Most of us are familiar with the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4, where Adam and Eve's son Cain kills his brother Abel because his sacrifice was accepted by God when Cain's own sacrifice was rejected.
As I was thinking about this story the other day, I wondered if we have not, in Western Christianity, turned it a bit on its head. Certainly, there are Christians all around the world who are suffering every day, who are killed, because of their worship for God. Certainly, Cain still kills Abel. But I wonder this about contemporary Western Christianity:
Would Abel today kill Cain?
I was thinking about this because I was thinking about how easy it is for Christians in America to go after each other. We're the ones who have it right, we think. Our doctrine is right. Our social stance is right. Our service is right. Our music is right. God surely accepts us and is pleased with the way that we do church. Then we look across the aisle, across the street, across town, and we snivel at the Christians who are doing it differently than us.
Surely, God doesn't accept them.
So we speak with hatred, vehemently. We speak with condemnation, and it comes so easily to us that it's honestly scary for me. We spend more of our time condemning others for worshiping wrong than we do actually worshiping ourselves. And we say that it's all in good faith, that it's what God's called us to do.
We look up and we hate our brothers and sisters. We hate them so much that as soon as we look up, we turn away. How can they live such disgusting lives? How can they do such disgusting things? The grace of God, which has rescued us in our misery, does not go that far - or perhaps it shouldn't go that far - and we'd be far better off in our worship that is pleasing if we would simply do away with worship that is displeasing.
And all of a sudden, Abel kills Cain.
I don't get it. I really don't get it. I don't understand how it happened in the first place, when Cain killed Abel just for getting it right, but I really don't understand how it happens again and again and again, where we, as Christians, are so comfortable, so confident, killing Cain for getting it wrong.
How can a people marked by grace refuse to extend grace beyond themselves?
How can we keep quarreling over all of these little things? Were it not for the grains that Cain grew, Abel's livestock would not have been healthy, a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord. Were it not for the things that our brothers and sisters offer to God, our own sacrifice would be thin and sickly. There's no way we're doing this on our own; we need each other.
Cain killed Abel, and indeed, he still does. And now, Abel kills Cain, and it seems he won't stop. Where does the bloodshed end? When will it stop?
When I become my brother's keeper, and I know, too, that he is mine.