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A View from the Altar / Cain still not all that happy about Abel
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Cain still not all that happy about Abel

Genesis says the first man, Cain, murdered the second man, Abel. Both were sons of Adam, but only one was a son of God. Cain is the unregenerate, earthbound man jealous of his spiritual brother. Cain is false religion with an offering of toil, but Abel is true religion offering a lamb. Again, Cain is the betrayer, and Abel is the Christ-figure. Cain is the old covenant of works which tended to death whereas Abel is the new covenant of grace, suffering death but living forever. Finally, Cain is the original antichrist who is banished eternally from God’s presence. (Ge 4:14, 16)

Cain and Abel also depict the simpler, broader typology of evil versus good, and this theme is growing more urgent in Our Time. John states Cain’s motive, “And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” (1 Jn 3:12) Solomon observes, “He that is upright in the way is abomination to the wicked.” (Pr 29:27)

That wicked people dislike good ones is a theme that keeps popping up in Scripture. Ishmael hated Isaac, and Paul comments, “He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” David lamented several times that the wicked hated him without a cause, and Christ mentions David’s complaint as a prophecy concerning Himself (Jn 15:25). Even Pilate could see that the chief priests were motivated by envy against Jesus. He was the cornerstone rejected by the builders. Christ warned His followers that “the world,” representing the citizens of the kingdom of Satan, would hate Christ’s disciples because they are not of the world but have been called out of the world. It’s not what you do, but who you are.

The fact that Christians represent a different kingdom can provoke resentment. We have to expect that and not shrink from properly representing the King. After all, if the world hates us, it hated Him first. The key is to make sure that when they give in to hatred, it’s truly because they hate righteousness and not because we’re being jerks.

Thankfully, American Christians suffer little more than the jeers of the queers. Paul’s phrase about our “light affliction” is still too weighty for what American Christians actually endure from our detractors, which is practically nothing. Hollywood and the Colin Powell faction of the Republican Party make it clear they don’t like us, but they don’t do much about it other than wish aloud that we’d go away.

But around the world our brethren suffer awful ordeals for following Christ. Conditions for Christians in North Korea are unbearable, with concentration camps, tortures, and reports of gruesome atrocities. Christians in Moslem lands experience pressure from their neighbors under the Islamic notion of dhimmi. Converting from Islam to Christ brings with it the risk of being murdered by radicals.

The continuing persecutions in parts of India are amazing for the motives of the persecutors and pathetic for the miserable conditions of the victims. The principal complaint from Hindu extremists is that the Christians have been evangelizing the Dalits (or, untouchables), educating their children, and building schools and churches for the converts. Ordinarily you’d think anyone would be glad to see help coming to some of the world’s poorest people, but apparently not so there.

As you prepare for Christmas, take a moment to thank the Lord for the heritage of peace He’s extended to us in a land made gentler by the Gospel. Pray for your persecuted brethren around the world, and if God should grant you the opportunity to help one of the least of these, do it. And let’s defend, not apologize for, the Christian heritage we have in America.

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