Fruit, vegetables and a common thread with Cain and Eve.
I have never thought of a parallel between Cain and Eve, but one can be drawn with relevance. The policy of leaving the tree alone was the one rule God established in the garden. She knew what God said about the tree. Deceived or not, she disregarded God’s instruction and did her own thing. Cain knew what God said about sacrifice. He knew what was right from God’s perspective, but in some manner, he acted like his mom. He brought vegetables, not an animal.
Grace grew beside sin.
Mom got evicted after a single sin. Cain’s sin at the altar put him in dangerous territory. He was ignoring his conscience and heaping up sins. God did not come and re-warn Eve about the fruit. God did come and warn Cain that the fruit of these choices was going to be rough. See how early in the Bible we are told of God’s grace. “Do right.”
Going back to the commonality between Cain and his mother recall that Cain understood right from wrong on a different level than Eve. Both chose their way over God’s, the latter even over the protests and warnings which were God’s graces to him.
Actions are markers of the heart, and Cain is no exception to this.
Think of where Cain’s sin led him. He tested God by the wrong sacrifice, and when God did not accept it, he became embittered. When he did not master the bitterness of heart hate filled him. Hatred having killed his heart he murdered his brother.
John includes Cain in his letter as an accessible example of those who are not “of God.” Christians are to be marked by deeds done in love for others. From the early days of John’s evangelistic efforts, he has preached this. To practice non-loving behaviors is to set one’s life on a downward spiral. Disregard for right hooks your life into non-love and spirals you further into non-life.
13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:13-14–ESV)
Verse 13 seems to walk in a different direction than much of the rest of this letter. It jumps into scenes and situations of world-church, Christian-non-Christian relationships. See, those who follow Christ, that is, who walk in the ways of Jesus, stand out from the world.
Think of how Abel’s right sacrifice stood out from Cain’s wrong one. In John’s day, in ours, the issues are not exactly alike, but the reactions are. Look at this passage from 1 Peter.
3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you. (1 Peter 4:3-4–NIV)
So, when we live in Christ’s style, we stand out. That evokes a whole variety of reactions from those around us. Often they will move from surprise to disdain and on to hatred. At some time points in the past and some in the future, hatred will take the course of Cain: Satan’s course. We are to know this and apply it to the understanding of life now and life later. John’s says, “Don’t be surprised at the hate of others.”
The message is not for the world, but for us
Don’t forget that John is not writing to give us the strength to fight the evil one or those who are his surrogates. John is writing to encourage and strengthen the church. The readers were not to get too mired down in the nuances of persecution and hate. Instead, they were to pick up the strands of love that they find in their lives and weave from them a rope of confidence: confidence in the reality of their salvation.
“We know,” John writes, “that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers.”