What shall I do with you, my love?
You keep bringing Me sacrifices
To ease your mind,
But it’s your heart that I want. ~from Kristene Mueller’s ‘Mercy’
I feel like I have started this particular post a dozen times, but each attempt felt kind of hollow…like I wasn’t really getting the point.
It was today, listening to the song I quoted above, that I really felt what Genesis chapter four was saying to me, personally, and hopefully to someone out there reading this.
At this point in our journey through Genesis, Adam and Eve have been through so much. The consequences of sin have been very real in their lives. They’ve lost their innocence and their perfect communion with God.
And, now, they will lose their sons.
Adam and Eve had two sons by this point– Cain, who worked the soil, and Abel, who tended the flocks. In the course of time, they both brought offerings to God. Cain sacrificed the fruit of the ground and Abel brought portions of fat from his best lambs.
God was pleased with Abel’s offering, but He didn’t accept Cain’s.
I had a hard time with the story of Cain and Abel as a kid. It seemed unfair that God would take one sacrifice over the other. It felt like favoritism. I had a little sister. I could understand where Cain was coming from when he got all mad and defensive. After all, if Cain brought the best of what he had, just like Abel did, what was the problem?
I don’t think that my Sunday School teachers delved beyond the facts of the story to the truth of the matter — it wasn’t just that Cain brought the wrong kind of sacrifice. It was why he chose to do it. Cain’s sacrifice wasn’t accepted because of his motivation and attitude. In short, his heart wasn’t in the right place.
It seems safe to say that God had already provided a specific way to approach Him — animal sacrifice — and Cain disregarded that command. He gave God what he thought was best instead of truly seeking to offer what God wanted from Him. This shows arrogance, pride, and the desire to be in control…the opposite of all we should be as we approach our Heavenly Father.
Maybe that’s why this post has been hard for me to write. Because suddenly, this guy Cain that has been painted as a villain my entire life…this bad guy who ended up committing the first murder….he was kind of familiar to me.
He looked remarkably like…me.
How many times have I offered only a portion of my life to God? How many times have I given what I was willing to give up, instead of what I well knew He was asking for? How many times have I chosen control over vulnerability, convenience over true loyalty? How many times have I given the minimum requirement instead of putting it all out there for God? How many times has my selfish heart motivated me to give just enough to look and feel like my duty is done?
Yes, I can see my failures when I look at Cain. And it hurts. Because it makes me realize how I’ve been stingy with the One who sacrificed His all for me…I bring Him obligation and questionable motives when everything He is and wants for me flows out of pure love.
This is my prayer for my life and for yours…that we will remember that God is all-knowing. He is all loving and if He asks us to give Him a specific piece of our lives, then there is reason for it. May we give Him our offering out of loving obedience and in faith, knowing that it is for our good.
God doesn’t want our token, obligatory sacrifices. He wants nothing less than our entire lives. Our passionate love. He wants our hearts.
(I’d like to continue sharing Cain’s story…because the more I’ve looked at his journey, the more I really (for the first time) see. I have to admit, this has always been a story I’ve just sort of surfed over, thinking that this mean guy didn’t really have a lot to do with me. Isn’t it funny how pride can keep us from seeing what’s really there? And in Cain we see our failures…but also the hope of redemption. Which is always worth sharing.)