Summary: If you want to create an oasis of love in a hostile world, don’t hate like Cain. Instead, love like Christ – give yourself with concrete compassion.
For a little while on a Wednesday afternoon two years ago (July 2017), customers at an ATM in Corpus Christi, Texas, got a curious extra with their cash. Along with a receipt detailing their transaction, they got a little hand-written note.
A contractor had been installing a new lock on the service room of a Bank of America ATM. Trouble is, the man left his phone in his truck. So when the door closed behind him and got stuck, he had no one to call and no way to make his voice heard intelligibly through the machine.
The trapped man did have paper and pen, however.
“So people are coming by and using the ATM machine because it's still operational,” a local police officer explained, “and he's slipping notes through the ATM, through where you would get your receipt.”
“Please help,” one note read. “I'm stuck in here and I don't have my phone. Please call my boss.”
Customer after customer assumed — quite understandably — that the notes had to be a prank.
Eventually, a good Samaritan took the situation seriously and contacted the cops. However, the officers first on the scene thought it was a prank, too.
One of the officers said, “We come out here, and sure enough, we can hear a little voice coming from the machine. So we're all thinking this is a joke — this has got to be a joke.”
But after passing some shouts back and forth, the officers went around and busted down the problematic door. And because no crime was committed, the man was not only free, but he also was free to go. (Colin Dwyer, “Texas Police Make Odd Withdrawal from ATM: A Man Who Was Trapped Inside,” NPR: The Two-Way, 7-13-17; www.PreachingToday.com)
That story describes the condition of so many people in our world. They’re trapped and crying out for help, but they’re not taken seriously.
However, you can provide an oasis of love for people like that. You can be the “Good Samaritan” that God uses to set people free. Do you want to know how? Then turn with me in your Bibles to 1 John 3, 1 John 3, where God’s Word shows us how.
1 John 3:11 For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (ESV)
Love is foundational to the Christian faith.
1 John 3:12 We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. (ESV)
Cain was the first murderer in the Bible (Genesis 4). He killed his brother, Abel, because Abel brought a better sacrifice than he. (Let me tell you: the worship wars go way back!) Genesis 4 says Abel came to worship with “the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” In other words, Abel came with the best that he had. Cain came to worship with some fruit that he had picked up off the ground. Well, as you can imagine, God accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s, and that made Cain mad. He was jealous, and that jealousy drove him to murder.
There are a lot of things that make people mad. Sometimes, it’s your own guilt in the face of someone whose actions show yours to be substandard – like Cain. Or sometimes, the anger seems justified, because you have been truly wronged. In either case, God warns...
DON’T HATE LIKE CAIN.
Don’t let your anger drive you to murderous thoughts and deeds. Don’t let your anger give Satan an opportunity to wreak havoc in your life and relationships.
1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. (ESV)
To be sure, people will hate you, but don’t respond in kind. Don’t act in hatred like Cain. Don’t let your anger become destructive.
Joanne Hunter of Presque Island, Maine, talks about her two grandsons when they had discovered a new word to use when upset with each other. Their mother was shopping with them when suddenly they became angry with each other. “I hate you!” and “I hate you, too!” they yelled back and forth.
“That's not very nice,” their mother said. “I'm certainly not going to take two little boys who hate each other to McDonald's for lunch.”
Five-year-old Jamie quickly backed down. “I don't really hate you, Billy.”
But Billy, with the clear logic of a 3-year-old, responded, “I still hate you! I'm not hungry.” (Joanne H. Hunter, Presque Island, ME, Christian Reader, “Lite Fare;” www.PreachingToday.com)
We laugh at that, but it’s very serious. To hang on to your hate can be very destructive.
So don’t act in hatred like Cain, and.. don’t live in hatred like Cain, as well. Don’t dwell in an atmosphere of animosity and death.