I’m against animal cruelty, don’t get me wrong. The physical and psychological abuse of animals is a breach of our stewardship over God’s creation. I don’t mean abuse like eating animals because God gave mankind permission to eat animals (Genesis 9:2-3). Neither do I mean animal testing for drugs and beauty products, for it is a proper exercise of our stewardship. What I mean is actual abuse—physical and psychological torture.
Somehow, the denizens of western civilisation have gotten in their heads that animal life is more precious and valuable than human life. While they may not expressly say it, it is evident in reactions to animal death versus human death.
Before I begin talking on this issue, I need to briefly discuss our stewardship over creation. When God created mankind, He said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Here we find our stewardship over God’s creation. Yet what is a steward?
A steward is someone who is put in charge of someone else’s property. Stewards are not fully owners of what they possess; they are merely overseers of what was given to them at the owner’s will. Deists—such as our founding fathers—view God as a watchmaker. The view is that like a watch, God wound up creation and is just letting it continue without His involvement. Yet the biblical view is that God is continuously involved not just through His stewards, but actually actively participates in caring for creation Himself (Matthew 6:26-34).
As stewards, then, we have been given authority over the plants and animals of the earth and may do with them as we wish, but only in ways our Creator deems fit. A perversion of this stewardship is animal torture, but certainly not eating and testing for the purpose of dealing with human diseases.
With all that said, animal life is precious, but no more precious than human life. Animals—especially pets—are a wonderful blessing in our lives. I’m a cat lover, and seeing cats just warms my heart. I also love dogs, and whenever I get to see my Bernese mountain dog, Turbeau, when I visit my dad, he fills me with joy. Animal lives are precious, and we need to take care of them and respect them. But their lives are not more precious than human lives.
What makes humans largely distinct from animals is that we are created in God’s image. “Then God said, ‘Let us create man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over the livestock over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Being created in God’s image does not mean we look like God, but rather He created us to share His holy characteristics and be His representatives in the world.
Our dominion over the earth follows the image of God we all share. This is why Christians deeply believe all human life to be sacred, because all humans—whether good or evil—are created in God’s image. All humans are created with God’s desire to know them Most reject His grace, however. Thus, every human life—no matter whom—is sacred. Therefore, the loss of any human life is a tragedy. Yes, even that serial killer or rapist whom you have a burning aversion for.
While I am completely disgusted with the actions of serial killers, rapists, pedophiles, etc., I am nonetheless the type of person who feels sorry for these people. Perhaps it’s the pastor in me who desires to see these souls live an eternity with our merciful God rather than burning in Hell. While I see evil in what they’ve done, I also see brokenness (and we are all broken). I see sin—sin which God desires to cleanse through the blood of Christ on the cross. “‘Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live’” (Ezekiel 18:23)? When a human being dies without knowing Christ, it is tragic. Even when someone dies knowing Christ, it is still tragic. Yet it is also joyous in that they now stand with the Lord Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
We all remember Cecil the Lion. An American hunter, well within his rights, shot and killed a lion named Cecil. America was in an uproar over this, ruining the man’s life and professional reputation. Recently, Cecil the lion’s son was recently hunted and killed (legally). And again, America is in an uproar. I find this to be highly disturbing, but not for the reasons you might think.
Senator John McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. Here’s where I’m disgusted: While America weeps over the death of a glorified lion, it mocks Senator John McCain for having brain cancer merely because their political opinions are not aligned. The divisiveness in America is not racism, “homophobia,” or “Islamophobia.” The divisiveness in America is the hate being expressed towards people who simply think differently than we do that is being perpetuated by the media. This divisiveness is rapidly causing us to see human life as less and less valuable.
Abortion and physician assisted suicide are widely acceptable because human life can now be viewed as a mere inconvenience—objects that just get in the way of living a comfortable lifestyle. A senator can be mocked and demoralised while facing a terminal illness because human life only matters when it agrees with your opinions and feelings. People die every day without knowing Christ, and we think nothing of it. Yet as soon as an animal is hunted legally or taken down because it’s become dangerous to humans, suddenly it’s a tragedy.
If anything, this is an image of our total depravity. It is a reminder that we are so morally depraved that we will take many lengths to devalue human life whether for the sake of convenience or simply because we don’t like the person. It is a reminder of our need for Christ. It is a reminder of why I need to daily come before the Lord’s table and confess my depravity before Him and my need for His mercy and forgiveness.
May we all begin to view each other as God’s creations—people created in His image whom God desires to know and save. When you begin to view people as God’s precious, meticulous creations, it is amazing how much differently you begin to treat others.