For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 1 John 3:11-12
Sibling rivalry can be pretty ugly, but rarely leads to murder. That’s what happened, though, shortly after Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden because they’d sinned. They must have been horrified at sin’s effect on their children: their firstborn Cain killed his younger brother Abel.
Cain’s murderous action was not spontaneous. He became angry when God favored his brother Abel’s sacrificial offering of a lamb from his flock and not Cain’s grain offering. Cain received a warning from God about his anger. “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7).
Cain, however, ignored the warning and invited his brother to go out to a lonely field where he killed him. Scripture later describes the progression of sin: when we nurture an evil desire in our heart, it can conceive and give birth to sin. Then sin, “when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).
In contrast, Jesus Christ chose to love rather than to hate those who grossly mistreated him. Though innocent, he was convicted and condemned to die. He could have hated the people whose lies led to his crucifixion, the ones who hammered nails into his hands. Instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Jesus didn’t have to die; he chose to die on our behalf, for our sins. “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16).
Like Jesus, we have a choice. Will we allow anger to lead to hate, to murder—even if it’s “only in our hearts”? Or will we lovingly lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters, for our enemies?
According to 1 John 3:1-4, how does the love of the Father and Jesus Christ motivate us to live as “children of God”?
Read 1 John 3:15-18 and Matthew 5:21-22, 27-32 . What do these passages teach us about the relationship between our thoughts and our actions?
God’s warning to Cain in Genesis 4:6-7 applies to us when we’re wrong. What is your reaction to being rejected—especially if God says you are wrong?
Nancy J. Baker
This devotion is part of our series on 1 John.