The father waited until his 14-year-old daughter closed the door and took her shoes and backpack off. Then he slit her throat. Forty minutes later when his 12-year-old son came home, he repeated his gruesome deed. That morning, after his children had left for school, the father had stabbed his wife 59 times. She lay not far from the children in the entry way of their Detroit townhouse (from “USA Today”). The story shocks only for a moment. Killing is too common.
How did we get here? By the grim spread of sin. That answer’s not politically correct. “Sin” implies a sovereign God who requires obedience and to whom we’re accountable. We prefer the Moralistic Therapeutic Deist God (Christian Smith’s term in Soul-Searching–The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers). That God is always there to help us, but never legislates laws we break at our own peril. However, the God of the Bible isn’t the God of America’s teenagers, nor the God of most American adults either.
Where did this all start? In Eden paradise. Adam and Eve listened to the Satan-serpent and disobeyed the one law the Creator laid down: “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 3:3). But they did. The result? The Creator decreed curses on the Satan-serpent, on the woman and on the man (Genesis 3:14-19). Then “the Lord God sent [the man] out from the garden of Eden” (Genesis 3:23). That’s where we live–outside Eden. And outside Eden, sin spreads.
What happened outside Eden? Murder. Eve gave birth to two sons–Cain and Abel. Eventually each brought an offering to the Lord. “And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard, so Cain was very angry . . . And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:4b,8). Adam and Eve’s sin had spread to their sons.
Several generations later, a descendant of Cain–Lamech–said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23,24). For wounding him, Lamech killed a young man. He bragged he was a more infamous killer than Cain. Now here we are, centuries later, the voice of the blood of countless victims crying to God from the ground (Genesis 4:10). Outside Eden, sin still spreads.
Our only hope for peace lies with the Creator against whom we’ve all sinned. In our walk through Genesis we’ve reached a dark valley. Humans are killing each other. And every act of violence–whatever its form– is sin against the Creator. His judgment must fall, but even here we catch glimpses of mercy.
Mercy-Glimpse. “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel'” (Genesis 3:15). One day, in a brutal battle, the son of the woman would crush the head of the Satan-serpent.
Mercy-Glimpse. When the Lord didn’t accept Cain’s offering, Cain was very angry. “The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry . . . ? If you do well, you will be accepted. And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it'” (Genesis 4:6,7). The Creator gave Cain a second chance and warned him of the weightiness of his choice.
Mercy-Glimpse. Cain chose wrongly. The Lord condemned Cain to the life of a fugitive (Genesis 4:12). “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear . . . I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me’ ” (Genesis 4:13,14b). The Lord responded, “‘Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him” (Genesis 4:15). Cain would have to bear punishment for his sin, but mixed with mercy.
Mercy-Invitation. Many centuries later, sin has grimly spread. Violence is so common the most monstrous only momentarily shocks us. No longer do we even think of it as sin against our Creator. Still his mercy invites . . .
“Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents from punishing” (Joel 2:13).
And for all who humbly turn back to him and throw themselves on his mercy, Frederick W. Faber wrote:
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in His justice
Which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.