May 28 2023 Peacemakers in a Violent World

Cindy and I walk in our neighborhood. Recently I waved to an older neighbor whom I often wave to, but we’ve never spoken. This time, he asked me if we had seen about the latest mall shooting – “My wife and I are afraid to go anywhere!” – that is really understandable. We live in a violent world. We cannot deny it.

I’m going to spend some time over the next couple weeks talking about violence – from the Bible, of course. The world has always been a violent place. This is nothing new. It feels new, partly to us, due to television. TV is in our face – and I would like to say – from the beginning – I am NOT going to talk about HOW we as a country should stop the violence. There would be a lot of different opinions about that – and it might make for a fun discussion – but I want to look at a biblical perspective on violence.

Let me say up front – every act of violence is against God. The reason that is true – if someone harms or kills another person, they are harming or killing the image of God – so it is a direct act against God.

Second – Christians are called to be peacemakers.

We are called to lives of non-violence.

Whenever those two words – non and violence – a couple questions come up

What about the attacker at the door? I’m not going to answer that today. We’ll look at that as we go through, and probably a good discussion point.

But what about when God committed violence? That is not the point.

The point is how we, as individuals, can become peacemakers in this world.

In order to get a Biblical perspective – where must we go? To the beginning.

I’m going to look at the story of Cain and Abel today – and I didn’t want to go over Genesis, but this will take a couple weeks to get through this story.

Before we can talk about Cain and Abel – we have to go back a little further.

Let me say – I am studying and listening to different people – none of this is uniquely God spoke to me – these are others’ thoughts

Genesis 3: Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden ‘?”

This is foundational – and yet there is very little in it – where does the Serpent come from? There is ZERO character development! We just heard about this Creation – perfect Creation – living in this garden – PARADISE is the Greek word! He is crafty – and most likely a beast of the field.

Crafty – numerous meanings – but at its core – wise, shrewd, clever, cunning – from positive to negative.

Many think it is speaking to the negative because it is the serpent/snake. But it can also be positive – others believe it that way – as a positive thing. Yes, context is important. The story focuses on a Tree – the Tree of the KNOWLEDGE (of good and evil) –

The woman saw that the fruit was able to make one wise… They eat… she gives to Adam -

This wise/crafty/cunning serpent focusing on this tree of knowing.

Genesis 3: Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?"

Then the LORD God asked the woman, "What have you done?"

These two questions come up over and over again – and they come up over and over again in our lives.

Genesis 3: 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life;

The serpent was the initiator. Now, it doesn’t tell us what the serpent looked like – all we know is that NOW he crawls on his belly and eats dirt. Did he have legs? Or wings before? Seraphim? Poisonous Viper!

For such an important foundational story – so much is missing. Why? Because of this verse:

15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."

Enmity – hostility – he has made them enemies – and it is a declaration – God is declaring war between the woman and the serpent. So in short order, this garden of rest, peace, and paradise is gone and is replaced by hostility and war.

So, violence enters the world. One’s heel will be bruised – and another’s head will be bruised. Violence enters the world quickly.

Cindy was a teacher (still substituting) – The English teachers say – if you are reading a book – and the description of a scene includes a rifle over the fireplace – you know at some point that rifle will be used!

Lord of the Rings – Bilbo was insulting his friends – and then puts the ring on – and you know the rest of the story.

Offspring – the writers have established the story line of the rest of the Bible – the enmity between your seed and the offspring of the serpent.

Think of the stories – so many – Jacob and Esau, Moses/Pharaoh, David/Saul

In the Old Testament – none of the seed of the women can crush the head of the snake – they all fail. But in Jesus, the head of the snake is crushed.

Next slide – interesting Bible fact.

Isaiah 65: 25 "The wolf and the lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox; and dust will be the serpent's food. They will do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD.

Isn’t that hysterical? There will be this new creation – but the serpent will still be eating dirt!

Adam and Eve were put out of the garden and entered a world of violence. 2 primary results of the Fall – separation from God and violence.

We need to understand that, in our world – why the world is the way that it is.

Genesis 4:1 Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, "I have gotten a manchild with the help of the LORD."

Some say this is looking forward to the incarnation – some say this is Eve dissing Adam

“I have created a man just as the LORD did!“ – That is another way to interpret it.

NASB – notice how the help of the Lord is italicized – that generally means that those words are not there in the original text. They are added for clarification. But it is good to recognize. It can be viewed – I have conceived with the help of the Lord. But there are other ways to interpret that.

2 Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel (Vapor). And Abel was a keeper of flocks, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.

Then at the end of the chapter, after Abel was killed – God has given me…

She named him Seth, saying, "God has given me another child in place of Abel because Cain killed him."

She was tempted to eat the fruit – to be like God. She may be saying – I am like God. But people take things in their own way and not getting things in the way of God.

Are there other stories of women taking things in their own way? Sarah /Hagar


It is a continual thing through the Bible.

Genesis 4: 3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.

Why did God have regard for Abel’s offering and not Cain’s? There is no information. It is an offering, not a sacrifice – so it might not be the blood requirement. But each brought what they tended. It was not WHAT was offered, but HOW.

Gaze – something caught his eye and he liked it. Abel gave the first born and the fat portions – the choice portions.

When I got married – my mom was putting all the fat into the sauce – and Cindy was aghast – why would you do that (it is so unhealthy!) – But my mom answered – the taste is in the fat.

“The quality of the offering is a reflection of the heart.” – and we can be the same way.

So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.

This conflict comes up. We know that Cain is going to kill Abel.

Eve’s firstborn – yes, this is the one, she thought – there was favoritism – The comments about each child show – favoritism – and the firstborn becomes the seed of the snake and is in contention with the seed of the woman.

Throughout the Bible, we will see firstborns become the seed of the snake. Lineage does not determine election.

Some who are supposed to be the seed of the woman are not – and some who are expected to be the seed of the snake are not.

There are some important names in Jesus’ genealogy – and some – Rahab/Bathsheba – would be expected to be ‘seeds of the snake’ – but Jesus represents all of humanity. The people who become part of God’s family covers everyone.

Genesis 4: 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door;

Sin is a croucher – a beast.

and its desire is for you, but you must master it." 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.

Cain’s anger – which God said – you must get control of – leads to violence. I said we live in a violent world? We live in an angry world.

In closing – 3 things –

Why are you angry?

We need to ask ourselves that question – where does anger come from? Why do people drive their cars angrily? Why do people get angry and go and shoot someone? Or harm someone on Facebook – because violence manifests itself in many ways – when people attack others on social media, they are acting as seeds of the snake.

Anger comes from perceived or actual personal failure. When we experience personal failure – real or otherwise – it is easy to become angry. Angry people are acutely aware of their failures – perceived or real.

When you see an angry person – recognize that they are aware of their failures.

When you are angry – ask – what failures am I experiencing.

God said – if you do well - …

Second thing – rejection by others or God – real or perceived – leads to anger.

God has not rejected Cain – instead, He is incredibly merciful. He wants him to do well – to bring a proper sacrifice.

There are lots of ways this happens – maybe through abuse – maybe parents are divorced. Maybe it feels like a rejection of you – even though it was not that way at all.

Correction – as God is correcting Cain here – is not rejection – but it can feel like it sometimes. As parents, there may be things we don’t like about our children’s behavior – but we still love them.

Third – a deep sense of unfairness can cause anger.

Cain had to be thinking – this isn’t fair. I’m the first-born! Why is my little brother getting all the kudos.

There is a real difference between fairness and justice. They seem the same, due to language – but we can feel that we have been treated unfairly – and it may or may not be true….

Jesus told the parable of workers in a vineyard – hiring some first thing in the morning and some in the last hour – and each is paid a full day’s wage.

Then the folks who worked all day cry out – UNFAIR!
And the owner says – can I not be generous with that which is mine? That is the God we get angry at! We can’t wrap our brains around Him. We want a different God.

God tells him to do well – Tov – although there are psychological reasons for his anger, he still needs to do well.

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