(Many years ago, I wrote a monthly devotional, “Consider.” Perusing the files on my computer, I stumbled upon this post from May 12, 2004. Although dated, the message is timeless.)

When the little boy’s dog died, he asked his mother, “Do dogs go to heaven?” His mother replied, “Yes, all dogs go to heaven,” and talked with him about the heart of God. Encouraged and comforted that he would see his dog in heaven, the boy was able to work through his grief and move on with his life.

This little boy, now a young man in a seminary theology class, asks his professor, “Do dogs go to heaven?” The professor summarily dismisses the idea with a cynical response, “Of course not. Animals don’t have souls like humans. God is concerned about man, not animals,” without explaining verses that speak of God’s care and ownership of animals (see Ps. 50:10-11; Lk. 12:24). The young man leaves disappointed, as his childhood hope was crushed by someone whom he highly respects.

Do animals really go to heaven, or don’t they? Theologians don’t give a lot of attention to this subject. Still, an underlying issue is arguably more important—how we view God Himself and His creation.

From God’s first creative decree, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3), to His last, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26), God displayed increasing facets of His nature and glory. Each day of creation concluded with the summary, “And God saw that it was good,” and finally, “that it was very good.” Every dimension of creation reveals a different feature of God’s boundless glory, including animals. 

I am neither proposing that we all become pet lovers or animal rights activists, nor am I speaking against those who hunt and fish, but consider this. As we grow into the image of God and rightly fulfill our responsibility to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth (Gen. 1:26),” He shows us His glory and the value of ALL creation in increasing measure. He transforms our human heart into a heart like His, and we exercise our “rule” over creation with His love and compassion.

 Animals often demonstrate a God-given sense that transcends our human intellect. Dogs and cats bring comfort and companionship to the elderly; dogs can be trained to assist the disabled and “communicate” with autistic children who cannot connect with other human beings.     

Whenever I have traveled without my family, I have always felt somewhat secure knowing that our dog, Theo, would protect them. He “greeted” everyone at the door with a ferocious bark and allowed them in only after they had met his “approval.” In addition to his protectiveness, Theo demonstrated faithfulness, forgiveness, comfort, patience, gentleness, and love—all facets of God’s character. And even when he disobeyed, he promptly responded to discipline with repentance (something we could all learn to do better).

Yesterday, we buried Theo after a short bout with kidney failure. As we gathered around him to pray and say “goodbye” on his last night, Rhapsody prayed, “Lord, thank you for showing us what You are like through Theo.” She could not have honored his life with a more significant statement.

How much of this is true of our own lives? Are we living in such a manner  that people know what God is like because of what they see in us and how we relate to others and our world? If God’s glory and love can be revealed through an animal, how much more should it, and could it be revealed through people who are created in His image?

Losing Theo is tough. I called him my “best buddy.” But God is good. I am comforted by the words of Psalm 23 that I memorized as a child, “He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.”  In my mind’s eye, I see Theo lying in a green pasture beside a stream, and his soul is also restored…

Stop and Consider.

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