CreatureKind Lenten Devotion: How Should Christians Treat Animals?

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ESA's Sarah Withrow King is running a series of devotionals during Lent, reflecting on what we believe about God's creatures and how we might move toward living out those beliefs as members of the body of Christ.

What is the place of animals in our Christian faith, and what does that mean for us? Join us on Mondays for a video, a song, and/or a short reading, along with questions for reflection and discussion.

Want more? Join Sarah and other CreatureKind friends for a Facebook Event every Monday at 11AM Eastern Time!

How should Christians treat animals?

For many Christians, this is Holy Week, a week of the year that we set aside to consider the death and burial of Jesus Christ. We know that the tomb will be empty on Easter morning, but the people who walked with Jesus did not share our advantage of hindsight.

Imagine their confusion, pain, anger, desolation. The tendency under such circumstances may have been to scatter, to retreat to separate corners and ready defenses for the next attack. The Gospel of John tells us that before Jesus was betrayed, arrested, and executed, he prayed for his disciples (Chapter 17). It is a heartbreaking prayer, uttered as Jesus began his final few days on earth, and it demonstrates the depth of love Jesus had for his friends, the disciples, and for those of us who believe now. In the prayer, Jesus expresses his longing for his followers to be unified, "completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

Christians who become aware of animal suffering are not always able to find solace in their church communities. Our inquiries about how to more faithfully care for animals fall on closed (or confused) ears. Our requests for vegan options at church meals, wildlife-friendly building maintenance, or plant-based-milk for the Sunday morning coffee hour may fall on closed ears as well. We might volunteer to lead a small group, a book discussion, or a movie night about animals, but fail to find an ally among the church staff who will pave the way. Or we may simply grow tired of explaining, week after week, why we don't eat meat (no, not even fish) or cheese.

Perhaps our study over the last few weeks has been the first time you've considered what Christianity can mean for animals. Or perhaps you've been having these conversations for many years.

Regardless, our task is now to ask, what can we do together? Can we discern, as a community, what concerns ​we as Christians should have about the intensive farming of animals and other human uses of animals? Can we work together as the body of Christ to imagine and work towards a world, "on earth, as it is in heaven"? What gives you hope for this coming season in the life of the church? Where do you see flourishing, and where can you foster deeper flourishing in your own community?

Pray: "May we be Your people unfolding a new possibility. May we be Your hands to the suffering. May we be Your feet in protest. May we be Your shouts in anger. May we be Your tears in mourning. May we touch Your animals and change the world. May we be Your people unfolding a new possibility. Amen." (Taken from Prayers for Animals by Carol J. Adams)

Sarah Withrow King is the Deputy Director of Evangelicals for Social Action, the co-director of CreatureKind, and the author of two books, Animals Are Not Ours (No Really, They're Not): An Evangelical Animal Liberation Theology(Wipf & Stock) and Vegangelical: How Caring for Animals Can Shape Your Faith (Zondervan).

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