Choices
The Lesson of Cain It’s so painful to watch a dear friend being destroyed and finding there isn’t a thing I can do about it. I have a friend, I’ve known her for years; in fact she was one of the first people I met when I started in online chat rooms. I’m going to call her Mindy for this article. Mindy is like a sister to me; no, I have to amend that. She is a Christian and she IS my sister. She and I are much closer than my biological sister (whom I’m not close to at all) and we’ve spent more time than I can calculate talking about our lives, our hurts, our fears, and our phobias over the years. Mindy and I have spent the early dark hours talking about what bothers us. I know some of her darker secrets and she knows some of mine. Those darker secrets are the main problem; they are what’s crushing her. But I need explain her situation a little more first. Mindy is my age exactly, only a few months difference. We always kid each other about who will be the old lady or the old coot. She is in a marriage that is going no where, married to a husband who doesn’t care about her and is dragging her down. Home should be our place of refuge; our safe place where we can escape the vicious world. Home for her is a dead, lonely place. Her kids give her grief (Ok, whose doesn’t?), her husband ignores her, her health is failing, so she buries herself in work and school. She is miserable, to use the word with precision. She is also dedicated to her faith and won’t get a divorce. She has tried to talk with her husband but to no avail. So she works, goes to school, and chats online, mainly to me and a very few others. One other thing, Mindy hasn’t been to church in two years or more.  You might be thinking she’s one of those lonely housewives who sit in chat and hit on men; if you think that you’re wrong, dead wrong. Well anyway, that’s her situation, now I need to talk about her problem, which is the point of this whole article. Mindy made some mistakes when she was younger (who hasn’t?) and has never forgiven herself for them. To make matters worse, she feels that God is punishing her and that she deserves all that’s happening to her. This is a two fold problem, satan has trapped her two ways. She and I have sat and talked this over for hours and hours and I feel so helpless that I want to scream. Nothing I can say will get her to see the truth so I’m writing this in the hope that someone will read it and accept it and not fall into the traps my friend did.  Let’s deal with the first problem. Unforgiveness, it’s spiritually fatal. There is a parable in the Bible that teaches it clearly. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do; it’s in Matthew 18: 23-35. Most people I’ve discussed it with understand it, at least in part. They understand that we MUST forgive other people but what they don’t understand is that this applies to ourselves equally. God sees us equally and He holds us equally accountable (except for teachers). If we forgive every single little thing that’s ever been done to us and yet don’t allow ourselves that forgiveness then we’ve missed the point. To not forgive ourselves is the same as climbing a mountain, looking up toward God and screaming “You know them nails they drove through You?  Well they weren’t enough! You remember those places where they ripped the skin off Your back?  Well it wasn’t enough! Oh and that crown of thorns they made you wear?  It wasn’t enough either!” Not forgiving ourselves is an insult to what He went through for US. Not allowing ourselves the grace He provides for all of us is the same as the Pharisees withholding it from the people they were supposed to serve.  I’ve heard some people, one older man comes to mind and I will use his real name, Forrest, say that they’ve done things that God won’t forgive. Even now when I’m writing this there are tears in my eyes at the thought of it. The Bible is very explicit about this: “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:16)”   Nothing else is required. Everything else, the laws, the commandments, are all obeyed because we want to. No penance, no rosaries, no pilgrimages, no self punishment is required. The key here is believe what? Believe that God exists?  Believe that Jesus walked the Earth? No. People didn’t have to believe that, they saw it. He’s mentioned in non Christian books. Even today so there are historical records of Him. Flavius Josephus, Tacitus, and Eusebius are three such sources (except Eusebius was a Christian). So what must one believe? Quite simply, that God will do what He says He will do, and that is forgive us our sins. That, in my opinion is what satan couldn’t accept. This is one of the few things I’ll say that I can’t back up biblically but I just believe it. We MUST believe in His grace and forgiveness and we MUST allow ourselves to have a portion of it along with other people. To not accept forgiveness is as much a sin as not offering it. It’s that simple and it’s that deep.  Now I hope that someone read that and understood it and even more, accepted it; because this next part depends on accepting the first part. I can’t and won’t say that God doesn’t punish people, that would be foolish and putting Him in a box by dictating what He can and can’t do. But I CAN and will say that He isn’t here to trip us up, play games with us, use us for toys, or hurt us. I can say that He wants only Good things to happen to us. I can say this with confidence because He says so. For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)  All of our sins have been paid for, as soon as the words “It is finished” were spoken our sins were erased. You, who cheated on your spouse, you, who had the abortion at 17, you who robbed the liquor store, you, who killed the little man behind the counter. You, the murderer, the one that justified killing because the victims were bullies and rapists.  All of us, every where, all times, all at once. Wiped away, gone. I don’t know about you but it makes me sick at the thought of my crimes being so dark that they cost a gentle, perfect, innocent man’s death. But I accept it, I believe it. If I didn’t, that gentle, perfect, innocent man’s death will have been diminished. He tells us: He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalms 103:12) Don’t try to figure out how far that is, you’ll drive yourself crazy; just understand that it infinite.  There is a problem with self punishment, (there are a lot of them actually), and it also applies to punishing others. How do we know how much is enough? How do we know what punishment is right? If we were to punish others or ourselves too harshly we would be doing what’s wrong. If we assigned a punishment that’s too soft that too would be wrong. See, this punishment thing gets messy, we don’t know what or how much or how long. Only He knows that. Some religions think they can dole out punishment (they call it penance) and to them I say “you self important spineless gutless blind, pompous Pharisee, who do you think you are to take God’s decisions on to yourself? God forgave, who are you to punish what He forgot?” (I have more to say but its not Christian so I’ll refrain) If, and I stress IF God were to punish us, it wouldn’t be something that crushed us completely and left us broken and crippled.  Let’s look at the lesson of Cain. You know Cain, that nasty slimy rat that killed his brother. Everybody knows that story. That lousy worm. I will say in his defense, that he might not have realized that he was going to kill his brother. Keep in mind that at that point there was nothing else that had died. Cain had never seen death and might have just lashed out in anger then saw what he had done. But this is neither here nor there, the point I need to make is God’s reaction. Did God instantly blast him with a lightening bolt? Did God zap him back into a puddle of amino acids? Did smash him with a little toe? No, He didn’t. God didn’t reject him, he didn’t say “I hate you and never want to see you again!” God never said “get out of my site, you slime!” No, God still looked after his safety, yes, God was mad, but He didn’t abandon Cain. This same thing happens all through the Bible. Jesus didn’t take a look at Judas and slap him silly. (I would have) Jesus didn’t tell Judas He hated the site of him and to get out of the room because he was ruining the celebration. No, If Judas didn’t receive forgiveness it’s because he was too embarrassed to ask for it, but had he asked, he would have received it. If Cain and Judas could be forgiven, what can we possibly do that would cause it to be withheld from us? The answer to that, I hope you know by now, is if we didn’t accept it. The Grace and forgiveness are there for all the Mindys and Georges and the Forrests and the ____________ (put your name here), all who have only but to accept it.
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