Conflict has been a part of human existence for countless generations. But in recent months, we’ve witnessed brother rise up against brother like never before. Pandemic panic, racial tension, political divide and continued division in the Body of Christ brings many of us to our knees in prayer, wondering if humankind still has a hope in the world.
Concentrated as today’s conflicts may seem, it’s nothing new. Let’s trace it back to the source. Just one generation removed from the first sin in the Garden, the first brother commits the first murder. All on the heels of the first worship service, the first offering, and the first-ever division in the church.
The story of Cain and Abel is more than a story of brother against brother. Like every other account in the in the Old Testament, this Old Covenant bloodshed points us straight to Jesus Christ and a new covenant in his shed blood. The innocent blood of Abel contrasted with the innocent blood of Christ brings both clarity and unique perspective to the generational conflicts we’re facing today.
At the center of this story is a murder that’s about to happen. But it hasn’t happened yet.
“So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).
Cain is wearing his sin-in-anger potential plain on his face, and God calls him out on his attitude.
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:6-7).
There are two very important things to note in these early stages of the story:
- God wasn’t pleased with Cain’s sacrifice. But he wasn’t displeased with Cain.
Cain’s attitude and behavior were reprehensible, but God chose to seize the teaching moment with Cain—to discipline him as a good Father does. He gives him a pep talk, encouraging him to try, try again while staying wary of the pitfalls that can come with spiritual growth.
What he doesn’t go into detail with Cain about is why his offering didn’t measure up.
- Perhaps he was dissatisfied with the type of offering. Cain probably knew blood was better and necessary for the atonement of sins. Abel’s fatty firstlings were a true sacrifice, while Cain’s may have been seen as a simple offering.
- Perhaps it was the quality of the fruit itself. The biblical text mentions nothing about the quality of Cain’s plant-based offering, but went into luscious detail about Abel’s. Was Cain’s a true firstfruit offering as described later on in Leviticus (2:14), or was he saving the best for himself?
- Perhaps Cain’s heart positioning was the real problem. When he realized his offering was inferior to Abel’s, Cain had a choice—offer a more pleasing sacrifice next time and have his countenance lifted, or take offense at his brother and have sin crouching at the door.
God cared about Cain—deeply. In the same loving Father tone he used with Cain’s parents in the Garden when he asked, “Where are you? Who told you you were naked?” God affirms Cain with a gentle and loving, “Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen?” God initiated with grace to Cain and elevated the conversation.
God also made it pretty clear that he wanted Cain to try again. He wanted to draw Cain closer to himself. He wanted his countenance to be lifted—to see joy on Cain’s face again. And he desperately wanted Cain to reconcile with his brother instead of killing him. But God didn’t keep Cain from sinning by force. He wanted Cain to know the authority he carried.
- There is a barrier between us and sin.
In his teaching analogy to Cain, God explains there is a door standing between us and sin. Now, imagine yourself standing on one side of that door, and the persona of sin crouching like a haggard old man on the other. God explains to Cain that sin’s desire is for us—to destroy us—but we can and should rule over it.
- We are the keepers of the barrier door. The only way sin can get into our minds, hands, hearts, and lives is if we choose to let it in.
It’s worth noting that God didn’t say sin was in Cain because of what his parents did. Our sin nature, believe it or not, didn’t come from Adam. Cain, like all of us, had the freedom to sin just as Adam and Eve did when they were in the Garden. God didn’t put a fence around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He didn’t stay Cain’s hand before he killed Abel. And he won’t forcefully restrict our sin, either.
- Real love is about choice. And without the ability to sin, humanity would never have been able to experience the most beautiful facet of Love Himself—grace.
It’s not in your nature to sin. Jesus dealt with your old-man sin nature on the cross more than 2,000 years ago. Because of his perfect sacrifice, you’ve been invited back into a fully restored relationship with God in Christ. You are made in the image and likeness of God who has adopted you a beloved child.
Sin doesn’t change how God feels about you. Sin changes how YOU feel about God and it changes how you feel about yourself. Sin warps our perception of the goodness of God and it warps our perception of our true identity in light of that goodness. We don’t feel pure, we don’t feel holy, we don’t feel blameless—even though God says we are because of Jesus’ atoning blood sacrifice. And that’s exactly what the persona of sin wants—for you to align with a false identity that God never gave you.
First John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (NASB). If there’s no unrighteousness left in you because of what the blood of Christ has done, how righteous are you now—even though you’ve sinned?!
This is grace that takes you beyond forgiveness into a place of innocence, which the Bible calls justification. Coming into agreement with the truth about your righteousness in Christ takes surrender. But it gives you the power to walk in freedom from sin.
Personal responsibility is a big deal.
Even when sin crouches at the door, God always provides a way out. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). God speaks, the Holy Spirit convicts—but only you can choose to sin or not.
God gave Cain a choice when sin came crouching—and Cain chose wrong. He opens the barrier door wide and kills Abel in cold blood. He then responds to God’s concerned inquiries about Abel with a defensive, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” God doesn’t curse Cain, but the earth itself sure does.
“Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand” (v. 11).
The innocent blood of Abel brings forth a generational curse on Cain with wild supernatural implications.
Abel’s innocent blood cried out for justice and the ground responded. The ground itself takes revenge by refusing to yield to Cain, a tiller of the ground by trade. That ground likely wouldn’t yield to anyone else, either—for generations to come. Cain would be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth, and everyone would be out for his blood. Cain feared for his life, but God offered protection.
“So the Lord said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the Lord appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him” (v. 15).
So, this begs the question: Can the environment of this earth respond to our cries for justice? Clearly, yes. And I believe we still see it today. While some might say the weather systems are God’s judgement, I don’t believe this is the case as it doesn’t reflect his new covenant character.
What if odd reactions in the environment are the result of our judgements toward one another?
The year 2020’s unprecedented levels of social, political, racial, and religious upheaval coincide with unprecedented numbers of earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, dust storms, heat waves, blizzards, tornadoes, flooding, and derechos across the globe. When we cry out for justice in confusion, anger and rage, the earth responds. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
What if releasing grace instead of judgements toward one another could bring the environment back into balance?
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24, emphasis mine).
Did you catch that?
There’s a contrast here between the shed blood of Jesus and Abel. The parallels are clear—both men were killed unjustly by people who should have loved them. But that’s not what the apostle Paul was talking about in his Epistle letter to the Hebrews.
- Abel’s blood cried out for justice and the ground responded with a generational curse.
- Jesus’ blood cried out for redemption and God responded with generational grace.
The sprinkled blood of Jesus speaks a better word than the sprinkled blood of Abel.
Now, I’m not arguing whether we have authority to change the weather. But I do believe we’re given authority to release creative influence over the nature in which we live in Jesus’ name. We are not the Creator, but we have authority and dominion over creation. God’s first command to Adam in Genesis 2 was to name the animals—not just name them, but assign nature to them. We’re to say in confidence to the mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” expecting full well to see it happen (Mark 11:23). When we “go out with joy and [are] led forth with peace…the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before [us], and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12).
The judgements we release don’t just impact us and the people around us. They impact the totality of the environment we live in. And if even the earth itself responds to the spirit you’re releasing? You’d better believe people do, too.
When joy propels you, peace leads you, and grace moves you to action, you usher in an atmosphere of supernatural breakthrough that cries out for unity in the Body of Christ. All too often, we’re more interested in being right than being one as Jesus prayed for in John 17:21. Coming together around the person of Jesus Christ is the only way the world will know God sent this radical God-man Jesus we follow.
Even now, the earth is responding to the judgement of righteous people who are choosing offense over love. Let’s give Jesus what he prayed for. Unity, not uniformity, in Christ alone.
We have a responsibility to align with the blood of Christ—not the blood of Abel.
You are built to carry the glory of God and release the grace of God in such a way that puts darkness under your feet (Romans 16:19). Instead of crying out for judgement that releases a generational curse, we must be willing to cry out for redemption, restoration and reconciliation that releases generational grace—eternal life for all humanity.
I believe God is calling his people to lift our perspective above the trials and conflicts of this world. It means no more naming, blaming, labeling, and complaining. It means taking thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ—refusing to even think them if they don’t reflect the nature of God. It means elevating the conversation in ways that encourage healthy dialogue, develop and strengthen relationships, and bring the Kingdom of God here and now, on earth as it is in heaven in Jesus’ name. As a minister of reconciliation, you were made for this. Yes, you.
Do you need the sprinkled blood of Jesus to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and sin? God’s reckless grace is available to you today. Even on your worst day, God loves you just as he loved Cain. And Jesus? Well, he thinks you’re to die for.
Prayer: Lord I receive you by faith. I receive your gift of grace through your blood shed for me on the cross. Teach me how to hear your voice. Teach me how to be a good disciple. Teach me what it means to be your child. I’m yours now and forever. Amen.
Bill Vanderbush is a third-generation minister who has pastored for over twenty-five years. He and his wife, Traci, had a supernatural encounter with the Holy Spirit that drew them into an incredible adventure of being shaped and fashioned by the power and grace of God.
Bill’s consuming passion is to empower people to do the greater works that Jesus spoke of and live out the mystery of our union with Christ. Bill and Traci’s ministry invites people into a spontaneous, Holy Spirit-led, team ministry training experience that will forever transform the way you see and do life. Through this message and revelation of the grace of God, you will be liberated and empowered to invade the impossible. Bill is the co-author of Reckless Grace, a book developed with Brit Eaton. Bill and Traci currently live in Celebration, Florida. They have two grown children, Britain and Sara. www.billvanderbush.com
Brit Eaton is a writer, speaker, discipler, and all-around pursuer of the Kingdom of God. She helps corporate, nonprofit, and ministry leaders find the words to say to move people to action. An eager apostle and strong advocate for women in ministry, Brit ministers in diverse, spirit-filled environments committed to unity in the Body of Christ. Brit is the co-author of Reckless Grace, a book inspired by and developed with Bill Vanderbush. She lives in a log home on ten wooded acres in Mount Vernon, Ohio with her husband, Mike and daughter, Bella. www.briteaton.com