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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Moving away

Genesis 4:16 could be a summary of what humanity has been doing throughout history. It says that Cain went away from the presence of the Lord.

Cain has received judgment for the sin of killing his brother. His violence, which grows out of his self-centeredness, has uprooted him from every stability, every life-giving relationship. He has become a wanderer on the earth, yet God has marked him in some mysterious way to protect him from the violence of others. But now, Cain moves away from the presence of the Lord.

This is our natural tendency, our "normal" drift. We wander away like sheep (Isaiah 53:6) -- not in a headlong rush toward self-destruction, but grazing a little here and a little there, drifting from one appealing bit of grass to another until we are separated from the Shepherd and wandering dangerously close to the edge of the precipice. When things are good and peaceful and things seem okay, we wander off like Cain, away from the presence of the Lord.

The next few verses tell us that Cain built a city, which he named for his son Enoch. This is not the Enoch we'll meet later who is descended from Seth, who "walked with God". That story comes a bit later. But Cain, true to his name ("Cain" means "productive") is a builder, building up a city. He's busy with his efforts and his work.

I heard once at a leadership seminar a description of the difference between managers and leaders. If you have an expedition going through the jungle, managers are coordinating schedules, making sure the road gets built straight and level, scheduling shifts so that the workers get the maximum possible road-building done each day. Leaders are climbing the mountain miles ahead of the group, using binoculars and taking sightings and filling in the blank spaces on the map. The problem between the two occurs when the leader comes back and tells the group, "This is the wrong jungle!" The managers, at this point, are prone to say, "Don't tell us that -- we're making good progress here!"

Cain is like a good manager. He's building stuff, getting a lot done. But he has moved away from the presence of the Lord. He's working in the wrong jungle.

How often do we miss the fact that we're working in the wrong arena, that the big questions of life are being answered in the wrong way, because we're focused on the fact that we're making good progress? This is the road to hell. It is not a road for axe-murderers and psychopaths; they already live in hell, to some extent. No, this road -- what Jesus described as a broad road with wide gates -- is the road so many of us travel, constantly monitoring our speed and gas mileage without ever thinking about our final destination.

It's a bit of a chilling thought, isn't it?

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