Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Innocence of Animals

I was watching an episode of NCIS the other night. It is a show about the American navy's criminal investigations department. This particular episode began with a marine in Afghanistan whose job was to clear out mines so that civilian contractors can do their job in a given area. The show began with the sergeant and his specially trained dog that had the ability to sniff out explosives identifying mines. The dog finds a mine, the marine disarms it and then a sniper shoots the marine in the head killing him. The dog is fine. Thus begins the conflict that must be resolved. At the end of the episode NCIS identifies the sniper who is one of the American contractors and when he is accused he pulls his gun provoking the dog to jump on him to protect the special agent. And yes the dog gets shot. I cried. Fortunately the dog survives and even receives a military commendation. But I still cried.

I cried when old Yeller was shot. I cried when Sounder died. I'm a sucker for dogs suffering needlessly. So why didn't I cry for the marine risking his life? For that matter why don't I cry for the thousands of characters on prime-time TV who die? Probably because deep in my soul I know we deserve death. It's what we inherited from Adam. We die because we are bad people. (Rom. 6:23) The heroic character who dies is still human. Yet it's the dog we cry for. We deserve to die not the dog.

I wonder if the ancient Israelites cried when they brought their lambs, bulls or pigeons to be killed in their sacrifices? Did the leper weep over the bird that was killed when he became clean? (Lev. 14:5) Did the man who deceived his neighbor lips tremble when he brought his best ram from his flock to be sacrificed for his guilt. Or how about the person who unintentionally sins. Did he grieve over the female goat that died because of his mistake? (Lev. 4:27-29) For that matter what was in Abel's heart that inclined him to shed the blood of the firstborn of his flock resulting in God's favor? What was Mary & Joseph thinking as they brought two young pigeons when presenting Jesus to the temple? (Lk. 2:22-24) Perhaps a better question is, do we every think about the agony Jesus went through when on the Cross He died for us? He was innocent!

Deep in our souls we hold the truth of our creation. Animals are our companions. (Gen. 2:18-19) We talk to to them. We get upset when we hear stories of animal cruelty. But we just don't get all that upset of the soldiers who die in the line of fire. Or kids who die in a car accident. What grief do we have for the person who just dies. I am not talking about our family members  and close friends as we have a special connection to them. I am talking about our collective unconscious as a people. You see deep in our souls is the truth of our fall as well. We deserve death. And before we were exposed to the cruelty of the world, God killed an animal to cover our nakedness. (Gen. 3:21) Because of us, blameless animals die because without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness of sins. (Heb.9:22) But when an animal was sacrificed for our sins, our conscience was only temporarily pricked. Something permanent has to happen. And so God himself gave us His only-begotten Son shedding His blood for our conscience. (Heb. 9:14) You see, the blood of goats & birds can never truly take away our sins. They serve only as a reminder that God in His mercy allows us to continue living. On the surface of our thoughts we seldom think about it. But our conscience are often pricked when we see something blameless die instead. Our conscience should be pricked when we see Jesus die for us as well. After all, he is blameless.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
    you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps. 51:16-17)