Daily Meditation: "Cain"
"Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground."In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground," and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering," but for Cain and his offering he had no regard." - Genesis 4: 2-5
The story of Cain and Abel is a sad one. Its part of the story of the very first family: Adam, Eve and their boys, Cain, a farmer, and Abel, a shepherd.
One day, the two brothers bring a sacrifice to God. Cain serves up some lovely vegetables, while Abel provides the best meat he can. God is pleased by Abel's gift but looks unfavorably on Cain's, prompting Cain to kill Abel in a jealous rage. Not a commentary on whether God is a carnivore or a vegetarian, but more a reminder that when siblings offer gifts accept them with equal thanks!
Now, what happens then is that Cain totally freaks out that because of his crime people everywhere are out to kill him - odd since there’s basically three people in the world. Anyway, God puts a mark on him so that anyone who comes across him knows not to touch him. Even after killing his own brother, God protects rather than punishes, and offers compassion instead of anger.
This is a remarkable thing for God to do, and yet it is the first example of the heart of the Forgiving God that we rest our hopes in so often as people who are broken, flawed, and make horrible mistakes ourselves. There will be times yet ahead when God gets frustrated, angry, even vengeful towards the humanity God has created. Yet here, right at the beginning before humanity even has a chance to get going, the only brothers in the world get in a fight and one of them kills the other because he was jealous. God’s response is compassion and protection. That’s really remarkable when you think about it.
It is also something that offers us profound hope, because all of us are Cain. We all get angry, we all act out in ways we wish we hadn’t, and we all do things we wish we could take back. In the face of these human foibles, God shows us that what is offered to us is love.
Loving Creator, thank you for loving us so much that despite our worst mistakes, you still love us and mark us as your own.