Saturday, July 23, 2005

Raising Cain in the church?

Cain And Abel

Cain said to Abel his brother, "Let us go out to the field." And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" He said, "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" And the LORD said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground

I added a question mark to the title of this post to let you know that I am not absolutely certain. I only can write about my experience assimilating into a small fraction of the churches of the Circle City metropolitan area.

a) Like the song goes from 'Sly and the Family Stone' 'it's a family affair'. If you visit a church it is better to visit as a family. Most of the regular church goers come as a family. They are going to be more comfortable greeting you and your family than greeting you.

b) Sign the guest book including your address, telephone, and a request for a visit. You will receive a telephone call. The caller will be working from a script. Never will someone come to your home.

c) When you converse by telephone or even if they do come to your home to see you in person never expect them to care about your wellbeing. They are there to ascertain how much of your time, talents, and treasures are available to support their church.

By now you might be wondering what all this has to do with raising Cain, and I will tell you. I happened to come across a very interesting article on the internet about Cain before he killed Abel.

Just before Cain goes for that fateful stroll in the fields with his brother, the Almighty speaks to him. This is what He says:

Why are you angry and why has your face fallen? Is it not the case that if you do well — lift up! And if you do not do well — sin lies crouching at the door, its desire is unto you, and you can rule over it (4:6-7).

In this article Cain is compared to a person who is awakened at 2:30 am by a pet cat that is meowing strangely. This person wakes up the roommate and the following conversation ensues.

You: "She really doesn't sound right. I think we should call the vet."

Your Roommate: "What do you mean, call the vet? It's the middle of the night!

You: "I don't know. She really sounds pretty bad. I think we should call the vet…"

Your Roommate: "Look, just go back to sleep. She probably swallowed a hairball."

You: "Are you sure we just shouldn't call the vet?"

Your Roommate:"Goodnight!"

You both go back to sleep, and when you wake up in the morning, the cat is dead.

Now, take a deep breath and ask yourself: How are you going to feel towards your roommate, when morning comes and you discover the lifeless kitten lying next to your bed?

You are likely to be enraged.

"It's all your fault! Here I was, telling you that we should take the kitten to the vet, and all you could think about was getting a good night's sleep! And now, the kitten is dead…"

Whether you like it or not, though, the reality is otherwise. You were not the victim of circumstances beyond your control here. You were not betrayed by your sleep-seeking roommate. You had free will. There were choices open to you, choices you refused to grab hold of. No one forced you to get permission from your roommate before calling the vet; you could have made whatever calls you wanted to. If you feel angry or depressed here, it is because you choose to see yourself as helpless, as a victim of your lousy, insensitive roommate. But in fact, you weren't a victim at all.

Cain, in feeling angry, locates the source of his problem outside of himself, in God. No one can control God, and as long as that's the problem, you're nothing but a victim. But that wasn't the reality. The core of his problem lay entirely in the choices Cain was himself making, in the nature of the relationship he was trying to build with God, and this was a realm entirely within his control. The first step off the bridge, then, is letting go and of anger and depression, and reclaiming this element of control.

I submit that a very similar pattern occurs when church goers converse with each other about somebody that they have not seen at church lately. They can come to many conclusions, and nobody telephones the person or visits their home. It is so much easier to feel sad and angry than to feel empowered to talk directly with the person.

Maybe God is saying something like the following:

Why has your face fallen? If you are active; if you seek out the good — you can lift up your face. And if you are neutral — if you do not act positively — you can't tread water. While being neutral is not itself an evil — it leaves you vulnerable to evil. Sin lies crouching at the door, and even the most well intentioned neutral party can still become its prey.

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