Where We Place Value

Last week a friend of mine that was helping us set up for Fear Factor went to a local pet store to buy 1500 crickets to dump on a student in our “Yuck Chamber,” and she was denied the ability to purchase them because it would be “animal cruelty.” She asked why they sell crickets in the first place, to which the salesperson replied, “To feed them to animals.” When asked whether or not this was a cruel thing in itself, the person said, “It is the natural order of things and not inhumane. What you are doing is inhuman.”

We live in an odd world these days. We live in a world where crickets may have more rights than humans. If crickets do not, dogs and cats certainly do. Just look at the outrage over Michael Vick’s situation and compare it to other NFL players that have literally killed other human beings and returned to playing in the league without any formal suspension from the league. Why is it that we are so concerned with the value animals bring to our lives (which is a fact I am not denying) and appear to be less concerned with the value other humans add to our existence? I boil it down to our obsession with competition in America.

Last night at our college worship service called Sola we discussed finding the Narrow Way that leads to life in our relationships with one another. We looked at Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, particularly focusing on Matthew 5:21-30. Jesus is clear that how we treat others dramatically affects our relationship with God and reflects whether or not we’re followers of His way. But finding the narrow way in relationships is difficult in America because imbedded into our psyche is the idea that other humans are our competition. Phrases like survival of the fittest, only the strong survive, and the whole concept of Darwin’s theory of evolution tell us that we are pitted against one another and it is ultimately a matter of survival. And I believe this mentality is literally the road that leads to death, and it is killing you and I.

So why do we love our dogs more than we love our friends? It’s simple: they make us feel special. They don’t judge us, hold us accountable or gently rebuke us. And when we live such narcissistic lives, lives that are full of lust (lust is using another human being for any type of self-gratification) instead of love, it’s no surprise that we love our dog more than our neighbor. I recently read a story where a guy named Roger explained, “When I come home after a long day’s work, my wife is usually on the phone and the kids are watching TV. Almost no one even notices that I walked through the door. But Laraby, my Golden Retriever, goes nuts. He runs up to me and almost knocks me down. He wags his tail. It’s like he’s been the waiting the whole day for me. And it makes me feel incredibly special. My wife complains that I watch too much TV. But the dog just cuddles up next to me and let’s me be.”

If you fight for animal rights, that is not a bad thing. If you find yourself fighting more for the rights of animals than the rights of humans, that is probably a bad thing. If you love your pet, that is not a bad thing. If you love them more than you love humans, that is a bad thing. If you show affection to your animals, that is not a bad thing. If you show more affection to your pets than you do to your family, that is a bad thing. I challenge you to find the narrow way back to seeing value in all humans rather than seeing them as someone that is here for your personal gratification.

In Romans 12, Paul addresses what it means to live a transformed life in Christ and walk the narrow road. I love how Eugene Peterson translates Romans 12:9-19. “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody. Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

If you are going to call yourself a follower of Christ then how you treat others is of the utmost importance. Placing value on your neighbor’s life is one of your highest callings. Serving those around you because they have infinite value in the eyes of God, not because of what they can do for you, is the demand. And making others feel special through acts of love is the noblest thing you can do for another. Think on these things.

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