Genesis 4:9-10, 13-14 | Romans 5:8-9

Justice must be served! (Just go easy on me, please.)

When someone wrongs you, you want justice. You want it to be swift, sure, and even severe. “Let there be no question that what you did was wrong!” your heart screams.

But what about when you wrong someone else? Do you want the same thing? 

Consider the case of Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve. This guy killed his little brother because he was jealous.

Afterward the Lord asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?” 

“I don’t know,” Cain responded. “Am I my brother’s guardian?” 

But the Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!

Genesis 4:9-10 NLT

Cain gave God a pretty smug answer as he pretended not to know what happened. But God can’t be fooled. And Abel’s blood–perhaps his soul–was crying out for justice. 

That’s a pretty clear-cut case, isn’t it? Our minds shout, “Drop the hammer on him, God!” But the Lord was merciful to Cain. Instead of striking him down on the spot, He stripped him of his career as a farmer and cursed him to walk the earth as a homeless wanderer.

Despite the fact that his punishment could have been worse, Cain did not take his sentence well.

Cain replied to the Lord, “My punishment is too great for me to bear! You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!”

Genesis 4:13-14 NLT

Cain is worried about being murdered…when he didn’t hesitate to murder his own brother! (Seriously?!) And God, merciful as ever, didn’t make fun of him or call him a hypocrite. He gave Cain a mark to warn people not to mess with him.

Honestly, this is not a very satisfying story… Cain kills his brother in cold blood and his punishment is losing his job and his home. And to make matters worse, he enjoys God’s protection as a result. Where is the part where he is swiftly cast into the fiery pit of eternal suffering?

On the other hand, aren’t we all a bit like Cain? He did the crime, but got kind of whiny when it came time for justice. And isn’t God great? He isn’t fooled by lies, and he is merciful, even when dishing out justice.

If you think about it that way, the story gets a lot better.

But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.

Romans 5:8-9 NLT

If this is the kind of mercy God shows us–and even the worst sinners–what kind of mercy should we show others?

Questions for Group Discussion

  • When was the last time you faced punishment for something you did? What were your thoughts about mercy in that situation?
  • Is it possible to show too much mercy? Can you throw off the balance between justice and mercy by being too lenient?
  • Is God always merciful, even when pouring out his wrath? Support your answer(s) with scripture.

Application: Picture of Mercy

“Show me, don’t tell me.” That’s what we’re doing here.

Use whatever 2D creative medium you prefer (paper/electronic, watercolors, decoupage, etc.) to make a picture of the last time you were shown mercy in a matter of justice. As you do, keep the following points in mind:

  • Don’t be too literal. Leaving room for interpretation will make your piece more relatable.
  • Use an actual event (not one you made up) that happened to you personally. This may require some mental effort to recall, but it will pay off in making your art more personal and impactful–even if only to you.
  • Have fun! Don’t stress about this one.