“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Mat 9 v 37-38)
We ended (Part One) with the thought that those who have received the Word are invited to become sowers of the Word, so that the harvest may continue to grow. At the end of this teaching, Matthew takes us back to where it all began, with Jesus’ challenge to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Mat 9 v 37-38). I believe this applies to all Christian animal welfarists. God wants those of us who have been given the special task of loving and supporting His animal creatures in their suffering, to help and encourage one another and to be sowers of the Word, so that the harvest may continue to grow.
If we picture the Church as sowers, how do animal welfarists currently react to the seeds we sow?
- Despite the intensification of animal abuse since the end of the Second World War (intensive farming, animal experimentation, luxury fur trade) the Church, as a whole, has remained silent – This has resulted in many thousands of animal welfarists being drawn towards other faiths and cults.
- Intensive farming and bloodsports still exist on Church owned lands – This is a huge obstacle to Christian witness.
- The Church has paid lip service only to the Bible’s proclamation that the Redemption of the whole creation will be fulfilled in Christ Jesus, Lord of Creation – This has caused the loss to Christ of many sincere seekers.
- Most Christians are conforming to harsh secular standards as far as God’s creatures are concerned -They are thus repelling animal welfarists.
- Church reports are human-centred – Even environmental policies can sometimes be human-centred (self-centred) in that the concern for creation issues is born of a concern for our own well-being rather than for the well-being of the other creatures which share our earth. By minimising the need for a Christian stewardship of God’s creatures, the churches have in fact minimised the fullness of His authority, thus failing to preach Jesus as Lord of Creation.
- The Church does not preach vegetarianism – Many seekers who are reaching out to Christianity question the love of God who they believe allows the suffering and slaughter of animals used for food; and the compassion of Jesus who they see as having an involvement in it. God did regretfully accept that fallen mankind would eat meat, but this was not His original perfect will and a choice for the Kingdom of God must still be a choice of love and not of suffering and slaughter.
- Some Christians will say, “As factory farming and vivisection can never be stopped, there isn’t much point in abstaining from their products” – By using such comments, they have allowed or even encouraged vegetarians and animal welfarists to walk away from Christianity.
- Most Christians refuse to do anything positive against a use of animals which they have acknowledged to be cruel – This illustrates what an animal welfarist is still up against in our churches. All caring Christians, meat eaters or not, can and should do their level best to avoid products of an acknowledged cruelty.
- The Bible contains much about Animal sacrifice – Especially difficult for the animal welfarist to understand, this was a religious practice, which was likely to have been adopted by fallen man in an effort to cast off his sins. But God did speak out through the Old Testament prophets on many occasions against this barbaric practice.
- Most of the Church is not proclaiming God’s love for His whole creation and our responsibilities of caring for His creatures – Neither does it recognise that His animal creation now awaits His coming and the fulfilment of Redemption, just as we do.
What are these things doing to our chances of reaching animal welfarists for Christ? I hope that we who are animal welfarists and who know Christ Jesus as Lord, not just of humanity but of the whole creation, may – with God’s grace – play a part in helping His Church and all His creatures, to gain a full recognition of the Lord of Creation, our Lord and our God.
What might help animal welfarists to hear and understand the Word? What would help to increase the good soil and get rid of the thorns and rocks? We should ask for God’s help to grow into fruitful plants:-
- Churches and their members should acquire knowledge about how animals are being treated and make their views on legal exploitation known to politicians, companies etc.
- Christians should avoid household products and cosmetics that have been cruelly tested on animals and that do harm to the environment.
- We should avoid clothing and other aspects of fashion that have a history of cruelty to animals, all real fur and exotic skins in particular.
- Avoid meat and animal products that have been produced on factory farms, especially poultry, pig, calf, rabbit and eggs. Instead, choose free-range eggs, meats and sea fish, or abstain from these products altogether.
- Avoid patronising forms of entertainment that treat animals as mere means to human ends.
- We should be encouraged to involve ourselves in animal causes, such as helping to provide a home for a rescue animal, or assisting with food or vet care where needed, or helping an animal shelter; and also to co-operate with animal welfare organisations.
- Courses should be organised for church leaders on the theme of humane stewardship of creation, which could be used to educate congregations.
- A Christian approach to the legal exploitations which lead to animal abuse should be taken seriously by the ministry and should be the subject of sermons, prayers and church services.
- We, too must remind our fellow worshippers that we animal welfarists are not a bunch of sympathetic eccentrics who prefer compassion to cruelty and indifference. Compassion is born of a love which is indivisible.
- Influential ministries should emphasise the creation aspects of Christianity, including those relating to the animal kingdom, thus showing the wholeness of the love of Christ Jesus.
Our attempts to relieve the sufferings of animals would be a measure of our desire for a return to the Kingdom of God and to His perfect will. Such attempts would be an active prayer for the Redemption of creation (Rev 5 v 8).
In their book, ‘Mark At Work’, the authors John D Davies and John J Vincent suggest that Jesus told parables about seeds and plants, because the life-process of plants is a hidden story. “Jesus’ revelation is that behind all the day-to-day activity there is a hidden process at work. The seed is sown and results don’t come immediately, but they will come.” There are hazards and disturbances, but we are assured that the harvest will come according to the farmer’s (God’s) plan (Isa 11 v 1-9, Rom 8 v19-22, Eph 1 v 9-10, Col 1 v 19-20, Rev 4 v 11, Rev 5 v 13). The announcement (sowing) of the Kingdom (seed) will not immediately cause people (the ground) to accept it (Mat 13 v 14-15). There will be different types of response, including hostility and rejection. God’s intention is that the mystery of His will is to be made known to all (Mar 16 v 15, Eph 1 v 9-10, Col 1 v 23, 2 Pet 3 v 9). It’s not possible to predict exactly where successful growth will happen – seed is scattered all over the place and every type of ground is given a chance.
I believe God wants us to listen to His word and to understand the extent of His love; and He also wants us to speak (sow) His word and to share His love with all His creation, including the animal kingdom.
I’d like to finish with some words from the Late John Austin Baker (Retired Bishop of Salisbury) who was never afraid to speak out for animal rights and who was a sower of many seeds, especially amongst the animal welfare community:-
“To give our churches no peace until they take up the cause of animal welfare as a normal and essential part of their work and witness is our duty, not only to animals but to our fellow-Christians” (and as Kathy added) “and to our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Thank you for reading! Your thoughts are welcome!! ~Ros