The murder of the innocent
As countless mourn the death of twenty-six victims in one of the worst mass-shootings in United States history (Wall Street Journal) at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the constant question is… why? This question goes beyond the reasons for why the gunman did the horrific deed… Why do things like this happen? What makes someone act like this? Where is God in all of this?
We don’t know for sure why the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary took place, and we can’t read the mind of the gunman to know if he was mentally mad or emotionally outrageously angry. We don’t know if the violence on television and video games played a part, though they certainly could have. But let’s look at the first murder recorded in the Bible for some general answers to some of these questions.
The first murder happened in the first family
Genesis 4:1-14 gives the account of the first murder. In this account, Cain brings an offering to the LORD from the best of his farm’s produce. Abel brings a lamb to sacrifice to God. Abel’s offering is accepted, and Cain’s is rejected. They were both told what God would accept, but Cain chooses his own way, not God’s. God tries to reason with Cain, reminding him that if he would only bring what God required, he would be accepted too. But instead, in anger, Cain kills his own brother.
What was Cain’s motive? Why did he do what he did?
First of all, we should make it clear that the origin of evil is not God, but Adam’s sin (disobedience and wrong-doing) in the Garden of Eden. Because like produces like, Adam’s descendants can only be sinners too. Both Cain and Abel were born sinners, but Abel chose to believe God and Cain chose to reject God. When Cain rejected God and God’s way, God rejected Cain. When Cain couldn’t have his way, he became angry, and that anger was unleashed on his innocent brother, Abel, and Abel died as a result. The very first man born into this world was a murderer.
Why did Cain murder Abel? 1John 3:12 gives us the answer:
“…not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.” (NASB)
We are told Cain was of the devil. He hated righteous Abel, because he had chosen evil and was inspired by Satan to do evil deeds. God uses this incident as a lesson to each of us to love one another (1 John 3:11) and to not be surprised when the world hates those who are righteous (1 John 3:13).
Genesis 4:5-8 tell us that Cain killed Abel out of anger. Cain’s anger may have been fueled by his hurt pride, his self-pity, feelings of failure, jealousy, resentment, rejection, bitterness, and desire for revenge, among other things. Anger is blinding. It turns one’s thoughts and focus inward on self alone, and results in irrational behavior. Jude compares Cain’s ways to that of an unreasoning animal (Jude 10). Romans 1 teaches us that those who willfully reject God become like depraved animals.
God attempted to turn Cain away from his anger. He showed His concern in the situation, and demonstrated love toward Cain even in his anger and sinful ways. But Cain chose to let sin and Satan rule over him, and killed his brother Abel anyway.
Understanding God’s response
So why didn’t God stop Cain from killing Abel?
Though God is not required to answer all our “whys,” I think we can understand some of the reasons by looking more into the Word of truth.
We know God didn’t allow the murder of Abel because He didn’t love Abel. Abel is the first to be commended in the great chapter of faith, Hebrews 11. There we see that Abel is still speaking to us today through his death, telling us of a sacrifice that was made for righteousness’ sake, condemning the hatred, anger and evil of this world. So God uses bad things that happen to speak to others. Through Abel’s death, we are given a lesson about love in 1 John 3: 11-13. God did not do Abel an injustice by allowing him to die– in fact, Abel is honored far more as a result.
But there is more. Let’s say God prevented all murders. Then what about thefts? But if God prevented all thefts, what about fights? And if fights, what about lies? So is God responsible to prevent all sin before it happens? The answer is no. God has created mankind as a responsible race. He set mankind over the rest of creation (Heb. 2:5-8). God has made us each accountable to Him, our Creator, and each of us will have to give an account to God for our own sin. The courtroom scene is not in this life. We don’t see the Judge setting everything right yet, but He certainly will in a coming day (Rev. 20:12). “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9 NASB).
Cain’s punishment was greater than he could bear. Abel’s honor is greater than he could have imagined. God’s ways are best, even when we cannot understand them.
The wages of sin is death. When man chooses his own evil way, there are consequences. And sin affects even those who are not at fault. It brings suffering, sorrow and shame, even upon those who never committed the crime. Sickness, a result of sin, touches every one of us. The curse is upon all of creation, and it groans (Rom. 8:22). If the effects of sin were seen in the first family that ever lived, then it is not surprising if we see its effects in our world today as well, on a larger scale.
So why did God allow it? In summary, the murder of Abel happened because of sin’s affect on Cain and Cain’s choice to rebel against God. It was allowed by God because God has given responsibility to mankind for their own actions, and has given them the freedom of choice. Our choices affect others, and the final result of sin is death and sorrow. God teaches us about the evil of sin through the tragedies of life, and demonstrates His love through tragedy. God brings good out of evil, and as a result of Abel’s death, Abel is highly honored in the pages of Scripture beyond what he could have had otherwise, and he demonstrated to us the value and virtue of righteousness.
Does not all of this touch the heart of God? Cannot he stop the hurting? Is there no end to suffering? There is!
God’s heart was grieved over sin in Noah’s day, and He is just as grieved over sin today. He could destroy the world with a word, and stop it all once and for all. But God is also a long-suffering, patient God (2Pet. 3:9). He longs that those who practice evil would turn to Him from their evil ways, and live. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). But a day is coming when the patience of God will run out, and His righteous wrath and judgment will fall upon this ungodly world (read Revelation). Christ will return and set up a righteous rule, and all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. Peace will finally reign from sea to sea, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. For the saved, there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more death. They will appreciate heaven so many times more after the sorrows of earth, and they will appreciate the Savior so much more for all that He suffered for them, having suffered themselves. To the grieving and heartbroken, there is a loving God and Savior in heaven who long to bring comfort and strength to all who will turn to Him in their distress (Matt. 11:28, 2Cor. 1:3-5). When the tragedies of this life cause us to turn to God, blessing and healing will result.
So we must close our meditation with the Savior, because He is God’s remedy for mankind’s problem of sin. He knew what it was to suffer, not because of His own sin, but because of the sin of others. He knew what it was to feel the spikes and to know the thirst of Calvary. He knew what it was to die upon a cross, forsaken by man and forsaken by God. He knew what it was to endure the hatred of men and the wrath (righteous anger) of Almighty God. Why? Why should the innocent have to die for the guilty? Why should the Son of God die for a wicked race who had failed in their responsibility toward their Maker? Why didn’t God just send us all to a sinner’s hell?
We will never know the full answer to that why.
Oh love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure, the saints’ and angels’ song. (Frederick Martin Lehman)
CBS news, after the Virginia Tech shooting, spoke of those who believe one act of violence fuels another.