We continue with Part Five in this series, written by May Tripp, founder of Animal Christian Concern, or ACC. If you have not read the previous posts you can find them here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four. 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.
Sickness is yet another cross, another separation from God. Oh yes, I know that some people can be saintly in illness, but others more readily doubt the love of God and feel anger against Him. Again, we remember how Jesus Himself cried out forsakenly as He felt the pain of the Cross. Our human sickness is also shared by the natural creation, particularly by its animals. They suffer their own natural illnesses of course, but many today suffer the additional distress caused by human pollution. And this is not the only burden of sickness borne by animals. For those who are used as laboratory tools, life begins and ends in a suffering deliberately caused by humans and for humans. This compounded sin is justified by our legal system and our society as intensive farming, blood-sports, etc., etc., are also justified by the world.
Of course the theology of the Cross is complex, a deep Mystery of the Christian faith, and our reactions are necessarily personal. Francis of Assisi cared nothing for theology; he adored the Cross and prayed fervently that he might share its pain for Christ. Shortly before his death, he was granted the stigmata. Thomas Aquinas is known as one of the world’s greatest intellects and he devoted his life to theological study and lecturing, but two years before his death, he had a personal encounter with Christ which made him acknowledge that all his great intellect and theological study was as nothing compared to knowing the living Lord in his heart. We cannot understand the Cross by scholarship.
Is it easy to understand that those of us who are sinners (and have we anyone here who is not?) are victims of evil as well as perpetrators of it and that sickness itself is in some way linked to evil. We look at Christ’s healing of the paralysed man (Matthew 9 v 1-8) and see that this healing took place as the result of the forgiveness of his sins. It could seem to us that this young man, who so clearly needed the close attention of his friends probably hadn’t been in any position to commit any, “sins”, yet here Jesus was forgiving them. In this parable, as in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us that to hate in the heart is to murder and that to desire is to commit adultery (Matthew 5), we see the impossibility of our human situation and our inevitable involvement with sin. We then understand our need of a Saviour; we understand our need – as well as we ever can – our need of the Cross.
For the truth is that as people of the Fall we are in confusion. We are children of God, yearning for God, but drawn also to the self-centred disobedience which we, as Adam, chose when in Eden we opted for the sweet fruits of worldliness. Of course you and I personally did not do this opting. We wouldn’t have done – or would we? Nonetheless, we are born into the resulting confusion and into a world where the innocent are just as likely – or more likely – to suffer than the guilty.
Our earth is also carrying its cross. Our earth is sick because of our use of it; many now believe that it is terminally sick. Rob Brighton, Principal of the Worcestershire College of Agriculture, believes this and he and his colleagues argue that the land must return to the small natural, organic farm of grains, fruits, vegetables, livestock and dung. They see a necessary wholeness and interdependence of human, animal and plant life in a natural situation and worry that growing vegetarianism and the resultant intensive farming of the land is serving further to deplete its exhausted soil. On the other hand, vegans argue that it is meat production with its profligate use of natural resources and its pollution which is destroying our earth. I, like most others, have insufficient scientific knowledge to judge between these two cases, but as a Christian, I believe that they both are supported by the scriptures: The vegan case arguing the truth of Genesis 1 and the organic case arguing the interdependent imperfections of human, animal and earth as the result of the Fall. (Genesis 3).
Depression is a cross which can easily separate its victim from God and, not surprisingly, many animal welfarists are prone to suffer in this way. Some folk assert that no true Christian should ever suffer from depression, and we do appreciate that ideally we should all radiate, “love, joy and peace.” (Galatians 5 v 22). The fact is that many worthy Christians, saints like St Francis of Assisi, David Watson, a faithful charismatic of our own day, have suffered this sickness. Thirty years ago I suffered from very severe depression during three difficult pregnancies, one of which thankfully resulted in the birth of our son, but two of which ended in miscarriage. I well remember the pain, guilt and inadequacy of those bleak years. One day I received a letter from a fairly distant acquaintance about the love of God and the healing to be found in Christ Jesus. I ripped it into shreds, bitterly angry that this woman should think that she could console me in this way. I often wonder how many of the letters I write to depressed animal welfarists end up in shreds. But recently I received a telephone call from a young woman who seemed determined to get rid of her two, “very good”, dogs because she couldn’t cope with them and her young family. She had had a thin time with the animal sanctuaries she had contacted, who already had their hands full with neglected and homeless animals, and she was now preparing to have the dogs destroyed. But I was very quickly able to recognise that behind this apparently callous story was a young woman sick with post miscarriage depression and I was able to put her in touch with a Christian group which, hopefully, could help her, as well as to persuade a sanctuary to take the dogs for re-homing.
It is perhaps when we have to face the loss of a loved one that we feel our keenest separation from God, carry our heaviest cross, for this separation calls into question the very nature and significance of death in our world. This is when it is important to remember the effects of the Fall, for difficult though it may be to believe, death is one of them: “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die. (Genesis 2 v 16-17). This belief is reiterated by Paul: “Sin came into the world through one man and his sin brought death with it …” (Romans 5 v 12) and “The last enemy to be defeated will be death.” (1 Cor 15 v 26). Death is the enemy of both man and animal. It is not part of the perfect will of God and those who make a friend of it, who kill lightly and with pleasure as in blood-sports, are flouting His love and working against the saving grace of His Son. For the vital Truth of the Cross is that Christ Jesus HAD to endure the death which we die and which animals and all creatures die in order to rise out of it and show us that in Him the power of death, the power of the Fall, is broken. In the Holy City there is no death (Revelation 21 v 4) and it is the whole creation which worships God (Revelation 5 v 13): His NEW CREATION.
Stay tuned for part six 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