We’ve been reading through the Biblical book of Genesis at church lately, and yesterday we looked at Genesis 4, the story of Cain and Abel. It’s a famous story because so quickly in this ancient account of human origins, one brother kills another brother out of anger and jealousy. But what struck me while reading it was the character of God.
Genesis 3 is also famous–this is the story of when the woman and the man decide to eat of the forbidden fruit. Again, an account we focus on because of the consequences–the origin of sin and the curses God declares upon creation and humanity. But again what struck me was not so much the human behavior (as much as it resonates with who I am and with our world today), but the character of God.
In both cases, humans make an egregiously bad choice. The woman decides it’s no big deal to disobey the one prohibition God has placed on her. Her husband shrugs his shoulders and does the same. Later, their son Cain is warned by God not to let his anger get the best of him. He promptly murders Abel. And in both cases, God’s first response is a question. God doesn’t come in with guns blazing, eager to demonstrate righteousness or enact justice. God comes in gently, relationally, lovingly. “Where are you?” he asks Adam and Eve. “Where is your brother?” he asks Cain.
The humans have a chance here to confess, to name the way they have done wrong. But instead they hide. They point fingers. They blame each other. They blame God. Only then does God declare the curses. And even then, God in both cases protects them. He makes clothing for Adam and Eve. He puts a mark on Cain to protect him from harm.
These chapters are about the brutal nature of human sin. They are even more about the tender nature of a God who is constantly looking for ways to bless human beings.
Greg Boyle (author of Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir) says that our only responsibility is to be the way God is in the world. He says that our actions and attitudes towards other people will reflect what we believe about who God is and how God acts towards us.
I want to know this God of tender love more and more. And I want to live my life out of that love for others.