As I was in my quiet time today, I began to thank God for the many things he has given me, and the many people he has allowed me to come into contact with that have been a positive influence in my life. Reflecting on that, caused me to think of my family members as well. Friends as many say, are the family you choose. God decides the family we should be born into. He decides if you will be the youngest, the middle child, the knee baby, the oldest, or like me, the youngest on one hand, the oldest on the other because your parents never married. I used to joke with my Father (now deceased) and tell him, I was the best thing that ever happened between them.
Relationships with our family members can be sticky, tricky, and icky. On the other hand, they can be heartwarming and full of memories you want to cherish forever. Such is the institution called family. As I thought on this, I wondered, what could really kill a relationship? Whether that be a family, friendship, or romantic relationship, what could really put an end to it? Well, I had to look no further than the Word of God for an answer.
Genesis 4 has all the makings of a TV movie: Two brothers who struggle for approval. Those brothers? Cain and Abel, the bad boy and the good guy. They could have been partners in the family business, but it all went south. I want to point out a few things (in no particular order) that killed their relationship.
1. Not valuing your own purpose- Cain clearly had identity issues which led to feeling rejected. He could have brought the offering God required. Instead he allowed hatred to grip his heart.
2. Anger- The Word of God says that anger rests in the bosom of fools. Cain was angry with God and in turn he took out his anger on the one God was pleased with. The result was disastrous.
3. Unwillingness to change- Cain adamantly refused God's advice. He wanted his sacrifice to be accepted the first time regardless if it met God's standards or not.
4. Refusing to acknowledge our own part in conflict-Cain never admitted his wrong doing. Even after committing murder, self-preservation was his only concern.
5. Treacherous Words-Cain had words with Abel, and though we don't know what was said, murder was the result. His thoughts, became words, and his words produced the action of murdering his brother.
What can we learn from Cain?
If we are to have healthy relationships, it must begin with a healthy relationship with God and a good relationship with our own selves. Cain easily disregarded God's warning, therefore it was not hard to destroy what God had created. His own self image was distorted, his image of God was distorted, for he wanted God to please Him rather than the other way around. It was no wonder he saw his brother as competition.
If we are not careful, we will find ourselves destroying the very relationships that are meant to be a blessing to us. Rather than enjoying the harvest with his brother, Cain set out to murder him. If I may venture off for a moment to relationships within the Body of Christ, too often this is the case. Whether it be a Pastor bad-mouthing another Pastor, or Churches, or Denominations, the bottom line is you are murdering your brother when you should be thanking God for more hands to bring in the harvest of souls. Relationships should serve a greater purpose than personal gratification.
After Abel's death, Adam and Eve conceived and brought forth Seth, the replacement son. After this, people began worshipping and praising in the name of God. What replacements has God had to send into your life to compensate for what you killed off? How many relationships have you killed in the name of "pleasing God", "moving forward", or "going higher in the Lord"? Jesus is all about life, restoration, and salvation. Let's evaluate our behavior and make sure we are not operating in the spirit of Cain, killing off and cutting off what God never intended.
I am reminded of Jesus' tumultuous and hard to understand relationship with Judas. Knowing what we know now, any relationship counselor would have told Jesus he was in an unhealthy relationship with Judas, but Jesus continued to call him friend right up until he was carted off as a result of betrayal. What a love, what a friend, what a relationship! Jesus did not cut Judas off though he deserved it. This is the picture of grace in relationship. We all recieve a grace we don't deserve when we accept Jesus as our Lord, Savior, and Friend.
So, I encourage you, before you cut the cord, make every effort to live in peace, walk in love, and forgive. It just might be what changes that family member or restores that friendship.