Robert Aaron Long, Shame, and the Sin of Cain

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God had spoken. The sacrifice of the younger brother Abel was respected by God, but God gave no regard to Cain’s sacrifice. Shame and anger arose in the heart of Cain, contemplating the fact that there was something about him and the state of his heart, and by extension his sacrifice, that was not affirmed by God. Loving Cain, God confronted him with an opportunity to reconcile, to repent concerning the fallen condition of his heart. God even warned him that more tragic actions were coming if he did not address this anger and shame. But instead of dealing with the demons in his own heart, Cain found the person that was a direct reminder of his sin and shame, and he murdered Abel. He murdered his brother to temporarily satisfy a desire to cover his shame, and in so doing he only brought more upon himself. When confronted by God again, instead of repenting of his great sin, he lied and then implored God to see him as a victim. But Cain’s blood was crying out from the ground.

The blood of the women and man murdered in Georgia on March 16th is crying out from the cracks in the Atlanta cement. Robert Aaron Long was reported as confessing that the motivation of his killing spree was to eliminate the source of his temptation. The sources of our temptation are often directly related to our shame, and from the sound of it, Long was deeply affected by shame that was attached to his sexual addiction. Long was aware of God’s boundaries for sexuality and his roommate at a rehab center reported that Long was grieved by his violations of God’s moral standards for sexuality. But instead of continuing down that long road of repentance and recovery, of consistently confessing his sin and settling into the grace offered through Christ, Long went and tried to temporarily cover over his shame, by killing those that he believed to be complicit in his temptation. Long ignored the voice of God warning him that “sin is crouching at your door.”

As is often the case, some will blame God for this, or at least some version of Christianity. There will be those that seek to cancel both the restricting sexual boundaries that God has handed down to us and the very idea of shame. The tragic flaw in their efforts will be the fact that you can’t erase moral truth from the fabric of reality, and you can’t erase the experience of shame in the fallen human condition. The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that God’s character and nature confront all of us in our state of rebelliousness. Every conscious human who lives long enough to develop a reflective mind is confronted by God’s presence in creation and is also confronted by the brokenness of their own sinful nature. Shame is the natural result of this state of being. There is only one cure for this shameful state, and that is the gracious arms of God reaching out to us in our depravity and brokenness. Long had heard of this grace, but he listened instead to his desire to handle shame on his own terms. Shame cannot be handled on our own terms. We might silence it for a moment; covering it up with further unrighteousness of some sort or another. We might seek to wish it into nothingness, suggesting that it is an outlived evolutionary response to feeling disgust with our bodily condition or the frustration that comes with not getting our way as a baby, but to play this game with ourselves would compound our shame in the end.

Sin is crouching at all of our doors. If we have not accepted the sacrifice that Christ has made of himself on our behalf and do not keep the gracious forgiving heart of God in view, shame will be a constant bedfellow, whether repressed or acknowledged. Is there tremendous danger in seeking to handle shame on our own terms? Yes…..tragically so.

Let us lift up grieving hearts to God for the hurting communities affected by these murders and shootings in the Atlanta region.

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