“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat,…
They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain…”
Isaiah 11:6, 9
I have a confession to make: I’m not a cat person. That might surprise those who visit our house, because we do have three cats (only one of which is an “indoor” cat). So, you can imagine my demeanor after Carol and Ben came home recently with… a kitten.
Granted, she is adorable, but still… She’s a cat. And I’m not a cat person.
It turns out that we’re only kitty-sitting while the kitten’s owners are out of town for a couple of weeks. That makes it more bearable. I can enjoy the adorable-ness of the kitten, all the while remembering that the frequent feedings and supervised explorations of the family room will soon be a memory.
Truth be told, our dogs have had a much harder time than I have with the adjustment. I’m not sure you know this, but dogs and cats aren’t natural friends; in fact, dogs have been known to act a bit aggressively toward cats. Our dogs were not happy when the kitten came to reside with us. The dogs don’t understand when we tell them, “It’s only for a couple of weeks.”
I have to give some credit to one of our dogs, Bella. Bella has been more curious than aggressive toward Kitty-Kitty (I am not giving the kitten a name, lest she become ours). Carol and/or I are always close by when Kitty-Kitty and Bella are in the same room. Kitty-Kitty prances around, climbing on the furniture, scampering underneath the couch, and pouncing on ribbons, toys, shoes, and anything else we leave out for her. Bella, for her part, follows closely everywhere Kitty-Kitty goes, her ears perking up in that “something strange is going on” way that dogs have about them. Occasionally, Bella will lick her lips, which makes us worry that maybe she wants to eat Kitty-Kitty, a fate even a non-cat-person such as I would not wish upon the cute little ball of fur.
After a week and a half, Bella got up on the same chair where Kitty-Kitty was playing. They both kind of froze in place and stared each other down for a few moments. Then Bella settled down, and before we knew it, Kitty-Kitty had laid herself down right on top of Bella.
Alright, even I let out an audible “Awwwww”. I mean, who wouldn’t? Look how cute they are together!
It is a cute picture, indeed. But it is also, at another level, profoundly meaningful.
Almost immediately my mind went to a familiar passage in the Old Testament book in Isaiah. In the 11th chapter we find a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah from the line of King David. In that chapter there is a description of the kind of kingdom the Messiah will usher in:
“The spirit of the Lord will rest on him (the Messiah) – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the Lord…
“…with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth…Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them…they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
Isn’t that a beautiful picture of what our world will be like in the kingdom of God?! Can you imagine a world where all is good and equitable for everyone? A world where natural enemies actually come together in peace and harmony?
Come to think of it, I like to think that we have the opportunity to move toward that reality even now. We don’t have to wait until the ultimate arrival of the Kingdom, for the truth is we are called to live into kingdom reality even now. I truly believe that Christ has already begun an amazing transformation in the hearts of all who believe in him. It is a transformation that empowers us to overcome the hostilities of our world and work for reconciliation, and peace. Even a superficial reading of the New Testament will draw us to conclude that, in Christ, the things that separate and divide and create hostility between people are no match for the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that are ours in Christ (see, for example, Ephesians 2:11-20, Galatians 3:26-29, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, Colossians 3:12-17, Matthew 6:9-15, Matthew 5:9).
I say this because my heart is heavy over the spirit of violence, vengeance, and enmity that is pervasive in nearly every area of life and in our world. Just last week a man opened fire on a group of Republican members of congress practicing for a baseball game, wounding five people before being killed by heroic action from the Capitol Police. In the aftermath people from both sides of the political aisle noted that the vitriolic rhetoric we hear 24/7 coming from politicians, activists, protesters, and alternative news outlets probably fed into the hatred of the man who pulled the trigger on the politicians.
As followers of the Prince of Peace in whom the vision of Isaiah is fulfilled, we should expect better than the current political climate, especially as we claim a Judeo-Christian influence on our country’s great history. Enmity and divisiveness should not be the default in our society. It’s okay to disagree. Passionate people will disagree. Christ-followers of good conscience will disagree on any number of important issues.
But when our disagreements turn into the demonization of those who disagree with us, we have crossed a line. No longer are we being driven by the spirit of Christ, which calls for understanding and reconciliation and mutual respect; instead, we have succumbed to a spirit far beneath the spirit of Christ. Enmity and divisiveness are deeds of the flesh (to put it in Paul’s terms), not the spirit of Christ.
Leadership from both the Democrats and Republicans called for a more civil discourse. I hope and pray that their words are not empty.
Folks, if a dog and a cat can learn to get along (it is a learned behavior, an intentional act of the heart), then don’t you think the elephants and donkeys can find a way to get along? I think we can. That is, after all, the vision of the world where Jesus Christ reigns.