Cleansing the Temple

In the last blog, we had a good laugh at a most bizarre scene where Jesus curses a fig tree. We wondered if Mark was trying to set up a message, and if so, this next story would be what it’s aimed at. So let’s look at Mark 11:15-19 and see how it might connect with the cursing of a fig tree.

So, Jesus goes to the temple. The pretty standard behavior for a Jewish visitor to Jerusalem. However, Jesus began to, “drive out” people who were buying and selling in the temple courts. He flipped over tables and chairs of the stalls, and wouldn’t let anyone take their purchased goods through the temple. I would like to point out that in this early version, there is no whip, no mention of anger, and Jesus has time to gather and teach people, which doesn’t suggest rage or other out of control emotions.

From the sounds of it, the temple had basically become a marketplace. Jesus’ problem with this is his understanding of scripture. Jesus quotes Isaiah 56:7, “I will make them happy in the temple where people pray to me… My temple will be known as a temple where all nations may pray.”

Thus, Jesus, approaching the temple, anticipated a place of prayer and Godly devotion, but instead found a marketplace. Not only that, but the passage specifically mentions selling doves. Doves were the lowest possible offering and would have been primarily used by those people who couldn’t use anything else, as established in Torah. In this way, the temple was forcing people to pay for that which was meant for people who did not have anything else. It’s demanding something precisely where Scripture had intended for something to be free. It’s injustice.

This injustice is further supported by Jesus’ second OT reference, Jeremiah 7. “Do you think this temple I have claimed as my own is to be a hideout for robbers? You had better take note! I have seen for myself what you have done! says the LordSo, go to the place in Shiloh where I allowed myself to be worshiped in the early days. See what I did to it because of the wicked things my people Israel did.”

It’s a threat, that God knows the wrongs being committed in His temple, and if they do not repent, they will be destroyed.

Image result for Jesus teaches at temple

Shock of all shocks, those individuals who were profiting from the marketplace at the temple, the priests, and scribes, decided that Jesus should die because he was messing up their sweet operation. This was Jesus’ plan all along. He knew it was going to upset those in power, and what the result would be. He warned us many times.

As for the relation to the fig tree, I see the title of the next section also involves it so I will wait until next time to discuss it.

Grace and Peace to you all.

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The Good News

Good newsI recently wrote a blog informing the world that my view of scripture seems to be slightly off from everyone else’s. Well, here I go again.

The good news of God is not that Jesus died on the cross as a payment or penance for your sins. I’m not the only one to believe this, but it’s still quite popular so I just wanted to put that out there. The entire concept that Jesus died as some form of payment has been debunked, it simply doesn’t line up with a God of love, nor with a healthy human self-image.

If you don’t believe me, use the method I always use to test salvation hypothesis, put yourself in God’s shoes. Yes, I realize that I am a limited being, but if something seems morally wrong to a human, chances are, God feels that double. In this case, my first born child broke the rules and continues to break them, to save the first I demand that my second child be murdered to satisfy me. Sound like something you might go to jail for? Yeah, exactly.

The good news of God is not that God will provide for your every need if only you have faith and can pray to Him. While the Bible does suggest that humans have been given authority over the earth, by God and by Christ, it would directly contradict free will for most of our prayers to be answered. Despite the fact that God created the world out of nothing, scientists have discovered that since then, nothing else has been created from nothing, and so everything you gain, someone else loses. Where do you think that $1 Million dollars would come from? Be careful what you wish for.

The good news is also not that we now have a way to pursue perfection. Yes, Jesus was the son of God, and according to record, was perfect, so we should definitely look up to Him and follow his example, but we will never be him. You will only ever be you, and to spend your life attempting to be perfect, because you believe you are worthless, is degrading to the person that God created you to be to begin with.

Once again, put yourself in those shoes. Your child spends their whole life telling themselves and you how horrible and corrupt, disgusting, little, and terrible they are. How does this make you feel? What do you want to tell them? I imagine it’s something like, “No! No, my child! You are perfect just as you are, you need to change nothing about you for you are mine!” (Sound familiar?)

The good news of God IS this message, that God loves us! It’s amazing I know. Our sins have been forgiven, they were always forgiven because God never turned his back on us. Jesus came to tell us this, and to set the record straight. The Hebrews had spent their entire history coming up with ways that humans fell short of God’s love, but they were missing the mark, so Jesus came down to say once and for all, stop the sacrifices, I only want your hearts. Stop the killing and the fighting, you are all my children. Stop beating yourself up, because I love you and will always love and have always loved you and nothing you do can change that. How wonderful is that message?

To answer the next logical question, yes, there is still sin, but it isn’t what you think. It’s not some grandious dark cloud or evil entity waiting to tackle you when you least expect it, it is simply living in a way that will bring you the most pain. This is why God hates it, because it’s bad for us, not because it’s bad for Him. He’s God! Nothing is bad for Him. He has no kryptonite. So, step one, love God. Step two, love yourself because God loves you. Step three, love your neighbor as you love yourself because God loves you. Pretty simple.

No go, eat, drink, and be merry, for God loves us all!

Do You Hear What I Hear?

ImageSince I was a child, I have never felt like I heard what other people hear when they hear scripture. When I was very small, my mother used to read me passages and chapters of scripture as I was going to sleep, which I remember almost none of, but it did train me to fall asleep in church. (Just kidding Mama). Even at that young age, however, I was plagued with questions about the scripture I heard that seemed to be unusual to the church members that heard them. Without satisfactory answers, I determined at the age of 7 that these Christians didn’t know why they believed, and church became a much less interesting place for me.

It took me 14 years to realize that the point of Christianity is not the people, nor knowing why one believes, but a relationship with God. I came to that conclusion not through scripture, but through life experience. I got to know God slowly over time, in my heart, in times of need, and in times of joy. I came to recognize His warmth in my heart, but you know what? Even though I am now a firm lover of God, I still don’t see what everyone else sees when they read scripture. It is because of this that I became a theologian in the first place, I want to know what my perspective means for myself and for the Christians of the world. I’ll give an example, I just Googled a random Jesus phrase, and John 14 came up. Literally, I googled, “Jesus phrase”. 

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Alright, so from what I understand, when the average Christian reads this they hear certain worship songs. They get a vision of God’s giant mansion with a bunch of rooms, where Jesus is apparently the only maidservant who makes up the bed (sorry that last bit was me). Anyway, in order, it’s like this for the average Christian. Don’t fear, you can get to heaven through me, I’ll take care of the arrangements. If you are a good person, follow the ten commandments and my example, I will return for you someday to bring you to heaven with me. In fact, I am the only way you’re getting to heaven. Who I am as a human and as God is the truth, I am the life of everything, I am all powerful and all knowing. There is no way you can get to heaven, unless you believe in everything that I am as a person, and do exactly as I say. Sounds rather Godfathery to me (sorry, me again.)

That’s my best approximation of what I have read and heard from various pastors and people via podcast and article. Seems pretty evangelical anyway. This is what I hear when I read this passage.

Don’t worry you guys, you can trust God, believe in what I am telling you. There is more than enough room for everyone with God, I know you don’t understand that right now, but there is, trust me. Yes, yes, I’ll double check, don’t worry. If you want to be with God, you can be there, if you like, I’ll even guide you there myself. Yes, I know it’s scary, that’s why I’m offering to come with you. Think of it as the next big adventure. Although, you already know how to get there. (Huh!? We don’t know how to get to heaven!? It’s like… in space and stuff!) No, no, that’s not what I mean Tom, I mean that you know the path in your hearts, it’s the same path I’ve been teaching you this whole time. My way, I, that is, my teaching, is the way to heaven. Love God and your neighbor as you love yourself. This is the way to heaven. You can’t get there any other way, no matter what anyone else says. Only through me, only through my teaching, only through these two basic commandments will you get to heaven. They take many shapes and sizes, but boy are they difficult to fulfill but I have faith in you guys! You can do it!

Can you see how this view is slightly different? It takes a much less direct view for one, although I would argue the first view isn’t any more literal, but it involves more of the relationship. When other people here I am the way, no one gets to God but through me, they envision some sort of gatekeeper, like Jesus is standing in front of God’s house with a flaming sword and a clipboard and if you’re name isn’t on the list of people who agree that Jesus existed, you’re not getting in. What I hear is a man desperate to get his message heard that humans will only find God if they listen to what he has to say. It’s the gospel message that matters to Jesus, not whether the future of all humanity believed he was God. The gospel message isn’t, Jesus was God and died, the gospel message is, your sins have been forgiven. It’s entirely relational, not historical, or factual.

I guess I’m trying to say two things, first, I’m weird see? Secondly, stop fussing over what you believe, and check your heart, because you know the way to God in your heart, (not your mind, which is telling you right now that your heart disagrees, but it’s your mind, don’t be fooled!).

Grace and Peace to you all!

Nice Angry God… Good Angry God…

Angry GodThere are a few very important things that Bible students learn in their earlier Old Testament classes, very important from where I’m sitting anyway. It is this, Job’s first and last chapters were added at a later date than the center pieces. This means that everyone’s favorite sections about Satan and God having a betting contest, and God’s whirlwind episode, were pinned on after the initial content had been written. What does this mean? Well no one can be sure, but considering the conflicting messages contained within either section, I’d say it wasn’t a friendly addition.

In Old Testament class, my professor proposed a theory that Job was an anonymous rebellion against something that we still encounter today, prosperity gospel. Now, what Job is talking about is more like, anti-prosperity gospel. It discusses how the ancient Hebrew people viewed sickness, tragedy, and imprisonment. As you read the Old Testament, take note of what it says when Israel is exiled or in trouble, it’s because they did something wrong, worshiped wrong, committed idolatry, something. And when something goes right? Same story, it’s because Israel was faithful, prayed right, ate right, believed right. Job is a message to the Hebrew people, talking about situations in which those effects are clearly untrue! God doesn’t work that way! It seems to say.

So what is it trying to say? The same thing that your average logical Christian will tentatively point out to their friends. If God rewards the good, why do bad people continue to flourish? If God punishes the evil, why do so many good people have bad things happen to them? And you know what so often used against these questions? Job! The whirlwind of God at the end of Job proclaiming his unfitness to question God’s decisions. However, you know who else questioned God? Abraham. You know what God did? Bless him with a bajillion children and an entire nation. Anyone else? David. Who was David? The man of God’s own heart. Seems slightly contradictory wouldn’t you say? That’s because it is.

Job was intended to put a wrench in retributive theology, that is, what we do has a direct effect on how God treats us. How fickle is that, am I right? Now, stick with me as I’m about to throw something crazy in the sauce. What if we looked at the entire Old Testament before Job, all of God’s supposed actions and reasons for doing things, as if they were being interpreted through retributive theology? In other words, what if we take what Job reveals about the minds of ancient Hebrew people, and apply it to their understanding of God.

Alright, hard to grasp I know, here’s a famous example. God hardened the heart of pharaoh. Boy have scholars gone to town trying to explain how this is okay! However, if we apply a little bit of Jobian logic, we can deduce that the ancient Hebrew people believed God hardened pharaoh’s heart, because pharaoh said, “no” so many times! Think about it, if you believed God was in direct control of every word, wouldn’t someone saying “no” mean that God had also said, “no”? In which case, God told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to let His people go, so that God could have the courtesy of replying “no”, so that God could then destroy the Egyptians. Well, if you believe in retributive theology, this is exactly what would happen, and it’s exactly what is described by God to Moses!

BUT! What if you didn’t believe in retributive theology? What if Pharaoh saying “no” was the act of a free man, beloved by God? A normal, arrogant, and selfish absolute ruler of a people? We certainly don’t have any of those around these days. What if we extrapolate this idea, this theological belief held by the Hebrew people to all of the times in the Old Testament when God acted? Might it allow us to believe that the God of the OT and the God of the NT are actually, possibly, the same entity? If the Old Testament is a record of the ancient Hebrew perspective on God, and the New testament is the record of the ancient Christian perspective on God, isn’t in possible that they are slightly different? However, we believe that God doesn’t change, and as Christians we believe in Jesus, so how might we reconcile the two? By realizing the theology of the ancient Hebrew people, and reading scripture through the lens of retributive theology.

Think about it this way, how different is your perspective on God from people just 60 years ago when truth had a capital “T” and the best thing for every man was to get himself a woman to stay home and cook for him? Now imagine that multiplied by centuries! It’s different! Wouldn’t their God act differently from your own? Yet you both believe He is the same person? Exactly!

Now, I want to state right now that I trust 2 Timothy 3:16, but I think it can be just as applicable if the scripture was written by inspired men. Scripture is a true at heart, inspiring, amazing, miracle of a record of human interaction with God over thousands of years. However, let us not forget, God is alive. Speak to Him with your heart, ask Him of those times recorded in scripture that you are uncomfortable with, see if you find a whirlwind, or a loving embrace.

Foundation

ImageSo, the foundation of a new Christianity has been laid, incorporating both ancient concepts from Pelagius and Job, to more recent relational theologians like Larry Shelton.

Okay, you might say, but if I didn’t quite dig deep enough to understand the core of the foundation you’ve laid here, what exactly is it you are trying to say, and what makes it so different from the Christianity I find in church every Sunday?

Excellent question! First, the foundation of all Christian moral activity in the world is love. Not the love that appears in popular movies or trashy novels, but the love of God as he reveals to us in others and in Jesus Christ. This love is so deep and so viscerally understood as unconditional in all of us, that I feel safe claiming that God is not only love, but unconditional love. This is not to say that unconditional love is clear in scripture, but rather that unconditional love is clear within each of us. We know what is true and right about God, and when anything other than unconditional love occurs, we know that something isn’t right about it.

If God is unconditional love, there are some basic assumptions that the church has made about original sin, and about sin and general that don’t quite fit that paradigm. For instance, why would a God who loves unconditionally create a world, and indeed His children, so that they were temporarily perfect, only to live the remainder of their existence regretting and mourning that they could never be again? This seems well outside of the realm of love, let alone unconditional love.

What story does fit then? That is the first three entries of this blog, the story of how God loved us so much that He created a world in which we could choose to reject Him. When we did so, He honored that choice, but we, in defense, blamed Him, and created a story which blames Him. There is plenty of historical proof, indeed history itself, that those who survive will blame those who cannot or will not refute the blame. Ancient humans were no different.

This idea that we are unfit, horrible, depraved, wrong, broken, etc. beings has drilled into our brains for so long that we have forgotten what it means to be beloved, exalted, chosen, anointed, and blessed. We have come to believe that we are so disgusting that nothing can save us; not ourselves, apparently not even God, despite what scripture says to the contrary, because we continue to act as if God has done nothing for us, not forgiven us, not claimed us, and not created us. Are you beginning to see how these things are in contest with each other?

One last point before I move onto the next difference. If God is as powerful as we can possibly imagine. As graceful, good, perfect, and just; why do we have such a hard time accepting that maybe; just maybe, he created us in an image that He can be proud of, from the beginning, and for eternity? Proud does not mean happy with, it does not mean approving of; it means proud of our ability to choose, love, laugh, and live. Yes, we can make mistakes, yes we can hurt others, but if we were incapable of doing these things, would we be any better than furniture? Don’t you think God knows all of this? And yet still, here we are, in the world, being loved, no matter what we do. Reality should trump imagination. The reality is, this is who we are, loved. Once we can accept this our perception of life changes, the nature of scripture changes, and who God is changes. You are perfectly imperfect, exactly as God made you, and that is very good.

Well, that sounds all nice and comforting there, emotional even, but what about scripture? Surely you can see there is an angry God, killing God, threatening God, etc. This is where the story of Job comes in, and what it was trying to say, and what it tells us about the ancient Hebrew way of life…

The Defeat

ImageA year has passed since Samuel was placed in the dungeons. He’s thin and sickly, he’s not sure he will live much longer considering the lack of proper nutrition. None of that matters now though, he holds a copy of something which has killed him already; his story has changed.

Who could do such a thing? Why doesn’t anyone see what they have done? They left my tale of defiance and questioning, but they added these book ends which nullify the entire purpose of what I wrote! What is this great whirlwind? God is not some angry demanding storm to force His children this way and that. And what is this about not questioning the Lord? This is what David knew all along, that we must question God, we were created to be like Him, which means we have the right to question good and evil as we perceive it. Does any good parent hate when their child begins to think and question on their own? Or do they rejoice and praise their child for thinking freely and find hope for their child’s future in those words? How much more so with our heavenly Father?

With this one alteration the temple has won. People will continue to believe that physical wealth and well-being are related to blessing. The poor will go on being trampled on and forgotten.

Oh Father, you must send someone stronger than me who can show them the way. I have done what I thought right, but they have simply rejected me as they reject all prophets who speak your true word. Send someone who will show that kindness and love is who you are, that anger and hatred are propaganda and perception. Show them that we were meant to be in relationship with you, not slaves to you. Send someone who will show them the good parent, the good Father that you are, and who can represent what a caring and responsive child looks like.

They have not listened to me, but they will listen if you tell them, I just know it.

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Crying himself to sleep, the author of Job was forgotten and lost from history, but his story remains. His story, but not as it was originally written. It continues to be undermined by the additions made to it. No one questions the ancient perspective of retribution, because they have the whirlwind of God to hold them back from it. It has become accepted by many scholars that Job was written in protest to retributive theology, but due to the later additions of the first and last chapters, represents the opposite of the message held between those two chapters.

Who are we to question Him? We are not the creators of the universe. We are not the all-powerful, all-knowing God. We are simply His beloved children. Chosen by Him to be loved by Him, and to live and die exemplifying His love for us. We are simply His creations, gifted with all that He desired for us, with the capacity for both great good and great evil. We are simply human, strong and soft, right and wrong, loving and afraid to love. We are perfectly imperfect, just as He made us, just as He loves us, just as he wants us to be, and just as He wants us to choose; to choose love, life, kindness, goodness, and simplicity. He wants us to choose Him, but He won’t make us. He won’t yell at us, or threaten us, or add insult to injury. We do that enough for ourselves. Let us remember that God is love.

The Controversy

ImageIt’s been so lonely without Aliza. I should never have let her go. I just got so caught up in the moment, and she kept indicating that I had done something, like she didn’t trust me, I just wanted to show her for betraying me like that.

One month has passed since our author began discretely leaving copies of his narrative around town for people to pick up and read. The whole city was in an uproar. The temple responded exactly as he had expected, they immediately declared the writing unclean. Religious police have been trying to go door to door to pick up copies to burn, but they haven’t been able to stifle the response.

It has been the poor mostly, those who have been the victims of retributive theology. The rich and comfortable can be happy with it, because their ruthless ways keep them rich and happy, which according to retribution means they must be pious and good people, coincidental to say the least. The poor though, they know the truth when they see it, because they are like me! They haven’t done anything wrong, but they are kicked and ridiculed for it, while the so called “righteous” take our measly earnings and land to reinforce their own holiness. It’s disgusting!

Suddenly there is loud banging on the door.

“Open up by order of the king of Jerusalem!”

Oh God! They’ve found me at last! Just stay calm, you don’t know that, they could just want more taxes.

“Coming!”

Opening the door, he sees two members of the religious police, as well as a Pharisee. The religious police speak first,

“Sir, is your name Job?”

“What? No! My name is Samuel, I have never heard of this, ‘Job’ person.”

The two officers share a look of skepticism before stepping across the threshold.

“Sir, you are under arrest for treason against the temple.”

“What!? What are you doing! Let go of me! I haven’t done anything wrong! It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you all along.”

“Tell it to the judge, pal”

“No! Don’t you see how far we’ve strayed from God? You’re more upset about offending the temple than you are of offending God! We have to change our ways! We have to repent and renew our loving relationship with Him before it’s too late!”

“Sir, making threats isn’t helping your case.”

“Oh bother, you’ll never understand… We are all doomed…”

At least my work is out there. It will make a difference. I have friends, supporters; they’ll get it to the countryside where the city will never find it. It will last, I know it. My message will get through to future generations! It’s done. What happens to me now doesn’t matter…

The Seed of Rebellion

Image“I just can’t take it anymore Aliza, I haven’t done anything wrong and they know it.”

“But honey, you must have, you know that’s the way God works. He doesn’t punish us unless we’ve done something wrong. If we have faith, He will be faithful to us.”

“What are you talking about? You’ve been with me! You know I love God and have done nothing that would displease Him!”

“Well I haven’t been with you all the time, so clearly during one of those times you must have done something.”

“No! Stop! I won’t listen to this from you too, of all people, my beloved. I know plenty of good people whose children have died of sickness, and God Himself knows there are horrible men who live up on the hill closer to the temple doors! I mean, they spit at us!”

“I know, but they have a right to because they are more beloved by God than us, that’s what the temple teaches, that’s what our history teaches us.”

“No! I refuse to believe it! I’ve tolerated it up until now because I had no reason to doubt it, or more like it never affected me directly, but I won’t stand for it anymore, I’m going to prove it to them if it’s the last thing I do.

“Now, it can’t be simply me ranting and raving at the city gates, the people in power would just throw me in jail for being a false prophet.”

“Wait… now you’re a prophet!? Honey, what has gotten into you? Just listen to yourself! This is crazy, just go to the temple and sacrifice some doves for forgiveness…”

“Forgiveness!? Forgiveness for what!? I. Haven’t. Done. Anything. Wrong. This is what I’ve been trying to tell you. Why won’t you believe me? No, I have to do something, I have to prove that I’m innocent, and I have to convince everyone that this whole system of good deeds and bad deeds just isn’t realistic. I know it’s what our ancestors taught us, but how long can we hold onto something that is simply, and blatantly, wrong?”

“But it’s not wrong, they always discover something in the person’s life to justify why God punished them.”

“That’s crap and you know it. They make this stuff up. You knew Levana, she was you’re friend, do you really believe that she cheated on her husband!?”

“Well… she didn’t seem like the type, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t!”

“Ugh! Come on! I have to think of something, some way to change the way people view God or we are all going to end up in exile or worse!”

“Oh, so now you do believe that if we don’t follow your understanding of God, something bad will happen!?”

“No… well that is how I meant it, but dangit it’s so hard to stop thinking that way. What I mean is that we must be falling further and further from God, because I refuse to believe this is how He acts toward us, His beloved children.

“No, no, no… I need something… something big enough to turn heads, but not so easy to track to me, or to get rid of…

“Wait… I think I have something… I’ll write something, it’ll be perfect. No one will know who wrote it, so they can’t just get rid of it, and if I make enough copies of it, they won’t be able to suppress them all. Yes!”

“WHAT!? Do you have any idea how expensive writing is? The parchment alone would cost us a week’s worth of food!? I swear if you do this I’m leaving you, I’ll go live with mother; this is insane. You sinned, just admit it, and don’t ruin our lives!”

“My life is already ruined! According to the temple God hates me for something I didn’t do! What could be worse than that!?”

“AARGH!! I give up! Do what you want, squander our livelihood! But don’t bring me down with you! I’m out of here!”

“Fine! Whatever, it won’t matter in the end anyway. Once she reads it, once everyone sees the truth they’ll all come back apologizing to me. Now, I have to find someone who can write and who won’t just run to the temple and snitch on me…”

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­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­It’s a little known fact that the Jewish theological concept of retributive justice was ever questioned. It’s more commonly known today as “the prosperity gospel” as it focuses more on the rewards of behaving, rather than on the punishments of misbehaving. The writer of Job wrote it in protest against such theology, hoping to change forever the way that the world viewed God, but it didn’t have quite the impact they were hoping for. People today still hold it, but they stopped reading the Old Testament through its lense. It makes all the difference, and it allows us to reconcile the seeming contradictions between the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the God of Jesus Christ. Simply wait and see.

Unconditional means Unconditional

ImageThe entire encounter took place in about three seconds, but to Cain, it could have been an eternity.

First, a blinding light forced him to close his eyes. He felt like he was sinking into the ground, which he was, because he had fallen to his knees.

The first thing he heard that helped him realize what was happening was a tiny voice in his heart that said, “I love you, my son.”

When Cain opened his eyes, he was at the top of a magnificent ziggurat. Up so high that when he looked out he could see the entirety of the land. His feet were actually upon the topmost step, with only the pinnacle available before him. Upon that pinnacle there was a throne made of jade, and sitting upon that jade throne, a man in golden armor. The man… was crying.

I’m so sorry Cain. I have been with you since before you were born, and I have waited so long for the day that you would open your heart to me, release it from your bitterness.

“Where am I? Who are you?”

Do I really need to answer that?

“Are you… you can’t be… why would you…?”

Yes, I can, and because I love you.

“How can you love me? I am full of hatred, of murder… Oh… I killed my brother!”

If you were truly filled with hatred, you would not be here, my son. You opened your heart to me when you felt remorse for what you had done. It is the first step to repentance.

“No! No, you can’t love me. I am too horrible! I am wicked! From birth I have hated, I have been nothing but evil. It is my nature to be evil!”

CAIN! Who are you to know your own nature? Did you place your soul within your body? Did you lovingly craft every cell of flesh, every inclination, and every curious neuron? It was I, who made you Cain, and it was I who gave you your nature, and I know… it is not evil.

Shaking his head in confusion from the barrage of words unknown to him, Cain grasps the last sentence. “How could it not be? Look what I have done?”

What you have done, my son, is a most disturbing act, a desecration of all that I value and hope for in humanity. However, no matter how evil your actions, I will always love you. It was I who allowed you to choose to walk the path of darkness, and it was I who created a universe where darkness could exist. It was I who created humanity so fragile that it could be taken away by so many things. My reasons for these things are great and beyond what you could possibly comprehend. All you need to know is; I love you. I do not hate you for what you have done. I weep for you, for your dark path. Turn back to me, my son, follow my ways and you will be happy again.

“No! I could never be happy again. I have betrayed you, my family, and myself. I don’t deserve your love! I deserve to die as a punishment for my actions!”

The light began to fade then, as Cain pulled away from his creator.

Son, you don’t have to do this. I could never hate you. Abel is with me, he only hopes for your salvation from this, just as I do. He understands you now, and he does not hate you either. Don’t do this to yourself.

“It’s too late… You may love me, but I can’t…”

As the light fades completely to black, Cain sees one last movement from the man atop the pinnacle, his head falls into his hands, and he weeps.

After Cain awoke from blacking out, he broke from the eyes and arms of his family and ran back to his dwelling, collected his things, and left. Now that he knew that Abel had been right all along about “Being”, he only felt more hatred toward himself. The blood that he had spilled that day cried out to him, mocking him, taunting him, reminding him of his betrayal.

Cain walked away from home without looking back and with only one thought on his mind. He would find someone out there who could do what he didn’t have the strength to do, no matter how much he hated himself… kill him. He both feared and sought death. He knew there were others out there like him; men who found pleasure in death. That is where he belonged. With the cursed, those cursed by blood.

But no matter where he went, he would never forget that man, and how he wept for him, and how he said, “I love you”.

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The story of Cain and Abel has long been used to show God’s favoritism. Indeed, the scholarly opinion would suggest that the story was born as a method for alienating foreigners that the Hebrew people did not want to trust, or who they wanted to kill.

What I hear when I read the story is the beginning of something completely different; the beginning of mankind believing themselves to be fallen, broken, miserable creatures. Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we sin. Yes, we spit at God.

However, unconditional means unconditional. There is nothing you can do to separate yourself from the love of our Father. God made us as we are, creatures capable of love and hate.

The thought that God would create a people, perfect only to fall and live thousands of years in the shadow of what they might have been, is cruel and sadistic and unlike a God of love.

We are the source of sin. We are the source of hate. We are the separation that exists between God and us. We are the love. We are the light. We are the hope for a brighter and more loving future. We are neither demons nor angels. We simply are what God made us. Perfectly imperfect.

The Deed

ImageIt had been six months since Cain first felt the thrill of control over another creature, but it hadn’t been his last.

He found excuses now to wander to the field, hoping to find an intruder, or to take a walk to the river to get water, hoping to see a critter moving so he might end its movement. Cain still knew that killing was wrong, but he also felt that he didn’t have control over anything else in his life.

To top everything off that’s gone wrong lately, that stupid brother of mine is getting married tomorrow! There isn’t anything good that will come of it, he isn’t even leaving home. He and Dad have been planning for weeks on what their new shelter is going to look like, but didn’t anyone ask me if I wanted to help? No! They wouldn’t want me interfering with their precious “father son time”.

And now I have to harvest my precious vegetables for a sacrifice to praise ‘Being’ on their wedding. I don’t give two craps about ‘Being’ or Abel’s wedding, why should I have to sacrifice my hard work for them?

It was that evening, as the sun was setting, that the ceremony was to take place. Cain had placed his least favorite, but not noticeably horrible, vegetables on his alter as Abel placed his largest lamb, tied and helpless, upon his own. It was then that Cain realized something horrible.

He’s… He’s going to kill that lamb! No! The thrill of taking life was all I had! The only thing that I didn’t have to share with anyone! Who is making him do this?

His agitation increased as Adam declared that it had been his idea to sacrifice a gift offering to ‘Being’. “How best to show our love for ‘Being’ than to give up that which we hold most dear?”

They were to act simultaneously, Cain burning his offering, Abel slitting the throat of his. However, the frenzy building inside Cain blinded him to any reality. As he lit his altar, he glanced over at his brother, who had a look on his face that to Cain could only be interpreted as rapture.

Nooooo!!! I want something for myself for once! Why ‘Being’!? Why do you hate me!? Why do you give Abel everything!? I won’t stand for it! I will be the only one who knows what it is to kill! And the only way for that to be true… is to… is to…

A fire rose from Cain’s feet, rapidly building through his legs, into his chest where his heart was bounding, flooding out to his hands that itched to do something, and finally into his head which felt as though it were melting, he couldn’t hear anything but the roaring of his own blood. He couldn’t see anything but a red haze around his brother, and he knew it was ‘Being’ accepting Abel’s offering, and spurning his own. In the blink of an eye, Cain acted. He lifted one of the heavy stones, left over from building the alters, and threw it at his brother’s head.

It took a few seconds for the fire to burn itself out, to begin to hear again, to see again, and to comprehend. His parents and his future sister in law had never seen anything to heinous, never even considered that something like this were possible.

As for Cain, he couldn’t take his eyes off of his brother’s bloody body. Half of him was expecting the rush of satisfaction, of control, of power to surge through him as it had done so many times before when he had killed, and it did come… but there was also something else. Cain had never killed a human, a person who was so like him, a being with feelings, with emotions, with whom Cain shared a past. Cain felt for the first time in his life… remorse.

It was as the remorse that quickly overwhelmed the power. Realization, guilt, and fear buzzed into his brain. Tears began to well into his eyes.

It was then, in the seconds as he felt remorse, as it buzzed in his mind, that the most miraculous and beautiful even occurred in Cain’s life. He met ‘Being’…