International Ministries

Cain and Abel... in the next pew!

September 8, 2011 Journal
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Well, it wasn't really the next pew, but two pews ahead of us. 

And the "pews" were actually rows of nicely padded chairs. 

And it wasn't exactly "Cain and Abel," but something like "Katie and Abbie." 

And, in a fortunate departure from the text of Genesis 4, nobody died.  And, as so often happens, the role of Yahweh in the little drama was played by none other than Mom. 

But we were all amazed as the little drama unfolded, literally, right in front of our eyes.  In the space of less than two minutes.  As the curtain rose, all the characters were standing.  Mom was on the right, next to the aisle, Abbie was next to Mom and Katie was next to Abbie.  Big brother was a respectable distance further left, and played no visible role in this particular drama.  Cue the congregational singing, and...

"Abbie" looked to be about 5, and cute as a button.  She was dressed in her Sunday finest.  But neither her nicely done hair nor her pretty dress was enough to slow down that little dynamo.  So, after standing next to Mom for the first few bars of singing, Abbie tore off to the back of the church on Some Important Mission.

"Katie" looked to be 2 or perhaps 3 years older than Abbie.  When little sister raced away, Katie was happy to snuggle up to Mom, who responded by lovingly putting her hand on Katie's shoulder to pull her even closer.  So far, so good.

Then Abbie came racing back.  Well, not quite "back."  She seemed to hit a wall about six feet away.  That is, as soon as she caught a glimpse of her family.  Stock-still for half a second, she then dramatically raised her hands to her hips--which is when our daughter-in-law, Kristin, realized, "Oh, this is going to get interesting!"  (We were visiting Kristin and Dave in central New York state.)

As you might guess, Abbie did not choose to cuddle with Mom on the right, or "out" side.  She knew where the primo location was, and she went for it, wriggling in between Mom's leg and big sister, just enough so that Mom's hand fell off of Katie's shoulder.

Unfortunately, this wasn't quite enough to capture Mom's attention.  So, still clinging to Mom's legs with one arm, Abbie wriggled around in front and began to pull on Mom's dress with her other hand.

Mom soldiered on through the hymn, enjoying her youngest's affections and, spotting her opportunity to make amends with Katie, putting her hand out to pull her back into the space just vacated by Abbie.

Nothing doing!  In a single move that was executed so smoothly that one might suspect it to be the fruit of much practice, Katie brushed away her Mom's hand, folded her arms over her chest, took a step further away and cast a dirty look at Abbie.  Who was executing a deft move of her own.  It was exquisitely choreographed to match Katie's:  as big sister rejected Mom's (futile) gesture, Abbie was already circling back around the legs to stay between Mom and Katie.  Oh my.  A harbinger of Things To Come....

Is there enough love to go around?  Abbie clearly doesn't think so.  Nor does Katie.  Nor did Cain, when he killed Abel.  Nor Sara, when she sent away Hagar and Ishmael.  Nor Jacob, when he aced out Esau.  Nor Joseph's brothers, when they sold him into slavery.  Nor James and John, when they launched a preemptive strike on Jesus' right and left hand assistantships.  Nor...

Can I be okay if I'm not #1?  How about if I am only tied for #1??  Can I really enjoy the love I receive only if I manage to ace you out?  Can I be okay with God only if you are not?

If salvation by grace means anything, it at least means there is enough of God's love to go around.  I don't have to be better than anybody in order to "win" it.  God's love will envelop me whether I'm clutching the Lord's left hand... or find myself millions and millions of places down the line!

In the early years of the Jesus Movement, the famous missionary, Paul, wrote to a group of Jesus' followers who were playing the "Katie & Abbie" game with a vengeance, in the city of Corinth.  They spent their time squabbling over who was "more spiritual," who had the shinier gifts, who really had the inside track on God's leg (or at least, on God's approval).  "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child... when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways" (1 Cor. 13:11NRSV).  Paul called the Corinthians to do the same, to live secure in God's love--secure enough to turn from acing out to lifting up those around them.

Lord, thanks for this week's little drama, and the reminder to live as mature, secure followers of Jesus, freed from the trap of our inner Abbies & Katies.

Thanks for your company--and support!--on our collective journey toward maturity!

Stan