Read Genesis 4:1–16
All of our relationships are deeply intertwined—with God, with one another, with the earth, within ourselves. A rupture in one sends ripples and rifts through the rest. Our relationship with the Creator cannot be detached from how we treat his creation—both nature and neighbor. The prophets are relentless about this, rebuking Israel’s offerings and fasts that are not backed up by justice and generosity in their society.
In this story, Cain’s sinfulness erupts into every relationship, breaking and blighting it. It starts with Cain and Abel’s opposite approaches to the earth. Cain sees the raw materials of earth as means to be exploited for himself. Abel sees them as gifts to be appreciated and tended to. Cain hoards his possessions; Abel gives as freely as it has been given to him.
When God convicts Cain for his offering, Cain has already isolated himself in greed and selfishness, which begin to feed anger and jealousy toward Abel. Through the haze of his shame and self-pity, Cain looks at Abel and began to hate him. Abel represents what Cain did wrong. When we feel indifference, disdain, or hostility toward others, it is often because in the mirror of our brother or sister we see our own brokenness. We don't want to face our own sin, so we ignore, neglect, or even attack that reflection that reminds us of it. In this way, our withholding and hiding from God erects barriers between ourselves and others. On the other hand, when we are vulnerable and free before God, we are able to risk ourselves in generosity and love toward one another. In this way, prayer heals not only our souls but our relationships.
Reflect on someone you don't care for or against whom you have a grudge. Examine and challenge your reasons for how you feel. Are they in any way related to how Cain felt toward Abel? Confess your own sin before God. Seek out an opportunity with them to forgive and be forgiven. Do as Jesus commands us: “When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23–24).
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Tomorrow on the Daily Connection: Who Is My Neighbor?
About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC