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Over the Memorial Day weekend, when America honors its military fallen dead, the nation was gripped by the story of a young boy who had wandered past barriers and fallen into the Cincinnati Zoo gorilla enclosure. An anxious mom, visitors and zoo staff looked on in fear as the 450 pound gorilla manipulated the tiny child through the enclosure’s running stream as if he was a toy. Within minutes, zoo management decided the boy’s life was in imminent danger. They then had the primate killed. The boy was rescued suffering only minor injuries. End of story? Not by a long shot!

Next came the second guessing, the hindsight wisdom, the advocacy groups, followed by strident messages and the heated debate questioning the primacy of human life over animal life. I assume most people would consider the life of the child must take precedence over the life of the gorilla. But there is a segment of the population for whom there is no such hierarchy in which human life is neither superior to animal life nor has the right to exercise dominion over all other living things. The line of demarcation is brightest for those who believe the Genesis account of creation.

Genesis 1:26 King James Version And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

In His decree for humans’ “higher role” God also determined man’s higher responsibility to nurture and care for all living things. In God’s economy all life is sacred and precious, but He holds human life as distinctive and set apart from that of animal life because He endued humanity with a living soul. It is that soul, which is eternal in nature, that purposed Christ to Earth. He came to “seek and to save” us from sin and death! God did not give animal life the ability to choose between good and evil, right and wrong. Instead, He gave them the sense of instinct, i.e. behavior that is unlearned, complex, impulsive and powerful.

The gorilla in the Cincinnati Zoo was doing what came naturally. Humans in authority at the zoo used their God given intelligence based on experience to determine that the gorilla’s instinctive actions was a threat to the life of the child, consequently they ordered the primate killed. Life is neither a movie nor a fairytale in which there’s always a happy ending. In this situation a child is alive to live his life with the potential to go on to greatness: Happy! A beloved animal lost his life so that the child would live: Sad! Sad for the people who loved him, sad for those who in their best judgment determined he must die.

We Christians understand that trade off in an even deeper way. Our savior gave up His life that we might live. It was His great love that allowed for that transaction to take place. “Good Friday” was ‘sad’, but then came Sunday – and the Resurrection – “oh happy day”!

Jesus said “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John 11:25, 26). Do you believe this? 

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