But, He’s So Mean!Fr. Barnabas Powell
My wife constantly wonders why the girls listen to me and not her. The truth is there is science behind why. The male voice has a lower register and strikes the ears of children differently than a woman’s voice. The woman’s voice is usually closer to the pitch of a child’s voice and the difference in the male and female voice begins to explain why kids tend to hear daddy better than mom. Of course, all bets are off when the yelling starts!
On the other hand, dads struggle with being feared by their children. I love my girls and I intellectually understand that a healthy “fear” of “Wait till your father gets home” is helpful in training a child to have good boundaries and behaviors. But, I HATE being the “bad guy” all the time!
Look at our lesson today in Genesis 3:21-4:7:
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”- therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD.” And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a tiller of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. 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 his countenance fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is couching at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.”
Two powerful scenes fill this passage. First, our mother and father are sent out of the Garden. And most folks I talk to about this scene describe it as God’s punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin. BUT THAT IS WRONG! Notice two acts of God toward our parents. Number one, when they tried to clothe themselves with leaves, our Father knew that wasn’t adequate so what does the Father do? He does the first animal sacrifice and makes clothing for them out of animal skin, so they would be protected. Then, He sends them as far away from a cosmically dangerous situation to protect them as well. The Tree of Life was still there in the Garden. If they ate of it, they’d live forever separated from the Father. THAT was not going to happen to people God loved!
Next, we see the story of Cain and his murder of his brother Abel. Cain and Abel have heard all about the Father from their parents. They are still close enough to the Father that the Father actually speaks to Cain after his failed offering. Both these men knew what sacrifice was acceptable from the Father’s example to their parents. Abel did well. Cain did not. God confronts Cain about his heart’s condition and sees Cain reacts angrily to correction and offers Cain a way out. Cain’s anger response reveals his heart and God warns him that “sin is crouching at the door” and the path away from sin is to “master” it.
Today, do you struggle with looking at God’s correction as punishment? Are you under the impression that this is helpful to you at all? It isn’t, because it isn’t true. God isn’t mean or the cosmic party pooper! God loves us and desires to keep us away from anything and everything that wishes to destroy us or take God’s place as our master. As we reorient our lives through the wisdom of the disciplines of the Church, perhaps it’s time to see these disciplines as love and not torture. We want to avoid the fate of Cain and learn the loving power of being Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. Have you ever visited an Orthodox monastery? What is the state of monasticism in America today? On an all new Faith Encouraged LIVE we are going to help you get ready for a visit to a monastery and tell you about monasticism in America. That’s this Sunday at 8 PM on AncientFaith.com