own works were evil, but the works of his brother were righteous.
Don’t be surprised, brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have transferred from death to life, because we love the brothers and sisters. The person who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
This is how we know love: Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. But if a person has material possesions and sees a brother or sister in need and that person doesn’t care — how can the love of God remain in him?
Little children let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth. This is how we will know that we belong to the truth and reassure our hearts in God’s presence. Even if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows all things. Dear friends, if our hearts don’t condemn us, we have confidence in relationship to God. We receive whatever we ask from him because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him.
This is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love each other as he commanded us. The person who keeps his commandments remains in God and God remains in us, because of the Spirit that he has given to us.”
THE WORD OF GOD FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD – THANKS BE TO GOD!
SOAKING IT IN: One of the most confusing passages of scripture is where God accepts Abel’s offering but not Cain’s leading to Cain killing Abel – his own brother! The brothers were different – Abel a man of the flocks and Cain a man of the fields and each brought forth their offerings to God. Cain brought an offering from the land’s crops while Abel presented his flock’s oldest offspring with their fat. Abel seems to better understand somehow the idea of first fruits and complete giving – “offspring” seems to be plural here and Abel did not even hold back the fat – he gave all.
Our scriptures today references this story and simply says that Cain killed Abel because his own works were evil, but the works of his brother were righteous. Earlier it says that Cain belonged to the evil one. Cain and Abel had the same parents and the same upbringing. They were different in their responsibilities but both seem to do well. It seems to boil down to the matters of the heart. Each one decided to make an offereing to God. Had they been taught this at some point in their upbringing or was it a conviction that came to them? Did one decide to do it and the other felt they had to do it? It feels that Abel had the right motivation in his sacrificial giving to God. He gave a complete gift and Cain was differently motivated by giving a portion – it seems that Abel gave it all and Cain withheld for himself. Whatever the motivation of their heart in their offerings, Cain was filled jealousy and hatred in the end inspiring the killing of Abel. Love was certainly not present in his heart for his brother. God had warned Cain in Genesis 4:7, “If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain’s heart had turned to stone. Cain, though the oldest, couldn’t handle his brother’s excellence. Somewhere along the way, love was lost and murder entered and ended the relationship all together. Hatred cannot allow us to celebrate another’s success. Several times throughout scripture – the oldest child seems to have the hardest time when it comes to matters of the heart: Essau and Jacob, the Prodigal Son and the Elder Brother, Martha and Mary, etc. Does duty and responsibility rob us of love. The oldest is usually the one to inherit from the parents – do they see the possessions differently than a younger sibling who will always be somewhat dependent? Does this privilege go to their heads and they feel more privileged? Do younger children, therefore, more easily become dependent on God, is trusting for them just easier from the get go? Do oldest children suffer from responsibility overload?
In any case, the simple answer is in developing our relationship with our Heavenly Father who shows no favoritism to birth order at all but pure grace as was given to Adam and Eve when He clothed them to help them cope with their shame. To Him we are all the same and will be loved unconditionally no matter what. God did not condemn Cain for his offering, he was simply pleased with Abel’s….Did Cain allow embarrassment to take over when he saw how selfless Abel’s offering was?
When we let go of all social and personal stigmas and concerns and release ourselves and all that we have to God opening our hearts to love, great things happen. People can become “the oldest” as they embrace traditions that alienate and oppress others and adopt them rather than lean on God for understanding and direction. When God opens our hearts and leads us by his Holy Spirit, the only result will be love. In love, Cain would have accepted, even celebrated that his brother did well in the eyes of God, and learned a better way from the example that was set rather than kill his brother and be banished. There is always grace and more opportunities in the Kingdom of God.
We will not be excellent in all that we do, but we can strive for excellence as we are motivated by love. God helps us to see all others through a different lens than tradition or modern society will ever allow. God encourages us to see ourselves honestly and with courage and to embrace the parts that we are not super thrilled with – allowing ourselves grace for not being perfect and loving ourselves as God does. He will then continue His great work in us and through this experience allows us to allow others the same opportunities for growth and Kingdomship.
As we love ourselves – warts and all, loving others comes very easily. As we live confidently as a child of the the Most High God, we are not threatened by any learning curves that may come our way. Lord help me appreciate the me that you created and praise you for the complete gift of me that you can use and enjoy, even though I am not perfection …..YET!