Have you noticed how our society seems to be turning farther away from righteousness and into greater denial of any moral compass at all? We are less likely to label anything as right or wrong and certainly less likely to feel guilty about anything. If someone does try to make us feel guilty, we have the wonderful spiritual retort that ends all conversation: “Judge not.” Jesus said it, so no one can do it. Is this new? Have we stumbled into a spiritual abyss never before known or experienced?
The short answer is, “No.”
Let’s go back to the beginning, the first man and woman. Adam and Eve committed the sin of eating from the one prohibited tree in the world. They could’ve eaten from any of the other trees, good fruit on all of them, yet they fell for the one thing that was off limits. We’ve examined their sin in depth over the years, but I want to look specifically at their response. When you read Genesis 3:7-10 there are several things that stick out in the aftermath of sin:
1. “they knew they were naked” – Suddenly Adam and Eve had a knowledge beyond the mere facts. They had been naked, but there had been no shame. Suddenly they saw things differently, sewed fig leaves together to mask the shame they felt and hid in the bushes from God. An instant earlier, they were naked, but without shame, without sin.
2. “they hid themselves from the Lord God” – The context seems to indicate that Adam and Eve had freely walked with the Lord through the garden, enjoying creation and spending time together. Now the relationship has been broken, there is something amiss and Adam and Eve know it. They hide, not wanting to face the Lord.
3. “I was afraid because I was naked” – Had it not occurred to Adam that he had always been naked and that in fact the Lord is the one who had created him. The Lord knew what he looked like naked. This was a holy fear, Adam knew he had violated the law. His fear wasn’t because of his lack of proper garments, but because he knew his own acts were in violation of the commands of his creator.
Now contrast this response with what happens in chapter 4, only one generation later. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, out of pure jealousy commits the heinous murder of his own brother Abel. Keep in mind that this murder happened after the Lord had spoken to Cain, warning him to fend off the sin “crouching at the door.” Once the deed is done, how does Cain respond to his own sin? You can read Genesis 4:9-16 to see. Cain doesn’t hide. The Lord finds Cain without any difficult search and Cain is defiant.
1. “I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper.” This response to the simple question of “where is your brother” is a picture of defiance. Cain isn’t a seemingly innocent four year old pleading ignorance, he is a defiant adult confronted directly by the creator of the universe. His response isn’t to hide or to be ashamed, but to pose ignorance thinking or hoping his transgression will be ignored by the Lord. He has no intention of confessing to the sin, as far as he is concerned what he did was bring some justice to an unjust world. His offering was rejected for no good reason and Abel’s was accepted for no good reason. He had every right to demand satisfaction. His murderous act wasn’t against Abel as much as it was against God. Now to whom would God show favoritism?
2. “My punishment is too great” Cain’s willingness to correct the Lord as He passes judgment is amazing. Adam and Eve accepted their judgment without question. “The Lord is the creator, He established the rules, we broke the rules.” But Cain rebels against the judgment. “Who is God to make me live as a wanderer?” He even complains about being hidden from the presence of the Lord, yet Cain himself was defiant of the Lord’s word. How often today we want God, but only as we want Him, in our own convenience and acting in ways that please us.
So here we are, one generation removed from the Garden of Eden and humanity is in deep rebellion against the Lord. Man is establishing his own rules, declaring his own truth and living by his own idea of right and wrong based mostly on selfish intent. It doesn’t take us long to abandon the truth of God for our own truth, to trade relationship with the creator for selfish indulgence and to make our own desires so important that we willingly redefine the world to fit them. So we will change the definition of words like marriage or life to fit our own indulgences. We will chastise moralists who try to uphold a standard, marginalizing them by calling them judgmental bigots and extremists. We will elevate tolerance as a supreme value except when faced with the intolerant traditionalist who dares voice an opinion that calls our actions into question. An opinion, I might add, that would have been the standard belief of all the people in the world for most of world history.
As so we become the Cain Generation.