Category Archives: Worship
Keep Yourself in the Love of God: The Epistle of Jude (please excuse my coughing fit — I know it's distracting)
After the devastating deception, God promised Eve that although the accuser, satan, would continue to strike at the heel, her offspring, her seed, would crush the serpent’s head. (Genesis 3:15) She quite understandably assumed that when she gave birth to her son Cain, that prophecy would be fulfilled through him. She exalted joyously. (Genesis 4:1) Later, when Abel was born, the scripture simply states the fact. No big deal.
Subsequently, Cain must have grown up feeling pretty special. He was the one who would set this mess straight. So, as an adult, he seems to have reasoned that since his parents offended the Creator by stealing fruit, he would set things to rights by returning fruit to YHWH. Hence, his offering.
Religion was born – not the true religion of spreading God’s shalom to others because we love God, but human religion that substitutes pride for worship. Cain seeking to make things right between people and God by way of ritual, by way of doing something “religious.” That’s what human religion is all about – human effort through good works and ritual to get God on our side.
Abel, on the other hand, wasn’t trying to get God to do anything. Abel was simply expressing love to God with a freewill offering. It had nothing to do with blood. God never asked for blood; in fact, throughout the Bible, God makes it clear He wants nothing to do with blood sacrifices. (See Psalm 40:6; 51:16; Hosea 6:6; Hebrews 10:8, and Jesus’ words in Matthew 9:13 & 12:7.) People are perpetually misquoting Hebrews 9:22, which is talking about the Law of Moses, which has been done away with. Read the entire verse: According to the law, in fact, nearly everything must be purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.Blood sacrifices were the stuff of the pagans. God accommodated it when His people set the system up, but it was never God’s plan. Later, God in Jesus entered into that blood-sacrifice system and offered Himself, the Lamb of God, in order to once and for all do away with both the system and the sin it represented. That’s the major theme of the New Testament book of Hebrews. Abel’s act was one of pure worship. Cain’s was one of religious manipulation.
God accepted the former and rejected the latter.
And Cain turned homicidal.
Religion seeks to appease an angry god. Religion seeks to coerce humankind. Human religion is all about our efforts and knows nothing of grace. Human religion tries to align lives and societies the way we think they should be. When it doesn’t work, when it doesn’t get its way, human religion always turns violent. Witness the Crusades, Inquisition, slaughter of the radical reformer Anabaptists, genocide of Native Americans, chattel slavery, Third Reich, and wholehearted championing of politicians whose character and policies are diametrically opposite the teachings of Christ. All perpetrated by very religious “Christians.”
The understanding of the atonement that portrays God as filled with wrath towards humankind that can only be appeased by being vented on an innocent Being, His Son, misrepresents the cross and misunderstands the heart of the Triune God who so loved the world He sent His son. Jesus is God. God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one. Jesus is exactly like the Father. God the Father is exactly like Jesus. There is nothing unchristlike in God. Jesus said God doesn’t want blood sacrifice. God wants us to spread justice and mercy, kindness and forgiveness, towards others. We need do nothing to appease God. God is not angry. God’s wrath, properly understood, is the outworking of the consequences of the misuse of freedom, both human and angelic. Jesus’ death on the cross removed sin. Sin is off the table. As far as east is from west. Cast into the deepest sea. Forgiven, forgotten, gone forever, never to be even remembered by God.
God desires justice and mercy towards others. What does God desire toward Self?
Love. Simply love. Freely given. Expressed from a grateful heart. That is worship. That’s what Abel brought.