Love Your Brother to Death
Introduction-Cain And Able
Introduction-Cain And Able
Are you a Cain or an Able?
The story of Cain and Able, is a classic. We heard it in Sunday School. The lesson is usually, Cain kills Able, don’t be a Cain. Just for fun I typed “Cain and Able coloring sheet” in the google-and I had a million responses. The pictures usually show Cain as shifty eyed, and sinister. In the one on the top right, he is hoarding his offering, while looking side-eyed at his brother. The colored one shows Able looking up to heaven, while Cain is glaring at him. The bottom right photo is not Cain and Able but instead two little boys, presumably brothers, and the caption says, “Share and be a friend, I am my brother’s keeper!”. That must be the application step-Share. So the common Sunday School lesson is clear-Don’t be a Cain, be an Able.
Before my inbox blows up with e-mails, I’m not knocking Sunday School. Please don’t misunderstand me.I do believe that kids need to be taught the stories of the Old Testament, in a way that is helpful to them. At a young age, kids aren’t going to understand all that is going on in the story, nor should we try and teach them too much either. However, what happens is. As adults we still have that idea of the story in our heads-Don’t be a Cain, be an Able. It is about murder- don’t murder. Then with that stuck in our heads, we file it away, and move on, never to return we got it. Be an Able not a Cain.
I’ll be honest with you, as I looked at the next event in Genesis, I was like-ugh-Cain and Able- Don’t be a Cain, be an Able. However, as we engage with God’s word a little, and look closer not through Sunday School eyes, it becomes a little more challenging.
Are you a Cain or an Able? Look with me at what Jesus says, in the book of Matthew.
But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister, will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
But I tell you, Jesus says, that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister-angry. Ever been angry with a brother or sister? Jesus says, that person Will be subject to judgement. In case we don’t get it Jesus says, again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ which is an Aramaic word for contempt-is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.--Will be in danger of the fire of Hell.—
This is serious stuff. Jesus is saying that you don’t have to actually murder someone, just hating them is enough. Your sin of hatred toward your brother can get you thrown into hell. Then Jesus goes on,
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Even if you are to church, and you are ready to give your check or cash, stop right there. Go and reconcile first with your brother. In the Old Testament God said, “I desire mercy not sacrifice,’” meaning that the most important thing to give God, is not our stuff, the most important thing to give to God is not our time, the most important thing to Give to God is our obedience. The stuff doesn't mean anything, if your heart is not in the right place. And that was what was going on with Cain and Able.
Are you a Cain, or an Able?
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
The LORD looked with favor on Abel-but not on Cain. We know very little about why God looked with favor on Able’s offering and not on Cain’s. The only difference seems to be that Able offers an animal while Cain offers gains. However, God does allow for grain offerings, they were common in the Old testament, so that can’t be it. Other than that, the text doesn’t say.
Perhaps, God does not give us a lot of detail because on the outside there is not much difference. On the outside each offering appears to be satisfactory. The difference must be on the inside. It must be something that only God can see. It must be that God can see Cain’s heart.
God knows what is going on with Cain, just like he knew what was going on with Adam and Eve, just like he knows what is in our heart, even when we don’t. God makes Cain aware of what is going on in his heart.
God Calls Cain-Not Condemns
The Lord speaks to Cain, notice the Lord is not condemning, or angry, he is just asking. He is probing Cain’s heart, with gentleness tenderness. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. God is calling Cain to see his own heart. Asking, probing.
What is going on Cain? What has you down and angry. Bring it to me Cain, bring it to the Lord in prayer. We don’t have a record of Cain’s answer. So, even if Cain can’t identify his problem. Maybe he can’t vocalize why he is angry, it doesn’t matter, God will help him.
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
If you get your heart right Cain it will all be good. Let go of that anger, let go of that jealousy, let go of the pride. It’s just between you and me Cain. Here is a way out, here is a chance to turn, away from the hatred, and be free of the sin that is right there. You are playing with it, it is at your door, take the way out.
God still offers us a way out.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
He will also provide a way out. Here is Cain’s way out. God is calling Cain. God sought out Cain, God is calling Cain back. God is not condemning Cain but providing a way out, warning Him to not be angry, not to toy with sin.
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
But Cain did not listen to God’s call to put off sin, He did not take the way out, instead Cain’s anger gave birth to sin. When we are tempted, God provides a way out, a conviction of the heart. A verse, a phone call, a brother or sister, God calls us. If don’t take the way out God provides, when we do not listen to God’s word, when we do not respond to the Holy Spirit convicting our heart, when we ignore the word from our brother or sister, it gives birth to sin. We have fallen to the temptation.
Are you a Cain or an Able? Have you ever ignored the call of God through His word to be free of sin? Have you not listened to the Holy Spirit calling you away from sin, and instead continued on your own path?
Are you a Cain or an Able?
How to be an Able
See, I think we do this all the time. Oh we still give our offerings, wether it is time talent or resources. We still throw the $20 in the plate, we still volunteer to serve, but all the while we may be harboring anger in our heart for fellow image bearers. The guy who cut us off. The annoying neighbor, the guy with different political beliefs, the person who has a completely different viewpoint than we do at a church meeting.
Wait a minute here. What if I am right. What if if that other guy who cut me off was wrong, what if that person who disagrees with me is in the wrong. I don’t have to love them too do I? Can’t I be angry at them
Well, what did Jesus say?
“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
That’s tough! That is not easy! I get that. If we are going to follow Jesus we need to find out how to overcome that temptation toward hate, we need to find out what the root cause of this problems is. Why did Cain kill Able?
Was it jealousy? Did Cain see that Able’s sacrifice was being accepted by God and became jealous that God loved Him more? Kind of a Smother’s Brothers theory-Mom always liked Him best? Sibling rivalry. Sure , that could be part of it.
Was it Spiritual pride? He could not face the humiliation that someone was better than him. He wanted to be top dog in the church, and this young up-and-comer Able was making him look bad? Sure that is some of it.
We all have those types of feelings, those temptations, but where did those feelings come from? Where did those are horizontal feelings originate from? Where does our hatred our jealousy our pride come from? Those horizontal feelings of hatred toward one another, the spiritual pride, the jealousy, the anger-they result not in a problem with our brother. The problem isn’t over there, with what they are doing. What difference did it make to Cain’s life if Able had an accepted sacrifice. The problem is not what they do, or how they act that is the problem, the problem lies in our deficient vertical relationship with God. That is the problem. The problem is between us and God.
There is a problem with Cain’s relationship with God-that is the problem! That is why Cain is angry. That is why Cain is jealous, and that is why Cain kills able. The problem is vertical. Dietrich Bonhoeffer observed that Cain killed Able because he was angry not with Able but with God.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
The Lord asked hi a simple question, and Cain responds with anger, and arrogance. Get off my back God-He is not my responsibility! Wow. God warned you. God said that you needed to calm down, God said that you needed to deal with the anger. Instead, you killed a man, and when asked about it, you say to the Creator God, the one who knows exactly what you did, he is not my responsibility. What could be so corrupt in Cain’s heart that made him feel that way? And how do we keep our heart in such a state that when we are called by God to turn from sin, we do rather than continue in our path away from God.
See here is what is unexpected. We expect that the criminals that are murdering people are not hearing from God. We are assuming that they don’t know what God says. But in this story, the murderer heard God’s voice. The text doesn’t tell us how, but somehow Cain knew what God was trying to tell Him. We are talking about someone who talked to God. He knew who God was and yet he heard what God said heard God’s warning, and deliberately did something different anyway.
Let’s turn to 1 John for a minute. In first John 3, John is talking about loving one another. He is talking to the church, and he writes in 1 John 3:11
For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.
This is the message-Love one another-Simple
Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.
John says don’t be like Cain who was evil. He murdered Him because his own actions were evil.
Then John says
Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.
Don’t be surprised, people there are Cain’s in the world.
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
We know hat we have passed from death to life. We know we are the true church, we know we are not of the world Because we love each other.
This is a characteristic of someone who has faith in Jesus. This is a trait of the saved. This is a mark of the church- We love one another- You know you passed from death to life if you love each other.
Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
Anyone who hates is a murder, if you murder you do not have eternal life.
Again, John here is like Jesus’s words in Matthew, and they are very strong. This says that if you are saved, if you are part of the church-you don’t hate anyone. I have seen many qualifications for church membership. But rarely have I seen this one, but none-the-less John says that if you have passed from death to life then as a result of that experience- then you love another-it is like you can’t help it. It is the product of your salvation. How do I know if I am going to heaven? You love one another. How do I know I know if I am accepted by God? You love one another,. Loving one another does not cause salvation. Loving one another does not give you salvation, but it is a result of it.
It is like this-Having wheels does not make something a car. Having wheels can make something a shopping cart or a wheel barrow, or a wagon, or a stroller. However if something is a Car, then it will have wheels.
Now, I know that some people here, including myself ,are getting very uncomfortable. Because if we are really honest, if we really look at our selves, what we find is that there have been times where we have not loved one another. Especially our enemies. So does this mean that we are not saved? Not necessarily. Let me explain.
When people pass from death to life, however you want to say it. When people are saved, or when people become a follower of Jesus, or when people become part of the church invisible however you want to phrase it, God does not take them out of the world. The believers remain in the world, where sin is. The curse. The sins of the believer are forgiven and although sin no longer reigns in our mortal bodies, we are still tempted to sin. Some desires go away, but we still have some desires that are not of God. These desires still attempt to draw us away and lead us into sin. The difference between the believer and world is is how we respond to God, when he provides the way out.
For Cain, and those like Him, the world. when they hear the call of God they do not turn from sin.When they are convicted in their heart, It makes them angry. They respond with resentment, and arrogance, they blame. They continue on in their path of sin, sometimes trying to offer their dead offerings, and yet continue on with the hatred and resentment in their hearts.
But the believer-the one who has passed from death to life-hears the call of God as a conviction in his heart, and responds.
This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
The one who has passed from death to life, even though they are subject to the same temptation of hatred, and anger and jealousy, they when they hear the call of God, when they have the opportunity for a way out, they turn and escape. They know God is greater-They know God is love, and they turn from their hatred toward love. This is true even when the world has been mean and cruel to us.
What does this love look like? How do we know how to love one another?
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.
We look up. We don’t look from side to side at our brother wondering what his offering is like. We look up to Jesus and see what his offering was like. Jesus’s death shows us what love looks like. And it looks like death-self sacrificial death. Jesus’s love for us was so great that He gave up everything for us. He gave up his life. We ought to give up our lives.
Are you a Cain or an Able?
Here is the problem-Able’s Die. Able’s die at the hands of Cains. Ables die to their self, they die to their own desires.
Cain and Able
Love looks like Jesus. Jesus gave up his status, suffered in pain, He gave up everything he had as the king to humble himself to die for us. That is the Love that we are supposed to show. Love like is ugly, it is painful, it gives up everything for the sake of the brothers and sisters.
Cain’s are scared to die. Cain’s are hanging on to this world tightly because that is all they have. Cain’s hang on to the things that they hold dear, their self. The things they want, their offerings. Able’s die to self, because their love is like Jesus’s love. Their love has eternal things in mind. Able’s know that they have passed from death to life, so the life they have in the body, is temporary. The sufferings that they go through for their brothers and sisters, are small compared to the glory that will one day be revealed.
Able’s die even when they are right. Jesus did not give his life for the righteous, but for the unrighteous. When Jesus died for us, we were still sinners. We were in rebellion to him. He were enemies of God. That is why Able’s die even when they are right. They die to their pleasures for the ungodly. They die to their self for those that are in rebellion to the Lord.
Able’s look up to see Jesus. They focus on the glory of God as revealed in His son Jesus to be able overcome the temptation to have their own way and hang on to self. It’s not easy to love everyone. There are people that are hard to love, I am not going to sugar coat it. It is difficult to love some people so Able’s look up to God.
Cain’s look to the side. They look at their brothers, and try to decide fairness and see what they have. But looking up with our eyes focused heavenward on Jesus Christ we see what he has done for us. That is why we proclaim the gospel every Sunday, and return week after week to point our eyes heavenward so that we can look to Jesus, and know what he has done, so that we can love another.
Able’s hear and respond to God’s call.
Cain’s continue onward in their path while Able’s hear God’s voice.
Able’s hear God’s voice through His word.They hear God calling us back to him when they study the Bible. Able’s hear God’s voice calling them back when they pray and have quiet time with the Lord. The Holy Spirit convicts Able’s hearts during worship. And when Able’s hear God’s voice they turn back to him, they do what is right and flee from sin, not allowing it to crouch at their door.
Church, look to Jesus, hear the call of God, turn to Him, and love your brother to death.
In Jesus name.
I will ask the ushers and the worship team to come forward for our time of offering. I invite you now to give and give generously. But give out of love. Give out of Love for Jesus, that is shown by having a pure heart. In Matthew 5:22-23 Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
I will open with prayer, and then you have an opportunity for silent prayer.