March 12, Sunday

2The AMI QT Devotionals from March 6-12 are provided by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S. F.  Mark, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), has been married to Mira for 20 years; they have two children, Jeremiah and Carissa.


Genesis 4:1-10

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 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 contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Cain spoke to Abel his brother. 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?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.

After writing about singleness and marriage from 1 Corinthians, I thought it would be fitting to end my week of blogs with some thoughts on the family. In the eighties there was show on PBS hosted by John Bradshaw that unpacked the role that our family of origin has on our personality formation.  The research is hard to deny.  As individuals, we are a product of our upbringing and therefore, we are not as free or as independent as we think we are.  Our families impact us to degrees that are unimaginable and outside of our scope of conscious thought.  So this has a trickledown effect: if individuals are sick emotionally, this means that our family systems are sick; if our families are dysfunctional,  society as a whole manifests these symptoms of brokenness.  In his book on the family, Bradshaw cites that “…shame is the source of most of the disturbing inner states which deny full human life.  Depression, alienation, self-doubt, isolating loneliness, paranoid and schizoid phenomena, compulsive disorders, splitting of the self, perfectionism, a deep sense of inferiority, inadequacy or failure, the so-called borderline conditions and disorders of narcissism, all result from shame.  Shame is a kind of soul murder.  Forged in the matrix of our source relationships, shame conditions every other relationship in our lives.”

Now before you discount this as meaningless psychological mumbo jumbo, let’s think about the message of Genesis.  We are told that before the fall, before sin, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”  After the fall, according to Genesis 3:7, “… the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”  So the Bible, 1000s of years before Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung, understood that the driving mechanism of sin is the shame that it produces.  Theologians talk about sin being imputed from Adam to the rest of humanity and along with the imputation of sin is the shame that it produces.   And it is this shame at the bottom line that leads to the many unmentionable sins in the family.

We see the effects of shame and sin in the story of Cain and Abel.  One key to understanding this passage comes from looking at the names of the two brothers involved in the story.  The birth of Cain is a celebrated event and his mother essentially gives him the name “Begotten of God”.  Martin Luther in his commentary on Genesis describes this as Eve putting all of her Messianic hopes on her first-born son.  He is the one who is going to save the family.  I want you to notice the language Eve uses to describe this newborn child.  It is not “Oh what a cute baby we have or what cuddly bundle of joy.”  People tend to get really childish when they see a baby but Eve looks at her newborn and calls him a man.  These were the high expectation for Cain’s life.  And so he grows up to be strong and manly, and best of all he becomes a farmer just like his dad.  But unknowingly, Eve elevates Cain at the cost of Abel, whose name literally means “breath”.  It is the same word that is translated as “meaningless” or “vanity” from the book of Ecclesiastes.   It is little wonder that Cain thought so little about his brother’s life given their own parents attitude towards his younger sibling.

These are the type of dynamics that sin creates in the most important of all our relationships, our family.  But this is precisely why the gospel is such good news!  As Peter preaches the first sermon in the history of the Christian church, he tells the broken crowd, “The promise (of the gospel) is for you and for your children and for those far off.”  I pray that the Lord will bless and bring healing to all the families the call on His name.

Prayer:  Lord, you have the words of life not only for ourselves but also for those whom we love.  We lift up our families to you and though we try to be strong, we know that there are problems that sin causes.  At times we feel lost and despair over many things including our marriages and our children.  In the midst of our worry, help us to trust in your goodness and to apply your word to every situation even if it doesn’t seem to make sense.  We look to you because that is where our help comes from.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 John and 3 John

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