I recently told you all that our backyard has turned into quite a zoo. In the past year, our family somehow accumulated four rabbits, a cat, and a dog, and I’m just waiting for the hamster and the goldfish to appear any day now.
My daughter Adelade is the biggest pet lover I have ever seen. She adores any kind of animal, and it doesn’t matter if it’s dirty or gross. If it’s an animal, she loves it. I love watching her with her pets, and I often think that she would make a wonderful vet someday because she has such compassion and tenderness toward animals.
But, a few weeks ago, we were talking about a dog we had seen that was behaving badly, and I said some negative things about the dog. Adelade got visibly upset, to the point of tears, and told me that nobody likes to be talked about.
Now, Adelade obviously has a tender heart when it comes to animals, and I really love that about her. But, what she said went beyond just compassion for animals, into the realm of putting pets on the same plane as human beings. As much as pets add joy and companionship and healing to our lives, they are different than human beings.
Pets are not made in the image of God. We are the only creation with the distinction of being made in God’s image. This means that we are copies of some of the qualities of God. For instance, we are spiritual beings. We are moral beings. We are creative. We have higher intelligence and language. Human beings are clearly higher in the order of creation than pets are, even the smartest, greatest pets.
There is spiritual danger in allowing our children to develop the wrong understanding that animals are the same as human beings. We must teach them the unique and special place that humanity has in the order of creation, and that God’s entire rescue plan was designed for human beings, not for our beloved pets.
In the ten years that I have been a parent, I have seen what seems to be a concerted effort to make children feel that pets are equal to human beings. The television shows and programs that Adelade has seen through the years have humanized animals and have drilled into her mind that they should be treated as you would treat any human being. Thus, her meltdown at the thought of someone saying bad things behind a dog’s back. But, we must always be alert and aware, parents, that our worldview is different than that of the makers of the children’s TV shows. It is our job to teach our children to treat animals with kindness, but to also make it clear to them the distinctions between pets and people, according to God’s word.
It’s no coincidence that we see more outrage over abused animals than we see over aborted babies. The thinking that elevates animals to human status creates a warped view of God’s creation, and therefore a distorted worldview that is out of focus with the Bible and basic moral truth.
I have a friend who takes her dog to Sonic every day to get him an ice cream cone. I think that’s just adorable. He is a really lucky and happy dog, and I love that. But, there’s a difference between feeding your dog ice cream cones and teaching your children that dogs are as essential to God’s design as humans are. The distinction is so important to our kids’ spiritual futures. Animals are wonderful. But, humanity is God’s love, and human lives should be protected and cherished above all other life forms.