Monday, November 5, 2018

Devotionals for the Heart: Lessons learned on love for God and animals


On ruling well and loving Fido: Honoring God through National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

If I’m sick, the rest of my family will steer clear and let me sleep, but not my cat. She’ll sit on my pillow and gently knead my head, purring loudly as though she alone can drive the illness away. Instead of me caring for her, dumping food in her dish and scratching her kitty-chin while she gives me sweet-eyes, the tables turn and she’s Mama Cat, tending to her neediest kitten.

My mom’s cat was her superhero when she battled aggressive cancer decades ago and chemotherapy knocked her flat in bed. Today a survivor, she still talks about how Rusty was right there every day, never leaving her side.

It’s not just cats. Dogs and even hamsters and bunnies have this uncanny sixth sense like they know on a wholly different level than we humans do when their loved one is ill and exactly what they need to get well. My cat even looks at me differently when I’m sick like she sees right through me and straight to the illness beneath my skin like she’s some fierce guardian angel there to battle on my behalf with The Evil Flu or The Dreaded Sinus Infection.

It’s both stinking cute and incredibly comforting.

The love we have for animals—and our animal friends have for us—is a beautiful thing and, I’d argue, a biblical call. As Christians, we know Jesus came to save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), and we are commanded to love God above all and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-49).

But who’s to say God doesn’t want us to love our animal neighbors just as we do fellow humans? While humans are made in God’s image for His glory, the rest of creation is also made for God’s glory and pleasure, including animals of the forest, fish of the sea, and our beloved pets. In the Book of Genesis, God created animals, fish, and birds. He saw it was good, then created man and woman to care for them.

“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground’” (Genesis 1:26, NIV).

But “rule” doesn’t mean control with brutality. Rulers don’t get to say “my way or the highway.” Good rulers, godly rulers, are to lead with love and kindness with an end-goal of modeling our ultimate ruler, God. Just because animals are not created in God’s image doesn’t mean they are not important to God, and I believe we are obligated to nurture, respect, honor, and care for them with the same sort of loving care our Father God gives to us.

This week (the first full week in November) is National Animal Shelter Appreciation Week. It kicked off yesterday, Nov. 4. Animal shelters are places where stray, lost, abandoned or surrendered animals are kept and, often, rehabilitated. Some also help sick or wounded pets and wildlife. While not all shelters are equal, I’ve never seen a shelter or encountered a shelter worker that doesn’t love and care passionately for animals.

In honor of our furry (or scaled, or winged) “neighbors,” I urge you to take a moment today to think about how you can love them in a way that honors God’s love for us, as well as think about how you might be able to love and honor animal shelters, who are tasked to care for these creatures. If you are able, consider adopting an animal from your local animal shelter, or donate or volunteer your time.

After all, God is love. Let’s follow suit.

~*~
Author bio:
Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach. 

She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism.

Learn more about her fiction and read her blog at http://jessicabrodie.com/shiningthelight.

4 comments:

  1. Hey Jessica, good and timely reminder. Our family just adopted a sweet kitten (Chloe). She's already brought a ton of joy to our home!

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    1. Aw, she sounds precious! We receive so much joy from our animal friends, don't we? Thanks for reading, and enjoy your sweet kitty! :-)

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  2. Yes! I totally agree with this. Thank you for pointing fellow Christians to the biblical responsibility we have to care for animals!

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    1. Thanks, Jerusha! I really do think it's so important. :-)

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