We ended (Part One) with the words, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord.” Christ proclaimed this, amongst the teeming faiths of His day, and added, “The Father and I are one” (John 10 v 30). Jesus warned that we can only understand the nature of God, our Father, by knowing Him, the Son, “‘Now that you have known Me’, He said to them, ‘you will know my Father also, and from now on you do know Him and you have seen Him'” (John 14 v 7). And so, we learn that He Himself was God come to earth, “‘I am telling you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘Before Abraham was born, I AM'” (John 8 v 58).
Animals In The Christian Faith
Where then, do animals come into the Christian faith? Most Christians have, in their human/self-centredness, excluded animal creatures from their understanding of the universal love of God for all His creation, though the greatest of Christian saints, such as St Francis of Assisi, have always shown a love for and a bond with animals and the natural world. In fact, there is much more to link Jesus with the animal creation than is commonly thought.
At the Creation, Christ was with God, “Before the world was created, the WORD already existed. He was with God and He was the same as God”. It was the WORD, Christ Jesus, who participated with God, in the creation of all creatures, both human and non-human, “Through Him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without Him” (John 1 v 1-3). This Creation was good (Genesis 1). And both animals and humans were Blessed by God. When Jesus came to earth as flesh, He took on that flesh which is shared by both humans and animals. And He came with one purpose – to redeem His creatures from the disastrous effects of the Fall (Genesis 3).
Through the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, we hear of a Messiah to come who would, not only bring judgment and justice to humanity, but who would restore harmony to all creation, “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat . . . they will neither hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11 v 1-9).
This then, is the Christ whose human birth took place in a cattle shed. The first eyes to look upon Him, apart from those of His human parents, were those of cattle, and those of the lambs carried by shepherds who had come to worship Him (Luke 2). Jesus’ earthly ministry included many references to animals. He told His listeners that God loves every single one of His creatures from the greatest to the least, even to the humble sparrow, “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings and not one of them is forgotten before God?” (Luke 12 v 6).
Concerning His healing on the Sabbath, a direct breach of Jewish Law, Christ asked, “If any one of you had a son or an ox that happened to fall in a well on a Sabbath, would you not pull him out at once on the Sabbath itself?” (Luke 14 v 5). However we consider this question, whether we see the two victims as objects of similar distress, as objects both deserving of compassion, or even as equally valuable working assets, the fact remains that Jesus equates the two, the son and the ox, in a way that He did not need to in order to make His point about the Sabbath.
In a similar way, Jesus compared His own situation to that of the creatures, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest” (Matthew 8 v 20). Jesus knew that Herod would deprive His people in Jerusalem of their Lord’s presence and He grieved, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . How many times I wanted to put my arms around all your people, just as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would not let me.” (Luke 13 v 34)
As the scriptures foretold, to His death He rode on a donkey, the humble beast sharing with Him the triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
The Fall Or The Kingdom
Although Jesus was not a social reformer, He knew that creation was fallen and disordered; and that this disorder would remain until creation’s ultimate redemption. He surprisingly said less about our use of human slaves or about the misery of warfare than He said about our human use of animals. Yet surely we all now assume slavery and warfare to be against God’s perfect will. What Jesus did do, was to illustrate an attitude of love which allowed no room at all for exploitation of any kind to any creature. And He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was to be seen within Him and within His love.
Jesus offered a choice between two attitudes. First, the attitude of the Fall, that of self-centred worldly disobedience to God, which leads to greed, exploitation and violence. Then, the attitude of the Kingdom of God, that of Christ’s forgiving love and selfless sacrifice for His fallen creatures. In Jesus we recognise the “Good Shepherd” who lays down His life for His sheep (John 10).
Redemption Of Creation
Through another Old Testament prophet, Daniel, we hear of the coming of the Son of Man, the Anointed One, who would, “bring an end to sacrifice and offering” (Daniel 9). “The Son of Man”, was the title most commonly used by Jesus of Himself. Daniel’s great vision, is seen again in the New Testament in the Revelation of Christ to John.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, in this amazing, prophetic writing, John sees Christ Jesus as King of the redeemed creation. In picture language, Jesus is depicted as “the Lamb upon the throne”, the sacrifice who has ultimately reconciled mankind to God and who reigns in justice. Around His throne all creatures, both human and non-human, worship in love and praise. In this redeemed creation, the holy City, the New Jerusalem, there is no pain, no death and no sorrow (Revelation 21).
The cosmic significance of Christ Jesus and His relationship with all creation is also recognised by Paul. In his letter to the Romans, Paul describes the sufferings of a fallen creation, “all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth” (Romans 8 v 18-25), a creation awaiting a redemption which is dependent upon the fulfilment of the sons of God. The animal creatures we grieve for are awaiting mankind’s transformation into the knowledge and love of God in Christ Jesus. In some way we cannot fully understand, “for now we see through a glass darkly,” (1 Corinthians 13 v 12), the inanimate and the animal creation are fallen not of their own fault, but due to the Fall of humankind; and when humankind is ultimately redeemed, so too will they be.
Arguments about whether or not animals have souls frequently crop up. I personally find no justification in the idea that animals, which share with humans the Blessings of God, do not possess the same “soul” which is breathed into both humans and animals by Him. This shared “breath” is referred to many times in the Old Testament. The most powerful scriptural arguments for animals are to be found in the concepts of the Fall and the Redemption, as voiced in Isaiah 11 v 1-9, Romans 8 v 18-25, Colossians 1 v 15-23, and Revelation 5 v 13, “And I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, in the world below and in the sea – all living beings in the universe – and they were singing: ‘To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be praise and honour, glory and might, for ever and ever.'”
God is a Creator – not a destroyer and within Him is infinite love and Blessing shared by all creatures, a love awaiting fulfillment in Christ, “And God made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Ephesians 1 v 9-10).
‘Part Three’ – ‘Salvation’, ‘Jesus Is Lord’, ‘New Age’, will follow shortly! Thank you for reading and following our blog! We hope you will ‘like’ and ‘share’ it! Your comments are always welcome! ~Ros