1Jn 3:11-14 “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.”
“God is love (1Jn 4:16).” “This is my commandment, That ye love one another as I have loved you (Joh15:12).” “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (Joh 13:35).” This is the message you have heard from the beginning. We should love one another: not love one another if, or love one another when, but simply that we should love one another. I asked for a home in the church way back in 1966 when I was 11 years old. The Holy Spirit had shown me that I was a sinner, but it was not that conviction that drew me to the church. It was His love felt in my heart and in the hearts of those dear saints that caused me to seek out a home among them.
Cain did not love Abel. It was not so much anger as it was a lack of love that caused Cain to slay his brother. Cain’s action was the result of “that wicked one,” but we should not automatically assume that Cain was not a child of God. Cain declared that he would be hidden from God’s face, much as God told Israel in Isaiah 59:2 that “your sins have hid his face from you.” If we have never seen a thing, have no knowledge of it, and are not seeking it then it cannot truly be said to be hidden from us. Cain, like many today, was seeking God on his own terms. The difference between God’s acceptance of Abel’s offering over Cain’s was not about what was offered but about the attitude with which it was offered. Hebrews 11:4 tells us that it was by faith that Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice than his brother.
Abel’s offering was righteous because he presented it to God with complete confidence that God was worthy of the sacrifice. Cain’s attitude appears to be more about what Cain thought he might gain rather than how he might please God. When we love God and our offering is rejected it may hurt, but it also humbles. If we come making an offering to God because we think that it will somehow obligate Him to bless us, then we are angry when that offering is rejected. Cain was angry; not angry with Abel but angry with God. Rather than humble himself (do well), he opened the door to the transgression of killing Abel (Gen 4:7-8). Cain was operating from the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. This left no room for loving his brother Abel; instead hatred moved in.
Now, we are told to not be astonished when the world hates us. If we are not looking to God, it may take us by surprise when we do well in His service and discover that we are hated as a result. Jesus told us that if the world hates us we should remember it hated Him first (Joh 15:18). Jesus even tells us that the world cannot really hate us (Joh 7:7); the hatred is really directed at Him because He points out that their deeds are evil. This is the situation of Cain and Abel. Cain slew Abel because he was angry with God. He hated his brother because God pointed out to Cain that he was not doing well.
What are we to do, then, with all this hatred? Our carnal reaction is to retaliate. We want revenge; we want people to hurt the way they have hurt us. Another lesson that we see in Cain and Abel is this; even though Cain hated Abel because God had accepted his offering, they were still brothers. At no time does the scripture ever indicate that Cain’s action changed his relationship with Abel. He did not cease to be Abel’s brother, but his ability to have a daily fellowship with his brother was changed forever.
When we fail to love our brother we dwell (abide) in death. We are like the wild Gadarene; we dwell among the tombs of this world. Even for those of us who love the brethren now, there was a time that we were like this Gadarene; otherwise John would not have spoken of passing from death unto life. The root meaning of the word translated as “passed” is to change place. Our evidence that we have changed from a place of death to a place of life lies in the fact that we love the brethren; even our brother who is like Cain.
We can see in the wild Gadarene how we pass from death unto life. Jesus comes on the scene and we are drawn to Him; drawn, naked and afraid, from the place where we dwelled among the dead. He works His mighty power in us, casts out the evil of the world, and we find ourselves at His feet, clothed and in our right mind. Then He tells us, who lived in no house, to “return to our own house” and show how great things God has done to us (Luke 8:26-39)! We have passed from death unto life. We have a home to go to where we will find brethren that we love and that love us; but we are not released from loving our brethren who still abide in death.
The true measure of our discipleship is not in how well we love other Christians who believe like we do. If we are of the discipline of Jesus Christ, then we are going to have to love our enemies (who are really our brothers who are abiding in death). It is a hard heart indeed that is not moved when he sees his brother chained in a hideous bondage. This is the way we should view those that hate us and despitefully use us. We should be praying for them with all the love we have. Then we know we have passed from death unto life.
May God grant us a fervent love for our brother even as our Elder Brother loves us (and loved us while we were yet in our sins)!