Marked With Grace

I have always avoided thinking much about the story of Cain in the Biblical narrative Cain & Abel. Any Sunday schooled child knows the story vaguely but it usually makes its way into the back of the brain accompanied by a yawn and wondering when cookie time will come.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Cain and Abel are asked to bring an offering to God. God was pretty specific about the offering. He tended to be specific in his interactions with people. With the absence of the written word and the not yet fulfilled promise of a Saviour, a “Holy God found it almost impossible to deal with an unholy people“. (paraphrased from Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey) Abel brought a sacrifice of meat, the best of what he had. Cain, who worked the ground, brought vegetables. Seeing that God favored Abel’s offering more than Cain’s was more than Cain could stand and so he murdered his brother. Cain is punished by being banished from all he knew: family, job, community, and security.

Usually stories of Cain are accompanied by a recognition that this is the first murder in a book about people who have all kinds of vices, and a God who loves them in spite of these. Abel is held up as an example, while Cain is put out there as someone “you don’t want to be like”. Just this year, I got a different take on Cain. After speaking with my sister-in-law about a recent sermon that my brother wrote, I went back and read the end of the story.

When banished, Cain cried out to God that it was more than he could bear, he couldn’t handle the punishment. And his cry was heard.  God places a mark on his body, a symbol of protection ensuring no one could hurt this man. Wherever he wandered, the mark would be conspicuous enough to warn others that if they mess with this guy, they are in deep trouble. Not only was it a mark of protection, it was also a mark of grace. God’s grace given to Cain saying “I know this is more than you can bear, so I’ll make it a bit easier.”  He was still banished, he still lost out on the best life could have brought, but the rest of his life he bore a mark of grace.

I don’t think God has stopped putting marks of grace on people. There are moments when I have cried out to God in deep pain and distress saying “This is more than I can bear” and in the midst of this he has said “I know, and I’ll make it a bit easier for you” marking me with grace.

3 thoughts on “Marked With Grace

  1. I don’t think I had thought of it that way before either. I still grabble though with why Cain’s offering wasn’t good enough if that was all he had. Is part of the story missing from the written version? I am sure we covered this in an instense bible study that I attended but I have memory problems. ugh.


  2. Thank you for sharing this. I had never thought of the story in that way before, and I love gaining new insight into familiar texts.


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