THE ROMANS ONE SPIRAL - P5
“Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips.” (Romans 1:29).
What are the roots of anger and violence?
If we go back to the first instance of anger and violence, we meet Cain. What’s the story?
Cain was discontent because God didn’t “gaze upon” his actions with favor—his self-serving “sacrifice” to the Creator. How did Cain know that God was not pleased by his life? “The Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard” (Genesis 4:4b-5a). Cain realized he was “lacking” through comparison with his brother, not by looking inward at himself and his own heart, life, and motives.
What was the result? “Cain became very angry and his countenance fell” (Gen. 4:5b). His anger was directed at his brother, because in his mind, Abel put him in this situation. .
God confronted Cain about his anger with his brother and got to the heart of the problem. He asked Cain, “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?” (Gen. 4:7a) Cain needed to take responsibility for his life. He had no control over what Abel did, but God gave him authority over his own behavior.
God warned Cain about what would happen if he did not take responsibility for his life and continued to nurse his anger against Abel: “if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7b). God is warning that if we don’t take responsibility for our lives, sin is waiting to claim us. Why is that?
When we don’t take responsibility for our actions or lives, someone will have to take the fall and accept responsibility for us. It is human nature to blame a scapegoat for what goes wrong in our lives to justify why we are the way we are. We put our sin onto someone else and “make them pay.” Cain’s parents taught him to shift blame and responsibility for his life onto others. After God caught Adam in sin, “the man said, ‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.’...And the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (Gen. 3:12-13).
Notice the self-serving way our original parents pushed off responsibility for their actions? This is self-worship. When we make ourselves the center of the universe, we automatically can do no wrong—it is always someone else’s fault. To admit error when you are worshipping yourself is to be an atheist to your own religion. As your own “god”, your “good” is the only good and anything that goes wrong in your life is “evil” oppression caused by dangerous enemies. We nurse the self-justification of victimhood until it becomes “righteous” anger against our “victimizers” - whoever makes us feel bad about ourselves.
Rather than take responsibility for his own standing with God, Cain chose to blame the success of Abel for “ruining his life.” Abel’s success with God was what angered Cain—the contrast between them made Cain feel bad. He nursed anger and bitterness towards his “victimizer”. And that anger resulted in violence, “and it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him” (Gen. 4:8b).
This is where we end up when we spiral into the depraved mind of self-justification that comes from denying the Creator and worshipping and serving the creature. In Cain’s case, he worshipped and served himself, rejected personal responsibility, and blamed everyone but himself for his problems, nursing anger and bitterness towards his brother.
We should accept the freedom that comes from taking personal responsibility and keep a watch on our hearts for blame, anger, and hatred towards others. God warns that “everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 Jn. 3:15). Violence and murder are the final chapter of all anger and hatred. Watch for those that nurture it. Amen.