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Can you sympathize with a horse?
Where did that thought come from?
“For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
It has been my practice during quiet times with Jesus to stop and consider where my ideas and prevailing thoughts come from. I take the thoughts by the throat (metaphorically) and wrestle them to the ground and say, "Where did you come from?"
Here's the most recent example of what that process looks like:
A few years ago I came to realize that my thinking was not altogether right about part of God's creation. For as long as I can remember, I have not been an animal lover.
To wrestle with that thought, I asked, "Why?"
As I prayed, I recalled the final chapter of The Great Divorce, which contains the final speech of C.S. Lewis' character George MacDonald. I had insight into why I have this extraordinary aversion to animals.
Mine was more than an aversion, I was sickened a few years ago when I saw a Twitter post about Leona Helmsly’s dog. This was the world’s richest dog, who died with a $12 million estate. The dog’s security expense was 100 thousand dollars annually. Yes, this sickened me. But why did I have such a strong reaction? I knew I needed to take this thought captive.
In case you haven’t read The Great Divorce, the book is about a group of people who ride a bus from hell to heaven. MacDonald is a resident of heaven who becomes a guide for the main character and narrator of the story. This character is a visitor to heaven, and one of the residents of hell, the “grey town” below.
When the “grey town” visitor asked if anyone could go from heaven to hell, MacDonald got down on his hands and knees and plucked a blade of heaven’s grass. He explained that the bus and passengers came up through a tiny crack as small as a blade of grass. He said,
“All hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world, but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the real world.”
“The damned are shrunk up in themselves…their fists are clenched, their teeth are clenched, their eyes are fast shut. First they will not, in the end they cannot, open their hands for gifts or their mouths for food or their eyes to see.”
The visitor asks, “Can no one reach them?” Can anyone travel from heaven to hell? MacDonald says,
“Only the greatest of all can make himself small enough to enter hell. For the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend.”
It was the next thing MacDonald said that helped me change my thinking about animals:
“Man can sympathize with a horse, but a horse cannot sympathize with a rat.”
I have been reading C.S. Lewis' works since before I came to know and love Jesus Christ. Most all of his allegorical works, including some of his best overall works, have talking animals. Even with my distaste for animals, I have enjoyed Lewis’ books. His treatment of the animals and his message through them were always somehow acceptable to me.
Why did I accept C.S. Lewis’ talking animals?
Examining this statement by MacDonald helped change my thinking. My aversion to animals stems from how many people treat animals; they attribute human qualities to animals. They seem to elevate the animal. I know this may sound hard-hearted, but, despite my change in thinking about animals, I still think people spend too much of their time, their energy, and their money on animals.
Did you know the USA and Europe spend 17 billion dollars yearly on pets, while less than one billion is invested in reaching the unevangelized?
Here’s what changed in my thinking: Just because other people have an excessive affection for animals does not mean I should dislike them.
Again, this is what MacDonald said:
“Man can sympathize with a horse, but a horse cannot sympathize with a rat” and “the higher a thing is, the lower it can descend.”
I agree with Lewis. Human beings are “higher” than all the other animals. We do not elevate animals to human status when we show affection; we “descend” or condescend. When we stoop to love an animal, we exercise the kind of grace that God himself shows when he condescends to love us.
I can condescend
I do not have to agree with people who spend thousands of dollars on their pets. However, I can condescend with the same kind of love and affection that Jesus shows to me.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I did not run out to get a pet. We already had one. Our dog’s name was Lily. She died earlier this year. We quietly grieved as a family, but we also agreed that we would not be getting another family pet. Our family priorities are for missionary evangelism, not the time and money required to care for a family pet. However, I do not reject animals, including yours if you have one. I can show animals kindness and patience, if only in a small measure, as Jesus shows kindness and patience with me.
Taking every thought captive isn’t just about disciplining the mind to avoid temptation; it’s also about examining our thinking to see where the thoughts come from and whether they are true and Biblical. This is how we handle spiritual and emotional conflict. And this is how we renew our minds.
by John Henry