So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. -Genesis 1:27
But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. -Isaiah 64:8
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. -James 3:9
Proceeding the fall of Adam and Eve, the first sin recorded in the bible is fratricide. I’m sure there were others before this one. After all, the curse was already in effect and pettiness, pride, manipulation, and lying would all have seen their debut in the years between the eviction of our foreparents and the murder of Abel. But I don’t believe there are accidents in the revelation of scripture, and so the decision to focus our attention on the first killing of another human is telling.
I sometimes wonder at the pain Adam and Eve experienced as they realized the life of their beloved son was lost – and then the pain that surpassed that revelation when the offender was their other, beloved son. We don’t know how they coped. The bible shares with us the interaction between Cain and his God, but it is silent in recording the agony of those first parents.
The modern church hardly addresses familial pain at this level. As believers, we cannot handle the idea that life-altering, malicious sin can be perpetrated against us by those meant to be our safest and strongest allies. We hear sermons from the pulpit about: loving our enemies (the neighbor that keeps calling the sherif because your dog barked that one time); treating others with kindness (allowing the overanxious business woman, who is oblivious of the line, to cut in front of you even though she hardly acknowledges your existence); forgiving our brother seven times seventy (knowing that the clinically-depressed aunt will not be able to shower during her entire visit and her selfishness will require an inordinate amount of specialized attention to engage her in the family reunion); speaking the truth in love (courageously sitting down with your dear girlfriend and gently sharing with her the concerns you have over her boyfriend’s behavior and suspicious activities). I could list so many more things that we speak of openly within the context of Christian living and sanctification.
But when was the last time you heard a sermon focused on the reality that people hurting people can, and often does, exist in the context of family?
That sermon, opening our eyes to glimpse the truth of terrible horror inside of homes, living rooms, even bedrooms, would show us that we do not need to be afraid to confront the unthinkable (and definitely the unspeakable) because our God, walking the same path, offers us compassion and redemption. I believe we can search scripture and find out exactly how Adam and Eve felt because parenting is ultimately a poor shadow of the relationship our Heavenly Father has for us – his children. And when we cry out to him, “Abba, Father!” he hears our cries as a daddy listening for his newborn infant’s mews in the middle of the night.
Only second to the beautiful story of Christ’s redemptive work woven from Genesis to Revelation, is the message of caring and loving our fellow earthly sojourners. It pervades scripture with an intensity that can appear obsessive. In every single book of the bible we see examples of how to, and how not to, treat others – others who share blood, borders, or just breath. God implores us to see ourselves as related – created both male and female in the image of God and the workmanship of a single Father.
God knows my pain. He understands the intensity and struggle Joseph and I face each day as we wrestle with loving Asher while loving Georgia, Olivia, and Nathan. But our Heavenly Father doesn’t make us choose. We can love them both. And we do. Miraculously and in tension, we want only the best for all of our children – simply by merit of their existence.