What thoughts and feelings do we have as we read the story of the first murder? Do we grieve for Abel? Find ourselves empathizing, at least a little, with Cain? Or for Adam and Eve, who lose both of their children in a single day? Or do we have thoughts about God’s role in this whole drama? And most centrally – what do all of our responses reveal to us about ourselves and how we see the world? Recognizing that the Bible has this propensity to show us to ourselves, and looking at what it shows us, may be one of the more significant things to ask about the text we are studying for Sunday, January 2. That is, Genesis 4:1-16, the story of Cain and Abel. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a couple more questions we might want to ask ourselves, or possibly discuss in class:
Do we notice that it matters to us why God “has regard” for Abel’s offering, but “does not have regard” for Cain’s? Why do we think that is? What difference does that seem to make to us?
How do God’s responses to the two men’s offerings fit with what we already know about God? Do they challenge what we already know about God? How? How do we feel about this? Why?
Throughout the story, God asks Cain a lot of questions. Why, do we think?
How would we describe God’s relationship with Cain? Why?
[More personal] In what ways would we say God’s relationship with Cain is like God’s relationship with us? In what ways would we say it is different? How do we explain that? How do we feel about those similarities and differences? Why?
In general, do we think of Cain as a particularly “bad person”? Do we think of Cain as more or less like us? Why do we think that? What difference would it make for us if we thought about Cain differently?
Overall, we probably want to remember that the story of Cain and Abel is a story about prototypical human beings – that is, a story that tells us something about the people we are, in some way. The question is – what does that mean for us?
Image: “The Conversation,” Arnold Lakhovsky, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.