The American Civil War involved brother fighting against brother—not only symbolically, but sometimes literally. James and William Terrill were officers who fought for the opposing armies. William broke ranks with his family when he joined the Union side. Both brothers died in battle, never to be reunited.

Siblings literally battling each other goes back to the very first brothers in the Bible, Cain and Abel. Since the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:1-7), this form of sin has crept into family life as sisters and brothers resent and hurt each other. In the case of the first siblings, it ended in death.

We don’t know for sure why God looked with favor on Abel’s offering but not Cain’s, but we’re told of Cain’s angry reaction (Genesis 4:3-5). The Lord challenged his anger, saying that sin was “crouching at the door” and that he needed to “subdue it and be its master” (Genesis 4:6-7). Cain, however, welcomed sin in when he invited Abel to go to the fields with him and then killed him (Genesis 4:8). God saw his murderous heart and his actions and punished him (Genesis 4:11-12), but also protected him from others’ vengeance (Genesis 4:15).

What vivid language God used to describe the choice Cain faced! Would he give in to the sin crouching at his door or rule over it? We too have that choice when we experience disappointment or pain in our relationships. Will we unleash our tongue with a torrent of angry and hurtful words? Or will we aim to keep calm by God’s power, asking Him to help us rule over our temper?

May we who are believers in Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, submit to His reign in all areas of our lives—including our relationship with our family members.

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Matthew 6:1-18