In science, humans are animals. This doesn’t mean all scientists believe humans are merely animals, but we are considered so for classification purposes. More specifically, we are in the animal kingdom (because we can move on our own), of the chordates phylum (because we have a backbone), in the class of mammals (because we have hair and milk glands), of the primate class (because we have collar bones and can grasp with our fingers), in the family of humanoids (because our faces are relatively flat and we have 3-D vision), of the genus homo (because we have large brains and stand erect) and finally, belong to the species of Homo sapiens (because we have a high forehead and thin skull bones).
Personally, I believe we are more than animals, and because of my belief in the biblical account of creation I am not completely comfortable with our scientific classification. I also don’t think we evolved into spiritual beings, but rather that God created us in His image and gave us dominion over the animals of the earth.
But I can go along with scientific terms for the purpose of categorizing living things, and I understand the value of the methodology. This brings me to my point: what role do other creatures in our scientific kingdom have in the Kingdom of God? Yup, I have decided to go there. Not long ago our country celebrated National Pup Day. I figure any topic that relates to a day of national recognition is worth consideration.
C.S. Lewis once took up the subject of whether or not pets go to heaven. In “The Problem of Pain” he speculated that pets might be in heaven because of their relationship with humans, just as we will be there because of our relationship with Jesus. I will leave this discussion quickly as there is no way it can be adequately addressed here. Even if I had the space I am not confident I could treat it justly.
Besides, there are other “musings” I have considered. Several years ago I took my dog Shasta with me to visit our church members in nursing homes. Our members loved her. They loved her more than they loved me! I believe God gave my wife and me a dog with a disposition that was perfect for ministry, and I considered her a “kingdom ally.”
During my college days I served in a church in Ohio near a farm that trained Tennessee Walkers, a breed of horses known for their high-stepping gait and show quality. Members of our church owned the farm and another member trained the horses. I used to attend horse shows with the trainer and entertain his child on carnival midways while he did some old-fashioned horse trading before the show. When the trainer sold a horse the owner of the farm tithed his profit with the church. The Tennessee Walkers were “kingdom allies.”
During my years of ministry in Kentucky one of our elders, Roland, had a serious heart attack and was partially disabled. About all he could do was fish and attend church. Did I say fish? That’s right. Once a week we walked back to his pond, which was loaded with big bass, and fished until Roland’s heart started to act up. We always tossed the bass back so we knew they were in the pond. Some of my deepest conversations with Roland took place on the banks of his pond. Those big bass were “kingdom allies.”
I suppose I would be entering delicate territory to suggest the fried chickens at our Sunday pitch-ins were “kingdom allies”. But I should point out a lot of farmers came for the chicken and found Jesus in the process. Sometimes allies have to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Seriously (and I know it is probably hard for you to take me seriously at this point), there is a message I wish to share. God reigns over every kingdom, and He has given us allies of various kinds to bless us in our work. All life is precious, because it is from God, and because God uses it for His glory.
I will let you be the judge of whether or not our pets will be in heaven. I vote “yes”, though I admit I don’t have much in the way of biblical truth to support my view. It is wishful thinking. But we have allies in the animal kingdom with us now, and we should honor them as collaborators for our cause.
One thing is for sure: I would have been hard pressed to have survived some rough patches of ministry without a dog named Shasta. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
I hope it doesn’t ruffle your fur.