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Lessons From Animals--"Forgiveness"

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
Matthew 6:14 - 15


It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading these articles that I like animals. I have always been an animal lover. Growing up, I was the boy who was bringing animals home--dogs, cats, ferrets…I even came dangerously close once to buying a monkey. While others talk about their children, I talk about my pets.Hello, so pleased to make your acquaintance...

Cats especially have particular, special characteristics. They are independent, yet loyal; playful, yet proud; at times aloof, yet at times the world's best snugglers. Sneezy and Squawker, especially, are awesome. When I'm sick in bed, they don't leave my side. I can reach over and scratch them under the chin, and they'll purr--such a simple thing makes them happy. When Squawker first came home with me, he would wake me up in the middle of the night, because he was purring so loud--simply being curled up next to me made him happy. How could you not love creatures like that?

Several years ago I had a neighbor who trapped one of my cats in a cage, took it out to his garage, and killed it. He lived two houses down from me, and I was new to the neighborhood. In fact, I had moved to the neighborhood because of my cats. The apartment I had lived in did not allow animals, yet I had two cats. My landlady gave me a choice: lose the cats, or lose the apartment. I moved into a duplex that had a yard and trees--their first experience in the great outdoors.

One night I was outside, and I heard a cat crying two houses over. There was a gravel alley running behind each of the houses, and I walked over to see what was wrong. In this man's back yard was a metal cage--much like a rabbit cage--and a cat inside. The cat was crying. I thought it was strange, to have a cat in a cage like that…but I figured he had a reason for it. Maybe the cat was sick, and he needed to quarantine it. I walked home.

A few nights later, one of my cats didn't come home. I went outside and called for it--and I heard a cat crying two doors down. I paid that cat no attention; I assumed it was the same cat as before. And, of course, in my memory it gets worse and worse--the more I called, the louder this cat cried. But I didn't go over there.

I organized our youth group, making maps of the neighborhood and dividing them into teams. I sent them door to door to ask my neighbors if they had seen my cat. Very quickly, one of the teams came back and told me, "You need to hear what your next-door neighbor has to say." This was the neighbor who lived between me and this other man, and her message was not encouraging: "That man traps cats, and kills them. We know he's doing it, but we can't prove it, so the police can't do anything."

I was furious. Suddenly all the pieces came together, and I understood what had happened. I went over to his house, and banged on his door with my flashlight--but to no avail. He would not answer. That night I lay in bed, seething…all I thought of was various harms I could inflict on him.

The next morning I went outside, and there he was: two houses down, doing some work in his back yard, as if nothing were wrong. I wanted to go over there. I wanted to go over there and let him have it…and I even started to take a couple steps. But wouldn't you know it--just as I was about to go, I start thinking of things Jesus said: "Turn the other cheek…love your enemies and pray for those who wrong you…" It's one of those moments when you want to say, "God, not now. I don't want to be a Christian right now." Unfortunately--or, fortunately--being a follower of Christ is not a part-time commitment. You do, or you don't; and you do always, not sometimes.

So, next I thought--"Well, I'll just go over there and talk to him. We'll just talk, that's all." And God's response was: "Dan, you know you aren't in any condition to have a loving conversation with this man. Let it go."

It is not always an easy thing to forgive. Jesus even acknowledges this. In Luke 6:31 - 34, He says:


"Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full."


It's one thing to love those who love you, to do good to those who are good to you, to lend to those whom you know will pay you back…anyone can do that! It's easy to "play it safe"…but how about taking it a step further? How far can you take it? Jesus goes on to say, in verses 35 - 38:


"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."


Love the unlovable. Be good to those who treat you poorly. God Himself is kind to the ungrateful and wicked--be like God. Show mercy. In fact, we set the standard--the "measure"--by which God looks upon us. Don't judge, and you won't be judged…don't condemn, and you won't be condemned…forgive, and you'll be forgiven.

What a really, really, HARD thing to do! But we're called to do it. It's part of the package of Christ. In fact, it's the gift and grace of Christ--we are forgiven through Him. How can we not, likewise, forgive others?Innocent dreams


 In Christ,


--Pastor Dan 






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