Unconditional Love

    June 1999

    "Not So," Said the Lord
    By Bob Van Domelen 
    Into the Light

    Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is more than I can bear." But the Lord said to him, "Not so." Genesis 4.13-14

    When I recently reread this story in Genesis, I found myself thinking a lot more about Cain than I had before. His crime was the murder of his brother, Abel, and when God confronted him, Cain went into a mode of denial. God asked "Where is your brother?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?" But God's answer was straight to the point. "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground." (Vs.10)

    Judgment for Cain was swift: he was banished from the land of his family and told that the very ground that soaked up his brother's blood would refuse his efforts to bring forth food. God marked Cain and said "If anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over." (Vs.15)

    God's mark didn't prevent someone from killing Cain, but there would be consequences if they did. In other words, the same free will used to kill Abel could also be used by someone else to kill Cain. 

    Sometimes when I write letters or articles, people respond and tell me that the focus is too much on me and not on my victims. I confess to feelings of self-defense at such confrontations. At the same time, I do think of my victims every day and pray for them and for the healing and good life they deserve. I cannot undo what I did, and I cannot change the lives of my victims or the consequences they have suffered because of me. I can, however, do everything in my power to become the man I was meant by God to become.

    Despite knowing the things I had done, I wasn't much different from Cain when questioned about the accusations brought to the police. "I didn't do anything. Sure I hugged him but that was all. He liked it and didn't stop me." Today I wonder how I could have ever said those things. It took years to come face to face with the depths of the damage I did to my victims, and that realization was overwhelming.

    How many of my victims went to bed each night with prayers asking for protection? How many felt betrayed by God just as they felt betrayed by me? Who heard their cry for help?

    If Cain's punishment had been immediate death for his action, I think many of us could have understood such a judgment. God was angry; He cursed Cain. But God did not kill Cain. By promising vengeance on the person who killed Cain, God remained connected to Cain. He didn't wash His hands of him. We don't know much about Cain other than he built a city and named it after his son, Enoch. We don't know of the quality of his life or of the consequences he faced because of what he had done. Finally, we don't know if he died or if someone did kill him.

    Society has been reacting to child molestation with stiffer sentences and more restrictions placed on those who are released from prison. I have little doubt that my own sentence would have been much greater had I been sentenced today rather than in 1985. I cannot apologize for that, but I can seek humility in the presence of those who were not so fortunate.

    The mark a sex offender wears in a prison makes him or her open to the verbal derision and physical abuse of other inmates. That same mark places the offender on the bottom level in the eyes of even the most hardened of criminals.

    "My punishment is more than I can bear." But the Lord said to him, "Not so." 

    Upon release from prison (if release occurs) and depending upon the part of country, the mark of the offender closes neighborhoods, jobs, and even the most basic of living essentials to the offender.

    "My punishment is more than I can bear." But the Lord said to him, "Not so."

    The mark of the offender closes even the doors of many churches, places where healing and encouragement is supposed to be offered through God's word. Instead, some churches often continue to impose the need for a justifiable punishment.

    "My punishment is more than I can bear." But the Lord said to him, "Not so."

    How can I keep repeating that verse? It all seems so pointless at times. The truth is I am the one who utters the phrase that it is more than I can bear . . . God simply says, "Not so." I'm no more immune to the difficulties of living with what I have done than anyone else, but God has been teaching me some simple things.

    I did grieve the heart of the Lord when I abused those boys. I did create huge burdens for those I abused and made their lives infinitely more difficult. But God does call my victims into His healing presence just as He calls me. His desire is for victim and offender both to experience change and love and for neither to forever be desolate and lost. 

    My sin has not excluded me from the right to learn proper love, to love and be loved, or to experience the salvation earned for me by Jesus Christ on the cross.

    The punishment of the world is indeed heavy but all things are possible with God. Some say it takes courage to seek what I seek in life. Actually, I don't think in terms of courage but in the simplicity of desiring God.

    Yes, I do worry about things, and letters I get from inmates wondering how they'll survive bring me face to face with my own insecurities, needs and wants. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and the wealth of His righteousness." (Mt.6.33) "For wherever your treasure lies, there will you find your heart." (Lk.12.34) The verses don't make it easy for me and they won't for you either. But they ARE the truth.

    Bob Van Domelen is executive director of the ex-gay organization Broken Yoke Ministries, which offers assistance to recovering offenders.

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