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.”
- Genesis 4:6-7
Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that we seem to be an angrier people than we used to be? The comments section under articles and op-ed pieces online are awful! For a while, I just assumed the comments were the result of anonymity, but I think that assumption doesn’t hold any longer, if it ever did. Nearly every day, there is some new video of people fighting other people, reports of random attacks against others who are different, and the things people scream at one another… Wow. If those words had come out of my mouth even as an adult, my mother would have hunted me down with a bar of soap to chew on. Ever done that? It makes an impression.
Maybe I’m just getting old (as my brother-in-law daily reminds me), but it seems like we were nicer when I was younger. People didn’t shoot one another all that often, for example. We never had school shootings, although we also didn’t have 24/7 news looking for sensational stories to fill the time. Maybe there were school shootings I didn’t know about, but I never heard of any. You know what we did have, though? We had gun racks in pickup trucks, and there were guns in them. When I was in high school, one year during deer season, a guy came to school straight from an early morning hunt – complete with the deer in the back end of his truck. (Yes, it was dead, but a lot of people think deer are food.) The principal sent him home to do something with the deer and to change into clothes not worn in a hunt.
You’d think with all those guns in the parking lot we’d have seen more shootings, but no, we never had any, not even one. Nobody ever stole a gun either, at least, not that I remember. If a truck had a rifle in the rack, that rifle belonged to the driver of the truck, and stealing someone else’s rifle was wrong. How was a family to eat if they couldn’t hunt? We ate without hunting because my dad didn’t like to hunt, though he did a bit of fishing sometimes.
We used to laugh at ourselves back then too. Remember dumb blonde jokes? I do. But as Dolly Parton once said, “I don’t mind dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb. I also know I’m not blonde.” If it sounds like Mayberry and you're worried that I’m about to quote Aunt Bea or tell a story about Barney Fife tracking us down when we skipped class, but it wasn’t and I’m not. We also laughed at each other, and oh, that could be harsh. A little humiliation went a long way to change bad behavior before it became engrained. A lot of things have changed since then, but I don’t see how it’s for the better.
Why are we so angry? We have wealth and comfort. We have freedom to speak and freedom to gather. We have homes of one sort or another, some very grand and others quite humble, but still, the vast majority of us have shelter if we want it. We have food, healthcare, and clothing, entertainment at our fingertips, and worldwide communications. Essentially, we’re all living the American dream, so what’s the problem? Since the beginning of this century, studies have shown we have pretty high levels of depression and anxiety, and now, we can add anger to that list. There are a growing number of people who are seriously angry.
People hold grudges, too. Did anyone ever tell you to “get that chip off your shoulder” and put a smile on your face? My mom's solution for being unhappy was to “stop feeling sorry for yourself and get up and do something for someone else.” Other favorites from my dad were, “life’s tough, work harder,” and “I’m sorry life’s not fair, but that’s no excuse for your mistake/failure.”
I wonder if we could put all those parental proverbs on billboards around the nation? “Remember when you were expected to grow up and take on adult responsibilities?”
Along with all the other changes since my youth, the decline of Christianity is inversely correlated with the triumph of secular humanism. People said Christians couldn’t impose their intolerance and religion on others, and religion was the source of all sorts of terrible things that would disappear if people weren’t subject to Christianity. Without the restrictions of antiquated Christian morality, people would be freer to enjoy life without hypocrisy. After fifty or so years, I’m not seeing it. Hypocrisy didn’t go away. It wouldn’t. It’s a trait of our humanity, with or without Christianity. The same thing is true of intolerance. Turns out, we have a human problem, not a Christian problem.
The first time the word sin appears in Scripture is in reference to Cain in the verses quoted above. Usually, we associate sin with Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve rebel against God, and no doubt, they sinned by breaking God’s command and eating the forbidden fruit. However, the emphasis in Genesis 3 is not sin as much as it is death, which is also how Paul talks about it in his letter to the Romans.
When the Lord warned Cain about sin, it wasn’t how we think of sin. It was much worse. Sin is portrayed in an animalistic sort of manner – crouching to attack and conquer Cain. Sin’s desire is “contrary” to Cain. The translation is difficult. Sin desires Cain but in the manner of domination or control over Cain. Sin is contrary to Cain because it seeks to control him, to steal his identity and separate him from the Lord and from his family. Some have suggested the sentence should read, “Sin is the demon at your door.” Rather than struggle against sin and do what was right, Cain simply withdrew, and then he killed Abel for making the better offering. Cain, still angry, was banished, sent away from family and punished with isolation, alienation, and the inability to provide for himself.
Deciding to be irreligious and to do away with sin accomplishes neither. It just makes us subject to the sin that masters us while we pretend it isn’t there. Most of our young people don’t even understand the language of sin, and those that do would laugh. Yet, they more than any other age group suffer under sin’s cruel tyranny. They are owned by passions that promise happiness but instead leave desolation and yearning in their wake.
A news report I read recently included a video showing a mob of people beating a man to unconsciousness, laughing, cheering, and recording their own actions. There was no concern for the law, no moral question about such violence, no worry about witnesses to their actions, nothing but blind, angry passion enflamed by cruel laughter and callous vulgarity. The beating was surely a tragedy for the man – if he survives. The blows to his head and torso were intended to leave a lasting legacy, breaking bones and damaging organs. In the middle of at least fifteen people, the man was punched and kicked relentlessly, even after he lost consciousness and was unable to feel each hit.
Watching the video, I couldn’t help but think of sin crouching like an animal, then let loose in screaming power to claim and control those who know nothing about ruling their own passions. In a world in which no one is allowed to speak of sin, sin conquers without resistance, squeezing the humanity of people into darkness and unleashing the basest of instincts for destruction.
The beating was a vicious tragedy for the man, yes, but also for the mob as well. Within each person is a unique expression of our Creator, an individual with unidentified gifts and talents, with unacknowledged abilities and unawakened dreams. They are the casualties of arrogance, defined as victims by the powers that be, and promised freedom to be important while left to enslave themselves to passions demanding satisfaction.
One of the great lies with which we live today is the lie of humanism. It’s an ideology that promises the pursuit of good for all but cannot deliver on those promises. It doesn’t matter how many pills you take, how many different kinds of sex are legal, or how free you are from the God of your ancestors, if you don’t know to struggle against sin, it will own you. You’ll end up separated from your humanity, dependent upon others to prop you up, and desperately in search of an elusive happiness that, if found, is fleeting at best.
Plenty of voices mock Christians and Christianity, but at least with Jesus, you have hope. At least with Jesus, you have the possibility of breaking free of sins voracious appetite. At least with Jesus, forgiveness stands as an open door to a new start, a new life.
Humanists don’t care when sin turns the image of God into a caricature of human that more closely reflects the animalistic power of our passions. Humanism is fine with your self-destruction, so long as you get what you want. But Jesus… Jesus cares. He cares more than we can measure, more than we can imagine. He is more than able to break the sin crouching at the door, and He gives a life far away from the stranglehold of slavery.
This is the Gospel we have to proclaim, and we should proclaim it loudly and clearly. We should live in it, as well. The solutions of the world are not solutions at all because the world does not understand the problem. The problem is sin. Everyone has the same problem, and the same Solution works in everyone.
All those things my parents told us when we were growing up? They were all intended to form our characters into the likeness of Christ, with virtue in our choices and responsibility for ourselves and the care of others.
I vote for sin. We don’t need any more excuses or explanations. If we’d struggle against sin with the Lord’s help, we could rule over it rather than letting it rule us.
In Christ –
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau
© 2023 All Rights Reserved.