1 John 3:12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.
Ouch! What do we do with that?
Remember we need to use our “mind of Christ.” God is love. Jesus is God’s expression and example and perfect representation of His nature which is love. God is relational. Everything of God has to do with relationship. He built us to love and love needs someone to love. Likewise God built us to be loved by Him and to love Him back. It is that simple. Where we get messed up is when our fallen nature steps in and says “God is really angry at me” or “God doesn’t really love me” or “God can’t possibly love me” or “God won’t provide for me or bless me because of how awful I really am” or “I am ashamed to come into the presence of God” or “God is really mean to let all this stuff happen to me and others” and … it goes on and on. Now add some religion to reinforce the lies about God and His feelings for us…boom! So lets stop looking with the lens of religion and a fallen nature and instead lets look for relationship. Ready? Here we go!
Check out what the Phillip’s translations says:
1 John 3:11-13 For the original command, as you know, is that we should love one another. We are none of us to have the spirit of Cain, who was a son of the devil and murdered his brother. Have you realised his motive? It was just because he realised the goodness of his brother’s life and the rottenness of his own. Don’t be surprised, therefore, if the world hates you. (Phillips)
What is this “spirit of Cain?” I say we go digging and find out. These next verses are the exchange between Cain and God after God doesn’t “regard” Cain’s offering. The word “regard” just means doesn’t pay it any attention. It isn’t a rejection like “get that out of my face” or an evaluation like “how dare you bring such junk to me” or a condemnation like “you really should know better.” No, it is just indifference. So check out Cain’s reaction to God’s “indifference” and God’s response:
Gen 4:5 but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. 6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (ESV)
OK, we are getting closer. Back to the 1 John 3:12 verse…the words evil in the passage mean this:
4190 ponērós (an adjective which is also used substantively, derived from 4192 /pónos, “pain, laborious trouble”) – properly, pain-ridden, emphasizing the inevitable agonies (misery) that always go with evil.
So what is going on? I suggest that Cain is having a really bad day. In a previous post I talked about how Cain and Abel got to this point. You should check it out. As a summary Cain is the one that has probably been pressured with “making things right with God” based on the prophesy that Eve’s seed will crush the head of the devil. He is following in his dad’s footsteps as the “gardener” who is harvesting the “fruit.” Cain sees an opportunity to “pay back God” so “He won’t be angry anymore.” The problem is Cain’s fallen-way of thinking. He assumes he is not right with God. He takes on the pressure of making things right. He is living in religion. When God doesn’t swoon over his offering (which was Cain’s idea, not God’s) then he is hurt. He really gets his feelings hurt. Now he is angry and frustrated and jealous of his brother and coveting God’s affection and ready to “really let somebody have what is coming to them.” Can you see his tantrum? There he is kicking the dirt, grumbling, cussing, spitting…he is mad, really mad. He is in the ponērós place and living in the ponērós spirit. That is the Spirit of Cain. Have you ever been there? Just a guess, but I bet you can identify.
(Remember, look with relationship glasses)
Abel on the other hand is good-to-go. He so good-to-go that he is giving good and receiving good. He is doing well and receiving well (as God puts it). He knows he is right (good) with God. He is celebrating the relationship that he has with God. He is celebrating what God has done for him and his family. He remembers that God gave them clothes and covered their shame. He celebrates this act of mercy by imitating what God did for them, he kills an animal. He presents this “sacrifice” or “offering” to God and God looks with pleasure. Abel is worshiping God. God is loving it. Why? Because Abel has faith. Here is a verse that says all that:
He 11:4 By an act of faith, Abel brought a better sacrifice to God than Cain. It was what he believed, not what he brought, that made the difference. That’s what God noticed and approved as righteous. After all these centuries, that belief continues to catch our notice. (The Message)
Remember faith is a relational concept (just like everything of God) so we need to understand what it means in terms of relationship. Simply, faith is believing and trusting and having confidence in the CHARACTER of the other in the relationship. This is the central issue that Jesus came to address. As children of fallen Adam we are subject to the same poisoned fruit. We are consumed with the same broken reasoning that is fed by the knowledge of good and evil. Our “judger” is in overdrive and we can’t see a way to God. We are still in the bushes. We can’t know the character of God outside a revelation from God. Jesus is that revelation. His love, as demonstrated by the cross, is God’s nature and character. He lets us kill Him in our fallen wisdom and lust for religion. He is rejected by the very people He comes to save and He does it willingly. The power of that love is the power to change everything. Remember Jesus is a liberator not a payment to an angry God. He is our savior from our fallen understanding, the works of the devil, the power of sin and the fear of death. He does all that and more.
Let’s be honest and admit we all can turn to a spirit of Cain when we don’t know who we are to God (or forget). Cain went the extra mile and gave in to his pain and anger and sided with the devil to kill his brother. We may not get out the gun and start shooting but we are very capable of “killing” someone in our hearts. Jesus says anger that leads to cursing is the same as murder. Like Cain we have a choice. Unlike Cain however, we have seen the savior. We have seen Jesus. We have been saved by the power of a loving God. We are saved by His love on the cross. Check this out:
Eph 2:3 The corruption that was in us from birth was expressed through the deeds and desires of our self-life. We lived by whatever our natural cravings and thoughts of our minds dictated, living as rebellious children subject to God’s wrath like everyone else. 4 But God still loved us with such great love! He is so rich in compassion and mercy! 5 Even when we were dead and doomed in our many sins, He united us into the very life of Christ and saved us by His wonderful grace! 6 He raised us up with Christ the Exalted One, and we ascended with Him into the glorious perfection and authority of the heavenly realm , for we are now joined as one with Christ! (Passion Translation)
Back in the 1 John chapter 3 passage… God is reminding us that we are His children. As born-again new creations with the mind of Christ we don’t have to give in to the spirit of Cain. Jesus has set us free. He reminds us that even if our heart condemns us He is greater than our heart. The final verse in this chapter (1 John 3):
1 John 3:24 The man who does obey God’s commands lives in God and God lives in him, and the guarantee of his presence within us is the Spirit he has given us. (Phillips)
Following His commandments is nothing more than following the law of love. When we chose love we become love. Jesus baptizes us, soaks us, immerses us, consumes us with His Holy Spirit and fire. His Spirit reminds us constantly of the love of God. His fire takes away anything that is contrary to His love for us and through us. His fire gives our love power. We are being transformed by His love in our minds to believe like Abel and Abraham and David and all the greats of faith. We have zero doubts about God’s character and we are infused with His transforming power.
I can say that for me the most remarkable change in me that is absolutely undeniable is the change in my “judger.” I don’t have that thing inside me anymore that looks at someone and says “they deserve what they have” or “you should have known better” or “they should have stopped living that kind of life” or many others that used to rise to the top right away. That is the spirit of Cain. That is the spirit of religion. That is what Paul is talking about in Romans chapter 7. That is what Jesus sets us free from. Listen, I may have a selfish moment when I have a little tantrum and kick the rocks like Cain but it doesn’t possess me. I talk to God and He reminds me of how awesome He thinks I am. He shows me where I “missed it” and am believing a lie. Freedom. People may say things about me and this post but I don’t go ballistic and just assume they are a $%&*&%$*&. I do a self assessment and make sure I haven’t offended someone from a spirit of Cain. I check to make sure I haven’t acted out of some selfish tantrum moment. Then I move on. Really Jesus sets us free from that spirit of Cain. He even cautions us about what the world will say and do:
1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised and wonder, brethren, that the world detests and pursues you with hatred. (AMP)
I say let it go. Let Him in. Get immersed in His love. Let His fire of love burn out the junk. Let that burning love He deposits in you consume you and engulf others. No more spirit of Cain. Let’s be His children instead. The world may hate us like it did Jesus but we get to love it back like Jesus.