St. John on Cain and Abel

Beloved, this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another, unlike Cain who belonged to the Evil One and slaughtered his brother. (I John 3:11)

Sin entered the world shortly after the creation. Immediately sin began to have its effect. We began to kill each other in the first generation.

Why did Cain kill Abel? Because he hated him.

Why did Cain hate Abel? Abel had done Cain no wrong. Except:

Abel pleased God with the sweet-smelling sacrifice of his own humble righteousness. Abel lived in peace, loving God and his brother. His simple heart beat evenly, without any disordered desire. Abel wanted nothing but to please God. From this, the quiet joy of his soul flowed out.

Cain lived in fear. He did not have the sweet-smelling sacrifice of his own righteousness to offer.

He had made compromises with the uprightness of his soul. Cain wanted to please God, but he also wanted to please himself. So he did not offer the best of what he had.

With Abel standing next to him, Cain faced a choice. Either do violence to myself, discipline my desires so as to give God my whole heart. Or do violence to the one who makes me look bad.

Now, the second option obviously makes no sense. What could make Cain look worse than killing his righteous brother? A sinner cannot expunge goodness from the face of the earth so as to stop looking bad by comparison. As the Lord said, “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”

But that’s the thing. Sin doesn’t make sense.

That is, it always makes perfect sense from the limited and benighted point-of-view of the sinner. But the lies of the Great Seducer have obscured the simple truth from that particular point-of-view, replacing calm and reasonable honesty with the chaos of self-justifying passion and pride.

The hardest work in the world, the labor of our lives from the first dawnings of consciousness to our final breath, is this: To keep our eyes on the truth.

The way we came to know love was that He laid down His life for us. (I John 3:16)

Truth. Love. Crucified God.

Let’s keep our eyes on this, and then we will be able to see everything else.

One thought on “St. John on Cain and Abel

  1. Father Mark,

    Given the history of Adam & Eve’s family, we’d best hope that “Truth. Love. Crucified God” is “the way, the truth and the life.” [John 14:6]. There may be a chance for me yet.



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