I'VE always been the kind of animal lover who would like to adopt every stray and support every organization dedicated to saving endangered species. But I've been forced to look for more effective ways to live in harmony with our environment and to respect all living things. It's no surprise that the answers I need are in the Bible.
I began my search for them with the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis. Here the Bible identifies all forms of life as God's creation, blessed by Him and declared to be like their creator--spiritual and good. I remembered a statement of God's care in Psalms that seemed to me like a promise for today. ``O Lord,'' the Psalmist sings, ``thou preservest man and beast'' (36:6). Numerous accounts of man's relationship to nature are recorded in the Bible. For example, when jealous enemies contrived to have Daniel punished by being shut in with lions, though he had done nothing wrong, the Bible tells us that he was preserved from harm and freed the next day (see Daniel, chap. 6).
God never relinquishes His responsibility for the well-being of His creation. He sustains and cares for all that is His, and this is a spiritual law we can perceive through prayer. I prayed to understand that in our efforts to care for animals we express the intelligence and love that have their source in God. These qualities guide us to care for our domestic animals lovingly and to deal with wildlife wisely.
As I prayed I also turned to Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Founder of the Christian Science Church. She leaves no question about God's care for all His creation: ``God is the Life, or intelligence, which forms and preserves the individuality and identity of animals as well as of men'' (p. 550). I've seen the effects of understanding the truth expressed in this statement many times over the years, both in our own lives and in caring for our pets. But what of the conflicts that seem to arise as contacts between human and wildlife populations increase? As much as we'd like to live in harmony with the world's creatures, sometimes wildlife appears to threaten our livelihoods or even our lives, by carrying diseases, for example. This is all part of the distorted picture that the spiritual facts about God's creation correct.
When our actions grow from our prayer to love all of God's creation, it is possible to find solutions that keep everyone-- animal and human--safe. For example, my family and I once realized that we were surrounded by rattlesnakes. At first it felt like the kind of nightmare I'd seen in movies: We were hiking in the mountains, enjoying the solitude, far from any other hikers. As we reached a rocky summit we heard an ominous rattle. Looking down, one family member saw a rattlesnake within inches of his feet. He was able to jump aside instead of stepping on the snake, but we were all shaken. I looked toward the rocks we planned to make our picnic site: snakes lay in coils enjoying the sun. Glancing at the layered rocks around us, we began to see many more snakes in various states of repose. Clearly we were the intruders, but we felt trapped, as though we could hardly move in any direction for fear of triggering a defensive reaction from the snakes.
We began to speak to each other quietly, praying to understand that God governs every element of His universe--that every creature, to some degree, expresses His qualities, including intelligence and love. We recalled a favorite statement from Science and Health and said it aloud: ``All of God's creatures, moving in the harmony of Science, are harmless, useful, indestructible'' (p. 514). The spiritually scientific law of harmony was operating at that moment, even while we felt afraid. That law calms, protects, and guides. Trusting in it, our fear faded, and we were guided safely away from the snakes. No harm came to us or to them.
Whether we are caring for our pets, dealing with wildlife around us, or yearning to preserve threatened animals in other parts of the world, we can affirm the active, powerful law of God that is always in operation. It's our right and responsibility to see all creatures where they truly are--in God's care.