A while ago, I was driving and glanced at a bumper sticker that caught my attention. It read...
OPPOSITES ATTRACT...THEN DRIVE EACH OTHER CRAZY!
I had a good laugh and it stuck in my mind permanently. There's so much truth to it! Let's take a look at a story in the Bible that says the same thing, and what we can do about it.
In the book of Genesis, the stories there often work on more than one level. Often, a story in the Bible about people from ancient times was ALSO intended to be about THE READER of the story. For instance, even though the story of Cain and Abel never states it's a twin story, it's meant to be understood as one. The story is, of course, about Cain and Abel. But it's also about each one of us. About the twins that live inside us. Kinda like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story. Cain and Abel represent what happens to OPPOSITES inside each one of us.
You may remember how, in the story, Cain killed his brother...
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.
What the author is saying here is that when opposites are inside a human being, we go TOWARD one opposite (the one we like best, our Cain), and then that Cain within us destroys the other opposite (the opposite we don't like as much, our Abel). So how does this work in life? Let's look at the question (again), "Who Wrote The Bible: God or Man?"
[If you've never read my blog post, "Who Wrote The Bible: God or Man?" click below to read it now.]
When we are faced with a set of opposites, as we are in the question, "Who wrote the Bible: God or man?" it's human nature to split those opposites (God:man) apart, go toward one, and try to destroy the other. What you'll see in society, in any church, at the Harvard School of Theology, and many times inside of ourselves, is that people have decided on one "right" answer, and then done what they could to get rid of the other opposite (their "Cain" has destroyed their "Abel").
When someone decides that "God" is the correct answer to "Who wrote the Bible?" they are perfectly correct. But they only have half the answer. (We call these people Fundamentalists.) This group of people is at great danger of deception because they are ignoring almost all of what modern Bible scholarship has uncovered about the meaning of the Bible. They are left only with what they can figure out by reading a King James Version Bible on their own. Which means they may believe the Bible says one thing, and it may mean something entirely different! A dangerous place to be.
When someone decides that "man" is the correct answer to "Who wrote the Bible?" they are perfectly correct. But they only have half the answer. (We call these people Bible scholars.) This group of people is at great danger of deception because they are ignoring the power of the Bible, which comes from the God who inspired it. They are left with great knowledge about the background and meaning of the Bible, but can be entirely without faith, entirely without guidance from the Holy Spirit! A dangerous place to be.
Here's the Biblical principle, that is being portrayed in the story of Cain and Abel:
WHEN FACED WITH A SET OF OPPOSITES, HUMAN NATURE WILL GO TOWARD ONE OPPOSITE, AND TRY TO ANNIHILATE THE OTHER OPPOSITE.
This is what Cain did, he destroyed his opposite, his twin. And that's what we do with opposites inside of us, go toward one, and try to destroy the other.
The Bible states that the answer is to see how BOTH OPPOSITES ARE TRUE. The Lord's answer to Cain was that the blood of Abel (the opposite he tried to destroy) cried out from the ground. Cain's opposite cried out to be fully seen, acknowledged, felt, LOVED, even though Cain had done his best to destroy him.
Throughout the Bible, wherever the presence of the Holy Spirit is, OPPOSITES COME TOGETHER. Just as the Lord called on Cain to acknowledge his opposite, Abel, the Spirit beckons us to listen and truly hear the opposite side of the story on these issues.
It can be kind of disturbing to find that we need people who are the opposite of us in order to have a balanced view of an issue. The Bible scholar needs to learn about faith from the fundamentalist. And the fundamentalist needs to learn the background of the Bible from the Bible scholar. But when we understand that the Bible is telling us that, "love one another" means loving not just those who are like us, but those who are different, and even opposite from us, it will bring the people on two sides of an issue TOGETHER rather than them driving each other crazy.
Which is exactly what the Apostle John was saying...
For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not be like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother.
1 John 3:11,12a
Yours In Christ,
[Note: In this blog post we're looking at the symbolic meaning of the Cain and Abel story. This in no way means that the story is not a literal one as well. In the Bible, the opposites literal:symbolic come together. We don't split them apart and try to figure out which one is correct. They are BOTH true.
The authors of the Bible chose true stories from the past that had symbolic meanings they wanted to convey. The author of Genesis was telling the story of where the Hebrew people came from, and how they'd gotten themselves into the crisis they found themselves in when he was writing. The author was using this story because on BOTH literal and symbolic levels, it gave an answer to the question for the Hebrew people of the time, "How did we get into this mess?"]
[Another Note: If you want to know more about symbols in the Bible, and how to interpret them, you can ask us for John McCaull's study, "How To Read a Symbol" which uses the poetry of Robert Frost to demonstrate the use of symbols in the Bible.
"If you can understand what poetry is, no simple narrative will exist, for the simple meaning lying on the surface of the story is not the only meaning or even the primary meaning." - John McCaull, from the study, "How To Read A Symbol"]
"The First Mourning" by William-Adolphe Bourgereau, 1888
Adam and Eve mourn the death of Abel.