Choosing How to Respond: Leadership Lessons From the Life of Cain

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Superhero movies are fun. Who doesn’t love those Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers movies? Who doesn’t love a movie with Spiderman flying from building to building, or Thor wielding his hammer as his golden locks flow in the wind, or Batman doing…well, whatever Batman does? They are great. However great those superheros are, a key ingredient in the making of a great superhero movie is, of course, the villain. Sometimes it’s the diabolical, memorable villain that completely makes the movie. Think about all those great James Bond films – most of us remember the villain more than any other details about the story.

The truth is there is a lot to learn from the villains in these stories – and in real life. It’s through the mistakes one makes that we can learn what not to do – and that’s just as important as learning what to do. As church leaders, we would be wise to learn and be reminded of these lessons ourselves.

The first time the word for “sin” is used in the bible is in relation to that big mistake Cain made.  His story is found in Genesis 4. Cain and his brother Abel both presented offerings to God. God accepted Abel’s offering of livestock, but rejected Cain’s offering of fruits and/or vegetables.

The Scripture says this made Cain “very angry, his face was downcast.” In fact, he was so angry that it led to him killing his brother, Abel.

We can learn some important lessons from this tragedy.

Lesson #1: We can’t always control what happens to us in life – but we can choose how we ultimately respond. Will we respond in forgiveness and grace, or bitterness and jealousy?

Cain surely thought it unfair that his offering was rejected (of course it wasn’t unfair, but Cain seemed to think it was!) He clearly didn’t like God’s decision, and was deeply hurt by it. But instead of giving his disappointment up to God, he held on to hurt and soaked in rejection. Bitterness lead to jealousy. Jealousy lead to murder.

So for us, when we see that other church in town greatly prospering while ours is not, don’t let jealousy and bitterness take root. When you have been on the receiving end of some unfair situations, do not be like Cain. Instead of harboring the hurt and disappointment, surrender it to our God and Father.

Church leadership requires that we trust in God completely – no matter what happens. May we not allow pride to bring us down and make a tragic mistake. Instead, may we respond in the love and grace that only comes from our Father in heaven who loves us so.

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