Three of the world’s top predators standing side-by-side in an obviously loving posture. Meet Leo, an African lion, Baloo, a North American Black Bear, and Shere Khan, a Siberian tiger. Collectively known as “BLT” these beautiful animals live as a family at Noah’s Ark Animal Sanctuary in Locust Grove, GA, where they have been together since being rescued from the basement of an Atlanta home when they were only a few months old. Severely malnourished and frightened, each needed varying degrees of medical attention to save their lives. Because of the work of Noah’s Ark, next month Baloo, Leo and Shere Khan will celebrate their 13th birthday. Thanks be to God!
They eat, sleep and play together in harmony. When separated they become distraught. They are for all intents and purposes a family. Although not born of the same parents (obviously), their shared experiences have connected them in a deeply profound way. They share a bond of trust in each other that seemingly defies the laws of nature.
My question is this: if three so disparate animals can live together peacefully and lovingly, why can’t we? Lately I have been troubled by the level of distrust I sense between Christians, both at the denominational and congregational level. Even those who consider themselves Lutherans are fragmented into various church bodies. At the congregational level, differing groups with differing agendas compete for resources and priority. Suspicion abounds as to the “agenda” of one group or another. There is a sense of distrust not only in each other, but by extension, in the providence of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit.
My question is again, WHY? Do we not have the same heavenly Father? Do we not have Jesus as our brother? Are we not fed at the same Holy Table? Are we all not created in the image of God? Is not the same Holy Spirit at work in our lives? Do we not all profess our faith in the one true Triune God? The answer to these questions is a resounding YES!
So again I ask, if “wild” animals can live together in harmony, why can’t we? The answer is simple: we are sinners prone to “lean on our own understanding.” We think we know the heart and mind of our neighbor, but the Bible clearly tells a different story: “I the Lord test the mind and search the heart.” (Jeremiah 17:10); “but God knows your hearts.” (Luke 16:15); “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.” (Psalm 139:1) In our sin, we tend to think we know what is what. We are sure our neighbor is not to be trusted. He or she obviously is not as smart, informed or spiritual as we are. We put ourselves in place of God and sit in judgment of our neighbor’s motives.
God has given us this commandment: “Then God spoke all these words . . . You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:1, 16) Jesus gave us this commandment: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34) In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther explains the 8th Commandment in this way: "We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend them, [think and] speak well of them, and put the best construction on everything." Simply put, we MUST always think the best of and trust our fellow man. God commands it. Jesus commands it. Lutherans believe it. Christians must to do it.
I do not say these things because I perfectly keep these commandments. When confronted with my less than Christian actions and thoughts, I pray to God for his forgiveness, trusting in his grace mercy towards me, his oft wayward child.
Lord God, Father of all creation, strengthen our resolve and ability to trust one another and always think the best of our fellow man. Forgive us when we fail, guide us in the truth. Teach us to be more like the lion, tiger and bear you created and forged into a family. Amen
Seeking forgiveness and grace,