Sunday, April 17, 2005

"The Beasts That Perish"

The thing is done. My friend Brenda came over this evening and, with a little help from George my next-door neighbor, we buried my dog Magdalen in the back garden at dusk. Goodbye, my sweet, faithful friend. You were a very good dog indeed, confounding all the idiots at the city animal shelter five years ago who said you were "aggressive, feral, and unadoptable."

This weekend I have been coffin-maker, undertaker, grave-digger, officiating pastor, and chief mourner. All I have to add to it now is monument-maker. Gratifying to think what a versatile, talented person I am, but I'd rather have my dog back.

Tant pis. That's not how things work in this fallen world. I'm not even going to comfort myself with the sentimental absurdity that "all dogs go to heaven." If there is a doggie "heaven," it exists only in our imaginations, not in any real spiritual realm created by God. Without the new life won for us by Jesus Christ, even we human beings would have no hope for immortality; we'd be just like "the beasts that perish." And Jesus didn't die to give eternal life to the beasts; He died and rose again to give His imperishable life to us, who are made in the image of God. The animals, no matter how beloved, aren't in it.

But have I left something out here? Maybe I have. Because in Isaiah 11 where the Lord speaks of how it's going to be in the day when He makes all things new, He describes how various animal species will be getting along with one another. You could say that's only a metaphor, but why bring in the beasts at all if they'll be alien to the New Creation?

And in Romans 8 it says "For the creation [including the animals, domestic and wild] was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God." So it can be said that we are redeemed in Christ and somehow, in God's good purpose, the rest of creation is redeemed through us, the redeemed!

Whether that means that we will be reunited with specific beloved pets, I can't say. I can be sure that if that's necessary for us to be happy in eternity, the Lord God will make it so. In the meantime, Maddie gave me five good years and I, I believe, gave her five good years. And for that, may the Lord's name be praised.

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