When I read the first passage about Cain and Abel, I was initially tempted to view it as an admonition to my children not to kill each other--a sentiment that I suspect many other parents could relate to!
Kidding aside, however, I find myself taking a deeper and somewhat more political view of this reading's message. I am struck by God's mercy to Cain when he put a mark on Cain warning others not to kill him.
It calls to mind the way John Paul II recently helped rescue a murderer in Missouri from execution by placing a similar "mark" on the man. If God would rescue Cain from "execution," how can we possibly support the taking of any human life in retaliation for crime? It's wonderful to find such explicit support for opposing the death penalty in Scripture. It might be a useful passage to cite in communication with politicians.
On a related note, I have been very moved by the father of the Oklahoma City bombing victim who has visited Nebraska and other states on behalf of condemned criminals. He has turned his tragedy into a massive lesson in compassion for the rest of us. Would we, in similar circumstances, do as well? It's nice to think so until we look at how hard it is to forgive even those who injure us only slightly.
There's something small, petty and mean in many of us which makes it hard to forget even when we forgive. Most people can remember slights and hurts going back to childhood. Yet why do we carry such baggage around when God has made it clear that we are to forgive and not take vengeance? And doesn't forgiving imply forgetting--really letting go of our anger?
I want to close by resolving to examine my life for the sin of grudge holding. I want to try to forget as well as to forgive. It's time to let go of memories of hurts and wrongs. Ironically this is selfish behavior in the best sense because research shows that anger harms us physically where forgiveness creates a sense of peace and well being.
Lord, you put a mark on Cain to spare him. You touched the heart of the father of a bombing victim to seek mercy for people who have done terrible things. Help me to surrender my hard feelings about the offenses of others. Help me to live the words of the Lord's Prayer: "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
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