Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Genesis 4:1-15 is easy to misuse. We may want to make it into a call to obedience. In verse six Cain is told by God that he needs to do what is good and right, then he will be received. How many times we have been told to go and do likewise. Do what is right, not kill your brother. But if we do what is right, we will be accepted. So if something is going badly in our lives . . . you can fill in the gap there.
Another way we misuse the passage shows up in verse 15. Cain, clearly guilty of murdering his brother, is given a mark by God, a mark which will protect him and keep people from trying to kill him. Cain got off! He had “get out of jail free” card and so do I! It doesn’t matter what I do as long as it isn’t worse than killing my brother!
Well, we fell off the horse on both sides when we did that. What’s a reasonable response to this text? First, Cain was guilty. He couldn’t blame anybody else. He bumped his brother off because he was angry that God hadn’t received his offering but had received his brother’s offering. Cain was guilty. There wasn’t any doubt about that. God said he was guilty. God fully agreed. Second, Cain was forgiven. He was sorrowful over his sin. Maybe he was partly sad just because he was caught, but really, he had killed his brother. He knew it was wrong. He knew his guilt. He was sorry. What does God do with those who are sorrowful over their sin? He forgives them. He restores them. He puts his hand of protection and guidance on them.
Cain gives us a picture of a sinner who has been confronted with his sin. He also gives us a picture of someone who is repentant. Like you and I can be, Cain, repentant for his sin, is the subject of God’s forgiveness and grace. This speaks volumes about God’s love for his people.
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