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Profound World and Life Distinctions and My Dog Dolly
Her poop doesn't even smell!
Well, that was a bit over the top, but you get the idea. She's a mixed breed (Golden Retriever/German Shepherd - maybe) who had been neglected as a puppy. I think she was found in a culvert somewhere in Harrisonburg, VA. Dolly is a leaner. When you pet her she pushes her full 70 pounds against your leg. She can say more with a glint in her eyes, a cock of her head and a wag of her tail than I can say in a twenty minute sermon. Before Dolly, there was Nala, Esther, Chelsea, Tasha and Happy. Forgot to mention the lone cat in our family history, Cuddles. I think they all would tell you that they enjoyed living in the Crane household. Maybe not Tasha. She ran off and never came back. I mention all this to establish myself as a genuine animal lover, 'cause you're not going to like what next I have to say.
Won't you please donate?
You've seen them. Mailings or commercials tugging at your heartstrings with pictures of neglected animals. But in the same mail or an hour later the same evening you're looking at tearful abandoned children. You hear the same line. "Just $15 will feed this child for a day." Or "A dollar a day will give this pup a home."
I love my pets and I love my grandchildren. But there is a huge difference between the two, don'tcha think?
Same issue from another angle
So what's the problem?
We've failed to distinguish between the value of life and the sanctity of human life. Both are historic Christian convictions that hark back to creation itself. When God declared, "Let the earth bring forth living creatures" life outside of God himself began. What a work of art! What amazing engineering! Surely every honest student of nature must be humbled by the wisdom and power of the Creator.
Fast forward a few days or millenia (depending on your view of how creation actually took place) when God created human beings. At that point he declared, "Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness." He breathed into man not just life but his own image. So sharp is that image that the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer (reknown Christian theologian and philosopher) affirmed that humans are more like God than like the other animals with whom we share the planet. Thus human life becomes sacrosanct. We value life in general; we respect the sanctity of human life.
It's in the Scriptures
You'll find this distinction all over the Bible. Human beings are given the care of creation and with that care came authority over it. This is why Adam was told to name the animals. Adam is granted a right that God himself exercises. Note how often God changed the names of people (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul). So God expects us to value all of life. Indiscriminate abuse of life in all its forms is certainly condemned in Scripture. However animal life may be harnessed to serve us. We subdue some animals to do our work and train others to live with us in harmony for our company and entertainment. And some we kill to provide nourishment. All with God's blessing. Note Genesis 9:3-6. In the same passage where God grants explicit permission to kill animals for food he forbids our killing humans. Why? "For God made man in his own image." That's God's distinction, not mine.
Back to Dolly
I love that dog. As I write she's spread out on the carpet getting some zzzs. We've been out together today and later this week we plan to visit our county's Canine Carnival. It'll be a blast. But the day will come when Dolly will get old and sickly and, after consulting with her vet, I'll tearfully allow her life to be snuffed out, gently and without pain. Yes, I'll shed some tears, but I'll feel no guilt. I have valued her life but I have not given it sacrosanct status. I've respected God's distinctions.
So rather than spend billions trying to arrest the natural cycles of life that God has built into his creation (listen up PETA) let's accept the fact that some species will be lost. I think there are enough others to enjoy. And as for those terribly abused animals and neglected pets, let's gently put them out of their misery, but bring heavy consequences to bear upon the perpetrators.
Let's redirect all that energy and time and money to caring for the poor among us. "Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him." Proverbs 14:31