It’s November. Leaves are falling, skies are gray, and my son-in-law has been here visiting the deer. While he’s with us, I never need an alarm clock. I wake up abruptly just before dawn, smelling coffee and hearing the front door click shut. The hunter exits like a ghost, neither waking his brothers-in-law nor the four dogs. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that our pony ignores him as he threads his way through the barn, down the gulley, and into the woods. Once he reaches his destination, he stays there all day watching and waiting. When he comes back to “deer camp” after dusk, he will, if pressed, talk about his days’ adventures. I’ve learned a lot because, being deer camp cook, I pump him for information while he devours his dinner.
I enjoy hearing his wildlife stories but I’ve learned more by watching him. Apparently, hunting is not just sitting up in a tree for a couple of hours shooting at harmless Bambis as they stroll beneath you. It’s clinging to that tree in rain, wind and sleet while your extremities stiffen with cold. It’s holding a drawn bow forever while your prey decides whether or not to come your way. It’s getting up early and coming home tired. It ain’t that simple. And I am torn between my compassion for the beautiful animals and my admiration for- well, I’ll call him “Uncas.”
While I want Uncas to bag a buck, I secretly wish the buck could go home with him as a pet and live happily in his back yard. Of course, being a meat-eater, I see the inconsistency of this attitude, and admit that my method of procuring meat is cowardly in comparison (buying plastic-wrapped muscle on styrofoam is so much easier). Oddly, the easy method of acquiring food doesn’t automatically make me more thankful for it. As long as I don’t have to watch an animal die, the only obvious cost is the one stamped on the package. Custom and convenience have numbed me to the fact that blood was shed so that I can live.
In ancient times animals were killed not only for food, but for forgiveness of sins. We don’t offer animal sacrifices anymore- a circumstance for which I am profoundly grateful. I mean, if the necessary killing of animals for food bothers me, imagine how badly I’d feel if I had to regularly slaughter a lamb because of my sins. But maybe that was the whole point. Although the “inner animal lover” in me cringes at this idea, I do think that gazing into the eyes of that lamb might be revelatory, a shocking reminder of the darkness of sin.
For the Christian, the animal sacrificial system ended with Christ. I Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God…” It’s done. No more animal sacrifice. Because He shed His blood, the blood bath is over. And when I look at this last sacrificial Lamb, I see not condemnation but love. My burden of guilt is forever exchanged for the burdens of praise and thanksgiving. How unexpected. How remarkable. How glorious!
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)