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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Sibling Rivalry Gone Wrong

James Meehan - Sibling Rivalry Gone Wrong

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    James Meehan - Sibling Rivalry Gone Wrong

Well, what's up Bible Nerds? My name is James Meehan, and I am one of five kids. I have three sisters and one brother, so sibling conflict is something that I am very familiar with. I remember one time getting so mad at my two younger sisters that I literally punched a hole in my door, stormed out of the house into a torrential downpour and wandered for hours before I finally cooled off enough to come home. Now some of you may be hearing that and thinking, "What in the world is wrong with you"? And others of you might be thinking, "I've done the exact same thing".

Now, no matter which way you lean, most of us can agree that family can be really messy, especially when it comes to our relationships with our siblings, you know, the people that we grow up with, that we live with, we eat dinner with, we spend Christmas morning with, and you know, you even share DNA with, the people who should in many ways be the ones that we're closest to, the ones we love the most, and yet for some reason are often the people that we treat the worst. Why is that? And maybe even more importantly, what can we do about it? Well, today we're gonna answer those questions by reading about two brothers named Cain and Abel. And as we read about their relationship, which spoiler alert, was crazy dysfunctional, we're going to learn some really important truths about ourselves, about God, and about why our relationship with others are often way messier than they should be.

So starting in Genesis 4:1, we read, "Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant. When she gave birth to Cain, she said, 'With the Lord's help I have produced a man.' Later she gave birth to his brother and named him Abel. When they grew up, Abel became a shepherd, while Cain cultivated the ground". So here we read Adam and Eve, the first humans, doing what married people do and having babies. The older brother was Cain and the younger brother was Abel. Abel was a shepherd, and Cain was a farmer. Then in verse three, here's what we read. We read that, "When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift, the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry and he looked dejected".

So both Cain and Abel here bring in offering to God. And for some reason God accepts Abel and his gift, but he doesn't accept Cain and his gift, which naturally leads Cain to being very angry. Now, the author of Genesis doesn't actually tell us why God accepted one gift and not the other, because that's not really the point of the story. The point of the story shows up next, when God says these words to Cain. In verse six, God speaking to Cain says, "Why are you so angry? Why do you look so dejected? You'll be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out because sin is crouching at the door eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master".

This is the first big idea found in this story, that our choices have consequences. You see, God is telling Cain that he has a choice to make. Cain can either do what is right, and if he does, he'll be accepted. Or he can do what is wrong. But if he does what is wrong, then sin, the disease of selfishness that causes us to disobey God and hurt others, will take over. God wants Cain to do the right thing, but Cain refuses. And then we read in verse eight that, "One day Cain suggested to his brother, 'Let's go out into the fields.' And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him".

This is the second big idea found in the story, that sin is ugly. Cain takes his brother into the field, attacks him and kills him. This is the first murder in the Bible, and it's one brother killing another brother because of his anger, his jealousy, and his bitterness, even after God warned him not to. This is what sin does. It causes us to only care about ourselves until we stop listening to God and we start hurting others. And because of his actions, Cain has to deal with the consequences. The consequences are that he's banished from his home, that the land will no longer produce crops for him, which is a really big deal when you're a farmer, and that he will be a wanderer for the rest of his life. Sin is really ugly and our choices have consequences. But thankfully this is not where the story ends.

You see in verse 13, Cain cries out to God and here's what he says. He says, "My punishment is too great for me to bear! You've banished me from the land and from your presence. You've made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me". And the Lord replies, "'No, for I will give a sevenfold punishment to anyone who kills you.' Then the Lord put a mark on Cain to warn anyone who might try to kill him. So Cain left the Lord's presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden". And this brings us to the final big idea of the story, that grace is beautiful. Even after Cain disobeyed God and murdered his own brother, God still showed him grace. He put a mark on him that would protect him from anyone who tries to kill him. And God allowed him to settle in another land to start his life over.

God lets him get a fresh start. Cain didn't deserve it and he certainly didn't earn it, and that's why it's called grace. I think if we were to ask the author of Genesis what this story is all about, I think that he would tell us that it's about our choices having consequences. It's about the ugliness of sin and the beauty of grace. And it's through these lessons that this story, just like every story, actually leads us to Jesus. Because all of us as human beings, we are like Cain. We've been infected by sin, this disease of self-centeredness. We have disobeyed God and we've done things to hurt others. And because of that, we deserve to experience the consequences of our actions because what we've done is wrong. And justice is about making wrong things right. But God is also merciful and he is gracious. So he invites all of us to be forgiven of our sins and made right with him, even though that's not what we deserve. How? Through the death of Jesus, the Son of God.

Romans 8:29 tells us that, "For God knew his people in advance and he chose them to become like his Son so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters". You see, this story, it shows us how ugly sin is, leading one brother to murder another, and Jesus, who is our brother, shows us how beautiful grace is by sacrificing himself so that we could be forgiven of our sins. And the beauty of this story is, not only does it lead us to Jesus, it actually tells us how to become more like Jesus, because it shows us that we are not powerless in our fight against sin. Actually, we have a say in the matter, right? We get to choose whether or not we obey God or we let ourselves be ruled by sin. And this is really good news.

You see in Jesus's life, every single step of the way, he chose to do what is right and he refused to be ruled by sin. And because of his example and because of the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do the same. And so what I want to do is offer you three suggestions on what you can do when you find your yourself in a situation where maybe you are frustrated with somebody else, might be a friend, might be a family member, might be a brother or a sister. The first thing is to think about how your choices will impact other people. Because our choices never just affect us. They always, in some way, directly or indirectly affect others. And when Jesus walked on this earth and he was asked, "What matters most"?, he said, "To love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself".

So think about how your choices will be loving or not loving to others. And then the second thing I want you to do is to ask the Holy Spirit to help you do the right thing, because we have something that Cain didn't. We have the Holy Spirit inside of us. And the Apostle Paul tells us that the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, is living in us. So we have the power to choose what is right and to refuse to do what's wrong. And then the last suggestion I would offer is that when you get it wrong, because we're all human and we will get it wrong, take at least a few minutes to think about what you can do better next time. And that right there, while it seems simple, I'm telling you, will help you grow so much in wisdom and maturity so that you can better be an example for others of what it really looks like to treat others well.

Lastly, there's one other thing that's really important about this story. And I just wanna throw this out there to all of you fellow Bible nerds like me. Because this story of Cain and Abel actually starts a pattern of sibling relationships that have been so wrecked by sin that dysfunction becomes normal. It starts with Cain and Abel, then later in this same book, you see Jacob and Esau, and then Joseph and then his brothers, and then later Moses and Aaron, David and his brothers, until eventually Jesus shows up to show us what it really should look like to be a Son of God in right relationship with other children of God. All of these stories follow the same pattern of choices having consequences, of sin being really, really ugly, but grace being really beautiful. And so if you find yourself reading the Bible and you see something about brothers, I want you to think about this story and I want you to think about how that story is similar and also different from this one. And as you do, you'll start to see how the entire Bible is one unified story that leads to Jesus and invites us to become like Jesus. So don't forget to take care and stay nerdy.
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