Reflection on the Lectionary: John 15:9-17
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflection on the Lectionary: John 15:9-17
(May 17, 2009)

This passage includes Jesus’ commandment to his disciples: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (9:12). I think that, perhaps as a consequence of Romanticism, many people equate “love” with great affection. However, affection is a feeling that we either have or don’t have; it can’t be “commanded” into us. I think the love to which Jesus referred is a deep concern and respect for other individuals that derives not from feelings of affection but from reverence to God. All things properly belong to God the Creator, and when we show love for Creation we show love for God.
This helps explain Jesus’ remarkable teaching that we should love our enemies (Mt 5:44, Lk 6:27). We can fear and want to have no social intercourse with our enemies while simultaneously recognizing our enemies as creations of God who, like ourselves, are flawed, perhaps seriously so.
Many people deride animal advocates as “animal lovers,” as if deep affection for animals was unhealthy or morally wrong. Given that many animals show great affection for us, it’s hardly surprising, and not at all improper, to have genuine affection for animals. However, one can be indifferent to individual animals while simultaneously loving them analogous to the way that Jesus encouraged his disciples to love each other. We can recognize that animals belong to God and, to the degree that they also suffer and feel pleasure, what we do with them and to them matters to God. 

Go on to: Essay: Why We Must Respect Animal Rights
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

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