“And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel, and killed him.” (Genesis 4:8b, NRSV)
I’ve spent this past week ruminating over all of the violence in the news. Britt and I watch the nightly news over dinner many evenings. If the news starts while one of us is in the kitchen, it’s become not uncommon to hear the question, “Is that the same shooting they covered last night?” No, sadly, it’s often a brand new, fresh dose of lethel violence.
I guess violence is nothing new. Those early stories in the book of Genesis reveal not only the character of God; they reveal the character of humanity. Lots of people debate the reason behind God rejecting Cain’s sacrifice. But, I don’t think that is the point of the story.
Who knows why, as humans, we so easily experience resentment, envy and anger. It seems to well up in us so easily. And who knows why we so easily allow those emotions to lead us to sinful responses. We resent the student who gets a better grade, the co-worker who gets a more lucrative promotion, the neighbor who gets a new, flashy car. And, while murder is still the response of the minority, we find other ways to do one another harm and destroy the competition.
Above all else, the Church ought to be a place where we can model and present an alternative response… a response that says, “even if I don’t think things worked out as they should have, I can choose gentleness over retribution.” Right now I feel discouraged that my chosen “brand” of Church (the United Methodist Church) seems so saturated with violent rhetoric over the issue of homosexuality. I appreciate the efforts of Adam Hamilton and Mike Slaughter and many others to try and develop a way for us to move forward as a denomination (www.awayforward.net)… and I don’t claim to have any better answer; that’s for sure. But, at the very least, it seems our violent language that so frequently labels those of differing viewpoints as less than Christian cannot be in any way helpful to us or to the world that observes our witness.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not so naive as to think that, were the United Methodist Church to change the way we speak to and about one another, that it would put an end to all the world’s violence. But it might, at least, be a good place to begin and to remind ourselves that God has created us with free will and a choice: we can choose to see the other as competition to be eliminated or as brother and sister.