Then the Lord said to Cain,
“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?
But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door;
it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Genesis 4:6-7 NIV
Every time I read the story of Cain in Genesis 4, it takes me back to elementary school. Remember those days when our teachers still had the right to make one kid apologize to another for some kind of offense? Name-calling? Hair-pulling? Mockery? Bullying?
Except for a rare occasion or two, I never got the feeling as an onlooker that the young offenders were as sorry about the fact of being caught in the offense as they were about committing the actual offense.
Isn’t it funny how childish attitudes travel right into adulthood with us if we let them? Take Cain, for example. Based upon his handling of the situation, I honestly don’t think he felt remorse for murdering his brother Abel. I’m really not even sure – from his responses to God’s questions – that he felt remorse in knowing his Creator knew what had gone on in the field that day. It isn’t until he learns the consequences he’ll face for his actions, in fact, that we see some grudging remorse emerge from the Bible’s first murderer (Genesis 4:1-16).
Cain isn’t necessarily sorry for what he did, in other words; he’s sorry for the accountability he faces from being caught.
And make no mistake, there’s a dangerous difference between the two when it comes to a sincere relationship with God. That danger, however, is increasingly ignored by church leaders in a day and a culture where professing Christ-followers need to hear it most. So often, we’re instructed to believe/repent/be baptized. With all my heart I tell you this is the scripturally sound first step toward living the Christian life (Acts 2:38). But I also tell you that the process – particularly the call to repent– contains background that so often goes uncovered.
That’s why His Own Heart is breaking away from its routine this week and next as it tackles this issue. The subject matter is going to involve a lot of unraveling and sorting out of some parts of our lives that Christ-followers are most reluctant to tug at, but if you’ll stick with us and join us in the process, I can guarantee your relationship with the Savior will reach a level you’ll treasure above all others.
The process isn’t an easy task to work through, but the outcome is so worth the effort it takes to achieve it through the strength of Christ in us (see Philippians 4:13). This week, then, I would like to show you the destination of where the process will take us. It’s painted so vividly in the following story that appeared in the March 18, 2016, meditation from Our Daily Bread devotional magazine.
When to Walk Away
When my father became a Christian in his old age, he fascinated me with his plan for overcoming temptation. Sometimes he just walked away! For example, whenever a disagreement between him and a neighbor began to degenerate into a quarrel, my father just walked away for a time rather than be tempted to advance the quarrel.
One day he met with some friends who ordered pito (a locally brewed alcoholic beer). My father had formerly struggled with alcohol and had decided he was better off without it. So he simply stood up, said his goodbyes, and left the gathering of old friends for another day.
God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. In Genesis, we read how Potiphar’s wife tempted Joseph. He immediately recognized that giving in would cause him to sin against God, so he fled (Genesis 39:9-12).
Temptation knocks often at our door. Sometimes it comes from our own desires, other times through the situations and people we encounter. As Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.” But he also wrote, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
The way out may include removing the objects of temptation or fleeing from them. Our best course of action may be to simply walk away.
What does it entail – this sticky business of walking away? And is the end really worth – does it justify – the means? We hope you’ll join us next week as we delve into the rich soil of this complex subject?
– Copyright 2019, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.