Cain, the murdering son of Adam and Eve, by theological standards is seldom called a saint, but, in the love of God, he was still accepted and protected. How easy it would have been for him, had he acknowledged his guilt when God asked him where his brother was. He knew that he had killed Abel in a fit of jealous rage, but he compounded the act by refusing to admit it. Admitting guilt, confessing sin, acknowledging accountability – humans struggle with those concepts to this day. How easy, and how impossible for Cain, to face his own weakness and his shame. But God confronted him with it, and God forced him to confront his own act of disobedience and duplicity.
Why was Abel’s gift to God preferred over Cain’s? Both brought the best of what they had. Cain brought gifts from his garden. Abel brought gifts from his flock. In human terms, it seems unfair of God to refuse the gift from the personality of the giver.
And yet, going back to the parents’ story, perhaps God had told them what was required in terms of sacrificial blood. Plants do not bleed. Leaves do not cover sin. Could that be why Abel’s gift was received and Cain’s rejected? I do not know, but I suppose. And Cain must have known what God required of him. Perhaps his pride would not allow him to ask his brother for a lamb or goat to use for sacrifice.
The saddest part of the story for me is that Cain was banished. Why did God not take his life, in retribution for the life that he had taken? I do not know. Perhaps God wanted Cain to learn in solitude the meaning of life and relationships, so that when, at last, he died, he would be ready for the heavenly realm.
For me, the happiest part of the story is this: even in his banishment, God did not abandon Cain. He marked him, so that no one would fail to recognize him, and no one would harm him. Protection in the midst of loneliness, safety in the midst of despair, a Creator who hovers near even in the midst of our own desolation. The making of a saint on a solitary safari.