From the dawn of creation, even from the very first family, we’ve had a bad track record for looking out for each other. I mean, come on! The first child to ever be born murdered his younger brother out of jealousy! Sure, things have improved in ways, but not without simultaneously becoming exponentially worse.
Most tend to think murder is the rock-bottomest of all sins and the worst thing one can witness, do, or experience; but what about the things that don’t just happen once before being over, and what about the ripple effects? We judge our predecessors, but this is the age in which one-night stands, abandonment, divorce, abuse, neglect, and even the abortion of a pregnancy before it is completed—this is the age in which these things have become normalcy. Things that once would have brought shame upon the doers now are treated as completely justifiable. Don’t get me wrong: I completely understand that some of these things that cause pain aren’t necessarily up to us, that the making of these choices can be difficult, and that the fallout is there no matter if you’re “right or wrong,” so I say what I say not in judgment; but I do acknowledge that no matter the subject or case, these things are in somebody’s hands, and somebody is accountable for the damage they do.
So many have been made the victim, yet so many have also played the victim. So many have suffered over these things, and so many have caused the same suffering. Considering the fact that God designed the family to be the way that life persists on the earth. When we do things to rip that plan apart, no good can come of it.
Take the idea of Cain, again. We can think about a bunch of terrible things that came of his actions. Obviously, his brother was lost. I’m sure the hearts of his parents were ravaged by the loss and probably enraged at the evil of their own son. Oh, and when he fled home, I’m sure that his sins ate away at his mind, and that it went on through his parenting. After all, it is the line of Cain that the Bible records as being at odds with God. In the end, that loss of a right relationship with God was the biggest loss because that’s what really led to the destruction of Cain’s lineage.
At the core, there was his out-of-line heart. Arrogant before the Lord, his sacrifice was rejected. His arrogance turned into a jealous rage because his arrogance deluded him to the extent that he thought he was as entitled to acceptance as Abel. That false sense of entitlement, though, was never the point of the sacrifice. In fact, it was never God’s desire to reject him at all! After all, after God rejected his sacrifice, He warned Cain, saying that if he did well that he would be accepted, but that sin was crouching at the door, seeking to devour him. He never wanted Cain to be out of a relationship with Him. That’s just the path he chose.
Yet again, the sin we chose came between one of us and the Lord. You see, Cain’s heart was never about sacrifice. It was never about God. Cain thought he was good enough all on his own, that it was his efforts that gained acceptance. If I had to guess, I’d say that Adam and Eve probably told the story of their own stupidity time and time again and stressed the importance of doing the right thing. It’s just that Abel really heard it, and after the killing, so did Seth; they took it to heart and understood God’s love as well as His responsibility to execute justice. Cain, however, did not. If he really understood what his parents had done and why it was so important, I’m sure he would not have killed his own brother.
Time raged on as it still does. The world saw the flood and a recovery from it. Nations rose again, decadent as they were before. Even Israel, the nation God built from the ground up, using one faithful man and his family, became decadent, serving other gods and committing to the sins they demanded. Israel was dragged away from her homeland, then released back to it when her punishment was over. Still, at the end of it all, hyper-religious groups like the Pharisees and Sadducees rose up, claiming to offer the ways of life, claiming that their laws were salvation; yet it was in their own exaltation that they became nothing more than carbon copies of Cain, offering a false sacrifice before a God whom they disdained as much as the serpent, Cain, and his whole lineage.
Then Jesus came.
In humbling Himself to become a servant, Christ fulfilled the role of a son to His Father. He also, being human, felt the things we feel as humans—joy, hurt, heartbreak, temptation—yet without sin. He was put in a family as well. He had a father and a mother on earth, though His conception was of divine origin and not human. He had at least one brother. He knew the struggle. Really, He defined it.
Through parable upon parable, and ultimately through His death on the cross, Jesus showed us exactly what He does for family: the prodigal son, the ninety-nine sheep, the lost coin—and those are only three of them. And let’s not go too deep into His life on earth, which was lived totally invested in reconciling each of us with the Father. But eventually, He had to fulfill His deepest purpose in order to truly reconcile us. He had to die in our place to take the judgment we deserve for our sins.
Since the Father and the Son are one, when Christ’s heart broke, being forsaken at the cross, so did the Father’s. The justice and fulfillment of it at the cross pleased the Lord, but something tells me that the Father also hurt when He turned away. No good father just abandons his son when the son is in pain, but the Father did plan to raise Christ back to life. Jesus would have preferred not to die, as He demonstrated during His final prayer before His arrest, even knowing He would later rise, that the Father was looking out for Him all along. But the Father also knew what would come of His Son’s suffering. The only begotten Son was willing to sacrifice everything so that we could all become God’s adopted sons. So really, Christ died to make us family.
How beautiful is that! A lot of good fathers out there, my own included before his retirement, work harder than we can imagine when we are children. That’s time they could have spent on much worse things. And there have been fathers who have given their lives for their children, born to them or adopted. You know, if you watch any kind of drama in theaters or in your living room, the nearly innumerable angry dad scenes. I’m sure you know the ones. Someone hurts their child, and the dad goes after the culprit. His rage is justified. So many of us would kill for our children if harm came to them, but Jesus gave His life so that people who inflict harm could be reconciled to Him and start over. That’s a second chance in spite of everything we’ve done. It doesn’t stop there, though.
God doesn’t owe us anything, but that doesn’t mean He doesn’t want the best for us. Maybe we will never live in luxury, have more than a couple close friends, or even have a job we like; but in all cases, God is watching out for us. He has a way of keeping us safe from harm when it comes, healing when it touches us, and providing when we’re in need. That’s all Him, and when He finally takes us home, the family finally fully reunited, that will be all Him; and the cross of Christ will be in plain view to remind us of the question behind everything he has done for us.
What wouldn’t you do for family?