I just can't stand my brother...

Growing up with a brother is one of the most peculiar tests that God gives us. When my brother and I were younger living at home with our parents, I don't think a day ever went by without some kind of ruckus breaking out between us. Sure he has his side of the story, but everyone knows my side is right. Right? After maturing a little, I have found that I was probably just as wrong as my brother most of the time.

That said, I think we can all relate to the frustration of sibling rivalry. It's often not until later and sometimes much later that we can really be honest with ourselves and admit our own failure. When we are in the heat of it, we are blinded by our own emotions and limited perspective.

Genesis is full of accounts of sibling rivalry, but few compare to the account of Cain and Abel. Whether or not you grew up in a "Christian home," you have likely heard the story of the two first brothers and Cain's terrible sin making him the first murderer. We are often so quick to judge Cain. We are conditioned to root for Abel, the protagonist, and despise Cain, the antagonist. Something inside us wants to fight for the guy who is obviously right, but what happens when those lines start to blur?

May I be so bold as to say that we are often more like Cain than we are ever like Abel? None of us like to admit that. We all like to think highly of ourselves. We instantly jump to defenses. Maybe you might say, "I'm not that bad," or "I've never ..." It's so much easier to blame others and measure our own failures against things we consider worse. We try to distance ourselves from the terribly evil in order to feel better about what little evil we have ever done, but have you ever stopped to think about Cain?

Cain was a regular guy. He grew up with parents that taught him the same truth they taught Abel. He was a hard worker, and he wanted to please God. Doesn't sound all that bad. How do I know that he wanted to please God? He got angry when he didn't please God. That may sound familiar to you. I know that I've gotten upset before when something I was trying to do for God's glory didn't turn out so well. We can consider all the possible reasons why God didn't accept Cain's offering, but ultimately all we really know is that it wasn't accepted. Cain got mad. He had worked hard to produce food from the ground that was cursed because of his father, and God rejected his offering. Then Cain sees his little brother. If you had a little brother growing up, you know how they can be. We so often paint a picture of Abel as the perfect little angel of a brother with a bright halo over his head. In all likelihood, the real story was much different. Abel was tainted by sin just like all of us. He even had to make an offering before the Lord. Clearly he wasn't perfect, but he certainly didn't deserve to die for that. Cain was struggling with a flood of emotions.

Then, God reaches out to Cain. Often times just before we make a big mistake, God reaches out to us in some form or fashion to give us an opportunity to choose right. Yet, we often ignore God's voice. We are so blinded by our emotions that nothing can change our minds. We act like Cain. Maybe we don't kill, but we certainly don't repent. We don't turn back from our anger, and we don't seek counsel. We certainly don't go to our brother and try to make things right.

Matthew 18:15 says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother." ESV

Listen to the heart of God. Our God shows us the example. He lays down His own life to see his brothers and sisters redeemed. We have done nothing to deserve his redemption. If anything, we are Cain and He is as Abel. Yet He willing laid down his life for our sake. How much more should we extend this loving attitude toward those around us?

Let me challenge you with this: Take this opportunity to examine your own heart. If they is anyone that you have not yet forgiven, put faith to action today! Reach out and expect God to fill in all the gaps. Don't be afraid. Often times the person who has offended you needs you to approach them. I have often seen relationships restored because someone spoke up and said that they felt hurt. Don't let Satan steal your joy.

photo credit: Cain and Abel via photopin (license)

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