Serving and reigning with Christ: the first part of this year’s motto refers to our neighbour, the second part certainly does not. The case of the third man explains what we need to rule over. Here is a contemporary look at an archetypal incident.
Cain is angry. Envy is eating him up. He lowers His gaze. Both he and his brother, Abel, wanted to give glory to God and bring Him a gift. The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but He did not accept Cain’s offering. This injustice leads to the well-known fratricide described in Genesis 4.
Before Cain kills his brother, God speaks to him personally and warns him: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? … And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
This admonishment does not have the desired effect, however. Why should Cain even take the warning seriously, considering that God obviously treated him unjustly and rejected him? Instead of dealing with his frustrations, Cain chooses the path of sin. Punishing God is not possible, and seeking the root cause in oneself is too bothersome. Cain decides to kill his brother.
Competition is good for business
Rivalry and competitive behaviour is just as much a part of human life as the deep love between siblings. While healthy competition in business leads to growth, lower prices, and higher quality, in human relationships it often creates envy and selfishness, as in our biblical example. “Why do others have more than me? Why are they happier? The first reaction is to begrudge others what they have,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said.
For many people, the success of others is a hard pill to swallow. At best their success is played down and there may even be attempts to destroy it. Character assassination rather than fratricide is an attempt to make oneself appear bigger and better than one’s neighbour.
Caught in the trap selfishness
By nature, human beings are not really competitive but cooperative. Yet the fear of being forgotten and overlooked, of not getting enough, of suffering injustice, and being left behind alone leads to a quickly acquired habit: selfishness. The pressure to perform in the job market, the struggle for attention in a fast-past time, as well as our own insecurities paint the picture of a person in permanent crisis mode.
As a result, it becomes more and more difficult to overcome selfishness. In fact, it gets even worse. With the constant threat of defeat, a climate of aggressive mistrust develops. And this leads, as it did in Cain’s case, to indifference towards the fate of others. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Almost insurmountable distances open up in human relations. Those who perceive others as uncooperative will not abandon their own selfish struggle for well-being.
In God’s presence there is no need to put up a frantic fight to assert our own rights. With Christ we can recognise our own value and that of our fellow human beings. Because a human being will never become more valuable to others than when he or she serves them in Jesus.
Ruling over sin with Christ
Vicious circles can only be broken with God. And a bad character trait can only be discarded with God. With Jesus alone we can rule over sin. Alone mankind’s dependence on Christ brings security: God becomes man and wins the victory over sin.
Yet, sin must be taken seriously and this requires an awareness of sin. Making light of sin or even glossing over it is counterproductive. Like Cain, every human being is faced with a choice several times a day: take sin seriously and deal with it in a personal confrontation, or give in to it, driven by envy and frustration.
The love of Jesus does not divide, but brings people together. After every defeat His grace picks us up and His wisdom helps us to learn from our mistakes. So with Christ everyone can become master of their own thoughts and actions.
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