What God Sees, What We Need to See

Cain smiting Abel with God’s Expulsion of Cain from the Garden of Eden is a painting by
Sebastiano Ricci (1659-1734)


January 14, 2024 

M.L. King Weekend


Context: The story of Cain and Abel is the second story in the Bible. Ch. 1 is a poetic celebration of God’s Creation of all that is. Chapters 2 & 3 record the Adam & Eve story. In chapter 4 we read the sad story of Adam & Eve’s children.

Genesis 4:8-10

 Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let us go out to the field.” And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 And the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen, your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!



Let’s reflect on this passage for a few moments.

In this chapter we’re told that Adam and Eve have two children, Cain and Abel.

Cain is very jealous of Abel, in large part we’re told because God likes Abel’s offerings better than Cain’s offerings. For some reason Cain’s didn’t measure up. But God does say, “Keep trying. You’ll get it right!”

God notices that Cain’s anger is about to get the best of him, and gives him this warning:  “Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7). Cain’s anger does get the best of him and he kills his brother Abel.

God’s response to Cain is very strong and passionate, as if God’s heart has just been ripped open and then crushed. God says, “Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground!

I hear God saying, “This is the worst possible outcome. This is the most devastating thing that could ever happen – one brother killing another brother!

One member of my family killing another member of my family. This breaks my heart!

Many, if not all parents know the heartache of watching one’s own children at war with each other. It’s several steps beyond sibling rivalry.

There is of course playful sibling rivalry, playful battles, if you will.

Illustration. I remember a particular children’s message when my boys were quite young. One of my sons came down front and sat on the floor right in front of me. Then the other brother came at him from behind, jumped on his back, and took him completely to the floor. I was speechless. What should I do? Do I call attention to this physical violence? Do I make a joke? I can’t show any anger? (afterall I’m a pastor!)

So I just continued on with the children’s message. I think it was a playful act, because it was the younger brother jumping on the back of his older and much larger brother, not thinking it would hurt him.

But there have been other times when the intention seems to be to hurt the other. “Give me that toy!” and then squeezing the arm to cause pain. Or one child teasing the other about things they know will hurt. Or one child bullying the other. As a parent it breaks your heart! I think that’s how God felt in the story. “Don’t you realize you’re not just family to each other. You’re family to me!!!”

This part of the Bible says that God is the parent of Adam & Eve. So Cain & Abel are God’s Grandsons.

I believe God feels the injustices of the world more strongly than we may realize, because to God, it’s one member of God’s family or one group within God’s family abusing and oppressing another member or group within God’s family. That’s what God sees when God looks out upon murder, wars, oppression, any form of prejudice, racism or anything that pits one group against another, or claims that one group is better than another. When God sees that happening, God calls out again, “My family’s blood is crying out to me from the ground! “You’re all members of my family.”

You can look at the troubles between Israel and the Palestinians through this same lens. Those of you who remember the details of Old Testament stories remember that Abraham and Sarah are the father and mother of the Israelites.

But initially Sarah was unable to bear a child for Abraham, so she sent her servant, Hagar, in to lie with him. And so Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Later Sarah did conceive and gave birth to a child, an heir for Abraham, and they named him Isaac.

Why am I telling you this today? Because many scholars and others believe that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael. Every Palestinian guide we had in the Holy Land believed this. Which makes them all, Jews and Palestinians, half-brothers and half nieces and nephews. It’s family members vs family members. That’s how God looks at it.


Before I stop this morning, let’s just spend a few minutes looking at 2 verses from Genesis Chapter 1.

1:26-27- Then God said, “Let us make humans in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humans in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

And just in case they missed this verse, vs. 27 is repeated at the start of ch. 5.

What God sees is what we’re supposed to see – we’re family to each other, we family to God. And secondly, every human being in some way is made in the image of God, made to be a reflection of the Creator.

You’ve never met someone who wasn’t made in the image of God!

Of course, the Bible doesn’t spell out what exactly that means. I guess we’re just supposed to be curious, as Marcia Cassidy reminded us and figure it out!



Since we’re having communion this morning, let me close with this story – told by one of my professors at seminary.

There was a small town in the south that had a hardware store owned and operated by a Deacon at the Baptist Church. One Monday morning, one of the other Deacons stopped by to visit his friend at the hardware store. He couldn’t help but notice as he walked in that a sign was missing from the window by the front door. The sign read, “No Negroes Allowed.”

The one deacon asked the other, “We talk about these issues a lot. I know where you stand on this. Why did you take down the sign?

The owner said, “Yesterday as you and I were serving communion at the church, I realized that we could never hang that sign over the communion table. Because all God’s children are welcomed at the table. And if they’re welcomed at the table, they should also be welcome at my store.”


Let us pray:

Lord, let what we do in here guide us when we leave this place. Amen.


Communion Hymn: Spiritual – Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees.