Part four of an article based on a talk given by May Tripp at the Retreat For Animal Welfare, Maryvale, 19th June, 1993. This article is included in the book, “Animal Welfare: Through The Cross, A Collection Of Animal Christian Concern Articles” by Roslyne Smith. The book can be purchased here.
We left off in Part Three discussing how difficult it is for secular animal welfarists, and even Christian animal welfarists, to understand the pattern of animal sacrifice and its symbolism to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the innocent for the wicked, along with our calling to be living sacrifices to live and work to His praise and glory. Media is guided by the values of the fallen world; evolution theory plays its part in removing the concept of the Fall and our need for redemption and a Saviour; and the truth of the Gospel has been negated, making the Cross an unhappy failure instead of the sacrifice which reconciled us to the Father.
We look at the Cross – gold, silver, polished wood – we Christians, and love it as a symbol of Christ’s abiding love for us. We wear it around our necks or in our lapels as a token of our own love for Him. BUT WAIT, the cross is a horrific symbol of evil. That is how the disciples must have seen it. It signifies that evil in the world which nailed Christ to His death and which He had to face, had to endure and then overcome before He could qualify as our Saviour and Redeemer. It is a symbol of the world’s cruelty, a symbol of the world’s separation from God (Gen. 3 v 23.24). Even Jesus Himself had to feel this as He bore our sin at Calvary: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”
I think it is a bit like that for all of us as we bear the pain of our own crosses, our own separations from God. But just as the pain was necessary for Christ, so in our own small ways are these necessary pains for us, for if we have never encountered the evil that is in the world, in ourselves; never fallen victim to our own particular cross, how then can we ever hope to recognise that evil, and to understand the great gulf which lies between our own sinfulness and the purity of God. How too, without our crosses, can we recognise the need of a Saviour? It is well attested in evangelical and charismatic circles that the most fervent Christians are those who, like Mary Magdalene, have recognised their sins and have laid them in sorrow at the feet of Christ. When we have done that, and only when we have done that, can we hope to be lifted above our human involvement in sinfulness. When Christ Jesus told His followers: “… and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me,” I believe that He knew what that pain would be, and that He also knew that it would be an essential pain – but a pain which had the potential to DEFLECT us from our Christian mission. And that mission must always continue, for there is a way to rise above our unworthiness. Just as Christ needs us to share His Cross, so too does He want us to share in His Resurrection. Look at Saul of Tarsus, an exemplary, if self-righteous, Jew, but an accuser and a persecutor of Christians; suddenly struck by the Truth of the Risen Christ and immediately transformed. It is not as dramatic as that for most of us, but the transformation is there just the same. Penitence, forgiveness, rebirth into Christ is a process; thank God that we can repeat for as long as it takes. How can it not be so for inhabitants of a fallen world constantly immersed in sinfulness?
No, the real danger for us is not that of falling victim to sin, but that of believing that we never do fall victim to it: the danger of the Pharisee, the danger which the exemplary, self-righteous, Saul of Tarsus displayed, but which the transformed apostle Paul did not.
Last March our valued ACC member Bishop Peter Ball, former Bishop of Gloucester, had his own experience of the cross as he faced a police caution regarding homosexuality. There is a point of view which suggests that homosexuality is not in accord with scriptural teachings and I am inclined to hold to that point of view – but then I am a remarried divorcee and that is not in accord with scriptural teachings either, so I am in no position to cast a stone. Nonetheless, Christ has called me back into His service after a long twenty years away from His church, and for that I am truly thankful. I have no doubt that Bishop Peter will also continue his ministry for Christ, and quickly I hope, offering the same care and compassion which have so endeared him to the people of Lewes and Gloucester, and who are now deeply saddened by this loss of a beloved Bishop. But be warned all those of you who feel that you have no sin, for pride deflects from the Christian mission as surely as guilt and, at the end of the day, it is continuing to carry our cross that is important. Greed, ruthlessness, mercilessness: These are sins which strike from the heart itself, poison the heart itself. Yet these are sins which are almost a qualification for success in our materialistic world, and success can pair very happily with self-righteousness. These are the human sins, I think, which exploit and they are those from which our natural creation suffers the most and is most threatened. These are the sins which have led successive governments to squeeze out natural farming and replace it with callous intensive farming. These are the sins which have allowed homelessness, unemployment, division between the rich and the poor. And these, too, are sins in which we all of us here have played, and do play, our own parts.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world.” (1 John 2 v 15). It is difficult to love the world if we love Christ’s Cross. Paul too, put a clear distinction between the two: “May / never boast except in the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and / to the world.” (Galatians 6 v14). The world: “cosmos”. What do we mean by this multi-faceted word? Certainly wholeness and entirety of God’s creation, but more importantly in our present context, I think, the organisation of our worldly, human systems. It is our, ‘‘worldliness”, from which we have to be crucified for it is worldly eyes which make it so difficult to recognise the Risen Christ. His friends on the Emmaus road did not recognise Him except in the breaking of bread – the sharing of His broken body, the sharing of His Cross. Even Mary at the tomb did not recognise Him: “Who is it you are looking for?” He asked her.
She was looking in the wrong place for the wrong thing, in a tomb for a corpse, not for a Risen Saviour. Do we always look in the right place for the right thing? Do we look for the Saviour of a fallen creation or do we look for a political superman who can change laws to protect our treasured animals? The disciples had expected Jesus to exert God’s authority in great power, had expected Him to free the children of Israel and to right all wrongs – they had starvation, poverty and oppression, just as we have today. But Jesus did not do any of those things, He chose the Cross: the powerlessness of the Cross. As animal welfarists, secular or Christian, we often look for the Church itself to exert power on behalf of animals, but a Church faithful to Christ should have no worldly power, only the pain of the Cross. This it seems to be bearing in full measure at the moment: denominational divisions, the ordination of women, the loss of animal welfarists, for, yes, that is a, “hidden”, division, scarcely recognised. But these pains should give us cause for hope, not despair, for they show that the Cross is at the heart of our Church. And in our own work for animals, let us not be surprised when we feel the helplessness, and even hopelessness of our endeavours, for this too, is part of the pain and the powerlessness of the cross which we must carry: “My dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual were happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4 v 12-13).
Yet the Church does have its own power, a power which should represent the will of God. In 1990 the Synod of the Church of England failed to forbid intensive farming and hunting from its lands, and this year it is announced that the revised catechism of the Roman Catholic Church will include an acceptance of animal experimentation and genetic engineering. Do I need to tell you what these things have done to our chances of reaching animal welfarists for Christ? Has the Church recognised the Lord of Creation in making these decisions? Thomas in the Upper Room was reluctant to recognise the Risen Christ – but when he did, when he finally did – he recognised Him in all His glorious fullness: “My Lord and my God.” Many Christians today have lost that sense of the wonder of their Risen Saviour. 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, His sheep, and all His creatures, to a full recognition of the Lord of Creation, our Lord and our God.
Stay tuned for part five of “Through The Cross To The New Creation, The Church In Action”. For those who would like to read the entire article: THROUGH-THE-CROSS Article 10
Thank you for reading and following our blog; we hope you are blessed by our work! ~Kathy