1 John 2:29-3:24
Today’s message and study ask the question, “Who Are We – Really?”. It’s a really good question because who we claim we are and who we act like don’t always line up and that cognitive dissonance can be a bit of a problem for us. The author John points this out with a reference to Cain murdering his brother, Abel.
The Cain and Abel story is a powerful story deserving of it’s own series I think but just as review, it’s found in Genesis 4 right at the very beginning of the Bible. The upshot is this. Cain is the firstborn of Adam and Eve. Abel was born a little later. As they become adults, Cain tills the ground and Abel raises livestock. When it comes around time to bring their offerings to God, Abel brings the best that he has as an offering while Cain just grabs up whatever is available. Needless to say, God demands our best and Cain’s second rate offering wasn’t accepted.
This does not amuse Cain in the least. Rather than owning his own junk he gets rather miffed at Abel and invites him to step outside. They wander out to the field and in evil fury Cain kills his brother. This is what John is referring to when he writes, “12 We must not be like Cain who was from the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” In other words, Abel did his best and was considered righteous. Cain took a shortcut and when he was called out for it, rather than owning his own junk he lashes out, killing his brother.
So pretty much from the beginning of humanity’s time on earth, we’ve been killing people who have what we want. It happened then and it happens now. We’re just usually, but not always, more subtle about it.
Here’s how it works. 1 John is attributed to someone named, well, John but the evidence doesn’t give us a clear idea of who the person John really was. Whoever he was in real life, the time period of his writing, 35 or so years after Jesus crucifixion and resurrection, would suggest that John likely knew his commandments inside an out. People literate enough to write most generally knew their Bible. That timing would also suggest that he hadn’t yet heard about Luther’s Small and Large Catechism and Luther’s teaching of the meaning of the commandments, Luther not having show up for another 1500 years or so.
And yet the two are on the same page when it comes to murder, John and Martin Luther, suggesting an alignment of thought on something the Holy Spirit has going on, that is to say something the Holy Spirit wants us to understand. And that alignment is this. We’re not supposed to murder others, that’s commandment five. Luther goes on to explain in the Large Catechism, “Therefore, the entire sum of what it means not to murder is to be impressed most clearly on the simpleminded [I think he means us]. In the first place, we must harm no one, either with our hand or by deed. [This is pretty straightforward and we get it, but…] We must not use our tongue to instigate or counsel harm. “ He has more to say, it is the Large Catechism and it is Martin Luther, but you get the gist. No murdering people with our hands nor with our mouth. Period.
Look, whatever the issue and disagreement about the issue might be, we can’t be the people who are calling people names and saying vile things about others that we disagree with. No matter how far apart your viewpoints, we simply cannot run people down. Not only does that violate the 5th commandment like John and Luther write about, it violates Luther’s interpretation of the 8th commandment. That is to say, not only can we not talk trash about the other person, we’re supposed to lift them up.
The truth is I suspect it is a fairly small slice of the population on the far right and the far left who are doing all the verbal murdering. I suspect that the vast majority of people are somewhere in the center staring in abject amazement and stunned silence while they are being pushed and pulled by the actions of the factions on the far ends of the spectrum.
If you are one of the people who are on the far right or left that is murdering people verbally, or otherwise really, knock it off. Seriously. It’s against the rules and the rules are there for a reason. Bringing Christ’s Love to Life is pretty difficult while you are murdering someone, verbally or otherwise. So please stop doing it. No issue is so great that we can set aside telling people the Good News of Jesus Christ.
That said, I suspect most of us here are in the center group. Staring in abject amazement and stunned silence at the things that are said from the ends. Which means it is time we lift our voices in ways that respect others while proclaiming what God desires for us and for the world. It is time that the voices of hope overtake the voices of agendas. Because hope is in Christ, not an agenda.