“So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?'”   Genesis 4:6

“When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath.”  Esther 3:5

“But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”  Matthew 5:39

We must start out with a very basic truth.  He, in the Persons of Our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are perfect.  We, none of us, is perfect.  Thus it is our imperfections that will often lead us into times of being reproved as well as conflict.  It is how we respond to those times that will make all the difference.

I confess, to my human, earthly understanding, the story of Cain has its difficulties.  If you remember from Genesis, Cain and his brother Abel bring their offerings to God.  Scripture tells us that Cain, the first born, was a tiller of the soil, while his brother Abel, watched over the flocks.  Cain brings an offering of fruit.  Abel brings an offering of a lamb.  Depending on the translation of scripture, here’s what is said about God’s response to Cain’s offering, it was:  not respected, not accepted, not looked on with favor, etc.  This action from God makes Cain angry.  What was Cain’s ultimate response to God’s action; to kill his brother Abel!  Here’s the thing to remember; God is perfect.  We are not told why God did not respect or accept Cain’s offering.  We do know that God, in that moment was not rejecting Cain, himself.  How do we know that?  God sees Cain’s anger and asks him why he is angry?  Why has his demeanor and behavior become downcast and forlorn?  God still cared about Cain.  God still loved Cain.

There is also the human side of disrespect or rejection.  In the times of the Jewish exile to Babylon, and even greater empire came and conquered Babylon.  The ruler of the Persian empire at this time is a King named Ahasuerus.  This king promotes one of the princes named Haman to be above all other princes.  There is also a lessor man, a servant in the king’s house, who had saved the king from a plot against him.  That man was a Jew named Mordecai.  As one might expect, Haman’s promotion brought him a certain amount of respect from the other princes and people around the king.  They would bow and pay homage to Haman when he passed by.  However, Mordecai did neither of those things toward Haman.  Scripture does not give us an indication that Mordecai went out of his way to show disrespect toward Haman.  In fact Haman did not notice Mordecai’s behavior himself.  No, it only comes to Haman’s attention when he is told by someone else.  But, once it comes to Haman’s attention, he is enraged.  Yet Haman doesn’t just plan to take revenge against Mordecai or maybe Mordecai’s family at this perceived offense.  Haman decides he is going to wipe out the entire Jewish population from the entire kingdom of Persia because of what one man, Mordecai has done!

Herein lies the lesson of these two incidents.  One is a rebuke from the perfect God Almighty.  The other is a perceived insult where none was intended.  Yet it is the response to these situations that leads to such significant tragedy for the figures involved.  For Cain’s response was not to humble himself and inquire of God as to the inadequacy of the offering given.  Cain decided to become angry.  Cain seem to realize he had no recourse against God Almighty so he decided, in his anger to murder his brother instead.  This murder leads to Cain being banished from his family, forced into exile.  For Haman the consequences of his response are even worse.  Haman, in his evil anger plots to destroy all the Jews, not knowing that the king’s favorite queen, Queen Esther is a Jew.  When Haman’s evil plot is uncovered, the king has him hanged on the very gallows that he had planned to have Mordecai hanged on.

Thus we see that it is in our response to situations where we find ourselves reproved by Our Heavenly Father or perhaps rejected by those of this world that makes all the difference.  So what is the appropriate response?  For the answer, we must turn to Jesus Christ.  In scripture, Jesus teaches us that Our Heavenly Father will at times prune us so that we may bear even more fruit.  We will be tempted.  There are times when we will fall short and sin.  There will be consequences for those sins.  We can either become angry and bitter.  We can lash out at those whom did not give in to temptation.  We can lash out at God Almighty.  Or, and this is the correct thing to do, we can humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness as well as guidance on what to do.  Knowing that God reproves and prunes those He dearly loves.  If we feel we’ve been slighted, rejected or disrespected by someone of this world, whether deservedly or not; Jesus teaches us that we are to turn the other cheek.  We are not to retaliate against them, but are to forgive them, knowing that we, ourselves receive much greater forgiveness from Our Heavenly Father.

Dear Sisters and Brothers we live in an age where seemingly no slight should go unchallenged, no insult should go unpunished, no disrespect go unavenged.  It is a world where breaking into line in front of another person can lead to a person taking another’s life.  Those angry responses lead to hate, division and tragedy.  God would not have it so.  Jesus Christ reminds us that even when He was bearing the biggest insult and disrespect of all; hanging on a cross, dying for our sins, He forgave us.  He loved us.  Let our response to these situations mirror Jesus Christ’s response allowing us to live lives of praise and peace to and in the Name of Our Heavenly Father.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we live in a world where slipping into conflict is as easy as taking a breath.  We confess that we, ourselves often choose to become angry and retaliate instead of being like Jesus Christ and becoming humble and forgiving.  Pour Out Your Spirit upon us that we may have the strength to overcome our anger with peace and overcome our hatred with love.  We pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen