Recently we had to say goodbye to our faithful, furry friend Opal. She had a bladder full of stones and was clearly uncomfortable. Sure we could have done surgery but $1400 didn't seem like a good idea for a 14 year old dog who also was the proud owner of an undiagnosed tumor, an increasingly obvious limp and other maladies that probably wouldn't be fixed with bladder surgery.
So amid tears, we said goodbye to a faithful friend, one whose very presence will be missed.
Saying goodbye did make me think about animals and how they are viewed Scripturally. I did some thinking on this a while back when our neighbor lost a dog, and then had a "bunny event" in her garage. Our neighbor was not a believer, so I tried to sensitively take her love of animals and put it in a Biblical context. You can tell me whether I was successful or not.
I wanted to write and say how sorry I was that that poor rabbit got tangled up in the way that he did. It was really hard/sad to see a little creature in such pain. I know your love for animals, from Augie down to this little rabbit, and I thought that you might appreciate this reflection.
You see I was reflecting on why it is that we as humans love animals so much. And it may surprise you but the Bible actually has a lot to say about the treatment of animals. One such text is Proverbs 12:10:
Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
I suspect that it would probably surprise many people, both Christians and those who do not call themselves Christians, that the Bible talks about the treatment of animals as a characteristic of the righteous. Why is that singled out?
My guess is that this is characteristic of the righteous for a couple of reasons. One is that God is the author of all life, and how can we who love God easily disdain his creatures. Secondly, the righteous show this characteristic because it is characteristic of God himself.
One example of this is the book of Jonah. As God shares his concern for the unrighteous city Nineveh with his prophet Jonah, one of the things that concerns God is the fact that there are many cattle in this wicked city.
And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:11)
The point of this seems to be that your love your animals is a picture of righteousness, even a picture of God himself.
I also want to suggest that in looking at God’s love for animals we also see through to the answer for our pain. Jesus highlights again God’s love for animals in Matthew 6:26
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
But that is not the end of the verse. The verse actually ends this way:
Are you not of more value than they?
Jesus here tells us an important thing. He indeed affirms God’s great love for even the smallest of animals but … he also reminds us that God’s love for people is even greater. I don’t think it is an accident that over and over in the Scriptures people are referred to as sheep and God the great shepherd. As one of his sheep I find great comfort in the fact that God is watching over me as a shepherd; comfort for this life and the next.
I just wanted to share these things with you to encourage you, both in your own love for God’s creatures, as well as to share with you that higher love that all human loves point to. Part of my motivation for writing this is an off handed comment you made after Augie died when I referenced a time coming when there will be no more tears (Rev. 21:4), you said, “I wish I could believe that.” On the basis of what I have outlined above I want to suggest that you can believe it, because it is true. Your love for your pets is a picture of God’s love for his people.
I am glad to have you for a neighbor, and I sincerely hope that this has not offended you in any way. And while I know that we may be moving shortly, I did want to share these things with you in hopes that you may be encouraged to seek the rest that the Great Shepherd offers, if you haven’t already.
You know that I am always open to talk.