This is the story of two lions…and a dentist.
This morning I woke up to the startling news that Cecil The Lion is dead. Cecil who? I asked myself the same question. The news came in the form of a Youtube link on my Facebook newsfeed. Late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s now-viral clip shows him tearing up over the death of this lion, even insulting the Dentist who shot him. No, I am not making this up: a Dentist shot a lion for the price of $55,000, taking the head as a prize and leaving the body to rot. But, why is this lion so important?
Well, Cecil used to pose for the tourists. He was a gentle lion. He had a presence about him that gave the impression that Cecil was more than a lion: He was a person. But, Cecil was torn apart. His parts were essentially sold to the highest bidder, and the Dentist is the one who won the bid. He mutilated the animal and left his remains to stink and decay in the hot sun while the world is in shock over someone who could do such a thing.
Who would do such a thing? Well, we do. Not just to lions, but to our own human beings.
While all this internet-drama is unfolding, another video leaked exposing doctors operating on aborted fetuses to try and preserve the tissue for sale. Why is it we are so aggravated by a lion being killed for sport, but are so numb to the reality that we are terminating human life before he or she is even given a chance to live in the world? Perhaps it’s because the people are wearing doctors outfits, using doctors jargon, and seemingly doing things in a scientific way. After all, science reigns supreme, and if a group of people get behind something, it must be right, right? Let’s get our priorities straight here.
Consider this: We force ourselves inside a protected fetus’ domain, a domain where he or she is developing and growing naturally into a human being made in the Image of God, and tear him or her from that environment. We mutilate the body, by means of toxic injection, brain suction, rotation, and the like, and find ways of preserving vital organs to use in various field of research such as stem cells. This is all done in the name of choice. But, who has the power of choice? Apparently, we do. We are self-appointed judges over the destinies of our own children. If we approve the termination of children and remove their opportunity to be born into this world, then who are we to say it’s a greater act against nature that someone shoots a lion and uses the head for a trophy on his wall? Which death is worse?
This goes back to this: What criteria do we use to value life, and what place do human beings have in the universe?
Imago Dei: The Image of God
The Bible doesn’t dance around the issue. We, as human beings, have a special place in the universe, and this earth was something we were given dominion over.
Genesis one and two present a hierarchy of nature. First, the earth is formless and void (Gen. 1:2-3). Then, God brings light into existence and separates light from darkness to give light on the earth and help the future inhabitants detect seasons, years, and times (Gen. 1:3-5; 14-15). After forming the earth, He brings the land to the surface and separates the land from the waters (1:9-10). Throughout the two chapters, He sets up sea creatures to dwell in the sea, vegetation for food on the land, animals to roam the lands, and insects and all kinds of living things to dwell on the earth. Finally, he makes man and then woman from man (chapter two). Man was given every green thing for food, and every tree in the garden to eat except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man was given authority over everything on the earth. Only mankind is said to be made in the Image of God and only we have souls.
Ultimately, the hierarchy doesn’t end with us. Above us stands a holy and righteous God who made the way for a personal relationship with Him. We were made to worship God and glorify Him. We were made to see that there stands a God who is above us and gives us every good and perfect gift (James 1:13-17). The greatest gift of all being Himself.
So, why is it that we sometimes tend to treat animals as if they are people? And why is it that sometimes we overlook people just like they are animals? It’s because without the knowledge that God made us in His image to love and care for our neighbor as well as creation, we end up writing our own version of this message. And frankly, a kind animal can provide joy to anyone, but that shouldn’t make us think less of the people God has made in His image for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). Without the truth of God, we have no real anchor when it comes to these issues.
Planned Parenthood is just one symptom of the greater issue: of the sin dwelling deeper in our hearts than any doctor could ever reach, or hunter could ever hunt. While Cecil’s death is seen as an injustice, we must consider this: that God is infinitely more offended and dishonored by our sin than we are by this hunter’s kill.
The Death of Sin and the Death of Christ
Although we are not animals, and we do have a special place in God’s eyes (Psalm 139:13), we’ve let it go to our heads. In Romans one, one of the signs of a culture gone backwards is when the people begin worshiping the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:18-31). Anything that we love more than God is an idol, and we have grown to love ourselves a little too much. We even love animals or money, or sex, or the idea of choice to the point where they are far off target from where they were designed to be. This insistence on our own way is cosmic treason: It’s telling God, “you don’t know what’s good enough for me.” We value ourselves as more important than we really are, but really, we are finite. We have abandoned our Creator and chased after substitute magic-tricks that look pretty but are in the end just empty illusions of what God truly has to offer us.
In God’s eyes, we are valuable, yes. But, we are also puny.
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)
King Solomon echoed similar statements throughout Ecclesiastes. He shows that life is a cycle, and that there is nothing new under the sun. We are born, and we die. We may attain property and great wealth, but someday someone else will get it. The point is, we are temporary, weak, and frail human beings who never really own anything. Our energy and strength all go to something, but to what, or to whom?
God alone is worthy of worship. The Bible calls mankind sinful for good reason: We corrupt ourselves and are destined for death and eternal suffering as justice. Instead of enjoying the beauty and infinity of God and the gifts He’s given us, we’ve gone our own way and settled for less. Not only so, we have let ourselves believe the lie, that we know better than God. We are on a course that leads nowhere but condemnation. That is, until we discover that God provided a Lion better than Cecil. A Lion that will do more than pose for the tourists. Think back to the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Aslan (a talking lion, who also represents Christ), dies for the sake of the children. He is murdered in cold blood. He dies but then is raised to life again.
Jesus Christ suffered at the hands of sinners to reconcile us back to God. He died on a sinners cross so that you can be free from your sin, from your self-righteousness. Not only so, He rose from the dead and proclaimed victory for us over sin and over death (1 Cor. 15; 1 Pet. 3). By faith Christ becomes your substitute. He receives your punishment while you receive His rewards.
You can experience freedom from the sins that hold those at Planned Parenthood in bondage. Jesus Christ is the better Cecil and is worthy of your affection and worship.