Thursday, September 26, 2019

A Religion for Man and Beast

     One of Lincoln's less known quotes, but one I find to have deeper meaning than at first reading, is this one, "I care not for a man's religion whose dog and cat are not better for it." Lincoln's sentiment toward animals came to him quite naturally.  Historians record our Sixteenth President as owning many pets in his lifetime: dogs, cats, pigs, goats, and one dog in particular on which he showered with extra affection.  That dog's name was Fido, a mixed-breed, yellow hued, extra friendly, family dog.  Fido slept inside with the Lincoln's and was allowed to eat scraps from the table, served to him by the President himself, no less.  His favorite sleeping area was a custom made couch, designed for Lincoln's tall frame.  It eventually became Fido's permanent bed when the Lincoln's moved to Washington.  The President even had the dog sit for a photographic portrait.  The name Fido by the way, means 'faithful' in Latin.  Tragically, and ironically, the dog's life was cut short, just like his master's.
As I said before, there are some depths of insight in Lincoln's simple sounding quote.  One thing I believe Lincoln was alluding to was this; a person's religious Faith should have a positive expression beyond their own private communion with God.  A man's faith needs to make the world a better place.  Not just a better place in the Church world, but better in all arenas of life.  Lincoln is envisioning a Faith that improves the condition of the free and the enslaved, the widow and the orphan, the poor and the outcast. He believed in a religion that impacted for good all peoples from all walks of life.  What is interesting is their use of the treatment of animals as an example of a noble type of religion.  The Scriptures also exhort Christians to better treatment of all God's creatures.  "A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal, but the compassion of the wicked is cruel."  Proverbs12:10

 Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount gets to the very heart of the matter that Lincoln was arguing.  Our Savior said it plain when speaking to Believers, "You are the salt of the earth, if you lose your saltiness, you are good for nothing... You are to be a light on a hill, a light on a lamp stand, if you cover it, it does not benefit those in darkness... It is your good works toward people that will bring glory to your Father."  Matthew 5:14-16   The Apostle James, hammers home the same point as Jesus and Lincoln. "Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit the widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."  James 1:27    Later in the same epistle James writes, "If you see your brethren in need, naked, destitute, hungry, and do not help, what good is that type of faith.... if you have faith alone and no works, it is a dead faith."  James 2:14-20

One of the Psalms used in churches during worship goes like this, "I will enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter His courts with praise... "  Psalms 100:4   A question to ask ourselves might be this one.  Is our walk with the Lord only seen in the invisible courts of Heaven, but remains invisible in the courtyards of men?  Lincoln imagined a Faith that shook both Heaven and Earth.

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