It’s amazing to me how different children from the same parents can be in temperament and behavior. I’ve lost track of the number of times parents (and grandparents) have told me about their kids, and that they marvel at how different they are from each other. There are an infinite number of ways these differences can occur; sometimes these differences can create friction, other times they create fun. In some cases these behaviors manifest themselves in what is called “sibling rivalry.”
One of the more prominent examples of this is playing out is between Prince William and Prince Harry. Harry and Meghan are wanting to step from their royal duties to be more independent from the rest of the family. There’s a rift in House of Windsor, with the Queen Mother calling for an emergency summit to work things out. Prince William was quoted as saying, “I’ve put my arm around my brother all our lives. I can’t do it anymore. We’re separate entities.”
I’m working through the book of Genesis to start of 2020 and along the way I’ve wandered into the relationship of Cain and Abel. There’s a fascinating and fateful story of how both of them made offerings to the Lord–the Lord looked with favor upon the younger brother Abel but did not do so with the older brother Cain. Cain was filled with anger at this rejection and the Lord reached out to him, an attempt to avert a potential disaster for himself and sadly for his brother. Rather than respond to the Lord’s efforts, he instead spoke to Abel “Let’s go out to the field.” That was the last time we saw or heard from his younger brother.
God posed a question to Cain that haunts us even today: “Where is Your Brother?” God didn’t ask this question for God’s information but rather for Cain to find himself along with confessing what he had done. Instead, Cain offered one of the most callous and sarcastic answers “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” or literally “am I the shepherd’s shepherd?”
It seems appropriate on the Martin Luther King weekend to ask these questions once again. Far too often we act distant and unconcerned about the well-being of those around us, including but not limited to our own family members.
One lesson we can glean from a trip “to the field” is that unresolved anger is dangerous and deadly. This truth manifested itself in Cain’s behavior, and unfortunately many times it is rehearsed in our actions today. We cultivate grudges against those who have wronged us, and seek ways to do them harm. Abel had done nothing to Cain himself, yet Cain made him the object of his anger. His actions could be called the first real hate crime.
We all get angry from time to time, and there are some occasions in which it is justified. However, the Bible warns us “not to let the sun go down on your anger.” I believe this means not to let anger go on indefinitely because it can fester to do great damage to oneself and also to those around us.
God cautioned Cain that sin was “crouching at the door” and ready to pounce and that he must “rule over it.” This personification of sin as a predator should make us wake up to the dangers of directing our rage towards others and not taking the moment to repent that God offers us.
Nelson Mandela spent almost three brutal decades in prison as an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. When he became President of that country in 1995, Mandela was asked about using the power of his position to get even and exact revenge on those who had harmed him so much. Mandela responded, “No, because if I felt like I wanted to get even, I would still be in prison.”
As followers of Jesus Christ, we still have a long way to go in our treatment of others. Let’s spend some time reflecting on that this Martin Luther King, Jr weekend.