When People Become Animals

Man, it is SO easy to get offended these days. In fact, it seems we LOOK for ways to be offended by the people we know we disagree with. Case in point – the internet has lost its ever-lovin’ mind over President Trump’s comments about gang members not being people but being animals.

angrydogOnce again, people drew the line based largely on party affiliations. Trump supporters said, “Of COURSE those horrible, vicious, brutal gang members are animals!” Trump opponents made it out as though Mr. Trump labeled ALL illegal immigrant as animals.

In reality, Mr. Trump did NOT make blanket statements about immigrants. And, as a decent human being (at least I like to THINK I am), the decency-loving person within me says, “Yes! Vicious and brutal murderers ARE animals! This is probably a very common reaction from law-abiding citizens of the world. Decent people don’t behave this way. There are certain things one can do to forfeit his place within humanity.

But then the Bible quietly comes alongside us and says, “That’s not the right way to think.”

In fact, time and again the Bible tells us that ALL people are made in God’s image. The Latin phrase in theological circles is the Imago Dei (Image of God). And it has its foundation in Genesis 1:27 ~

So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.

Humanity bears the image of God. It doesn’t say that certain people bear God’s image and others are just outta luck. It doesn’t say that people forfeit God’s image based on bad behavior. We ALL carry God’s image. WE don’t get to take that away from someone merely because we find their behavior atrocious.

And because all humanity bears the image of God, and because we are all people, we all have the possibility of redemption. To take away someone’s personhood is to say they are beyond God’s grace and redemption But the Bible doesn’t stop there. What if the gang members NEVER come to Jesus? What if they are ALWAYS an enemy? Jesus talks about that, too.

You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…. ~ Matthew 5:43-44

Really, Jesus?!?

Why you gotta get all up in our bizness? The Apostle Paul keeps the theme going!

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good. ~ Romans 12:19-21

I’m not so naive as to think Jesus and Paul are regulating our politics. I’m not saying there’s a 1-to-1 correlation whereby Scripture DIRECTLY seeks to influence policy. I AM saying that Christians are held to a HIGHER standard when it comes to how we think of people – even those people who would do physical harm to us.

I understand the “They’re animals!” mentality. But we must set aside our own feelings and take up the biblical point of view in how we see and treat others – and that includes gang members.

Theology Gone Ape

gorilla-752875_1920I know everyone has heard the recent story about the child falling into the gorilla enclosure at the zoo. After the authorities arrived, the gorilla was shoot shot in order to rescue the child.

Of course there was an instant fight between those who supported killing the gorilla and those who would have preferred another method of getting the young boy out. “Gorilla experts” took to the airwaves to defend each position. I’m not sure how Christians ended up getting involved in the animal welfare aspects of the case, but it was hard to be on social media and not see Christian people debating the ethics of killing the gorilla.

While we ought to strive to be good caretakers of God’s creation (yes, that includes animals) it’s important that good theology lead the discussion. Quite simply, humanity occupies a special place in the world. No animal life compares to human life. From the beginning of world, we have been set apart.

Then God said, “Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life – the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals.”

So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and the birds and all the animals.” (Genesis 2)

Indeed, it is only humanity that received the breath of God, that Spirit within us that makes us distinct from even our closest animal relatives. When it comes evaluating the worth of a life of a human over an animal, there really should be no place for debate. The human life is superior to the animal life.

No, this doesn’t give us room to be cruel to animals. That’s not what I’m saying at all. What I am saying is that saving a human life is more important than saving an animal life. Of course another option that had been able to spare gorilla and child would have been great, but I have no qualms about and feel theologically justified in putting down an animal so that we might save human life.

And for those of you who saw fit to criticize the parents for “letting” their child climb into the gorilla enclosure, I leave you with this that I saw on my buddy Aaron’s Facebook page:

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How about you? Do you think they should have put the gorilla down or do you favor an alternative method for rescuing the boy?

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