Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Thankful Cat

Since my short interaction with Teampyro and centuriOn I’ve had quite a few more visitors to my log. In an effort to keep some of them I’d like to try to think about some of the issues that have been brought up in that log. They will be short pieces, a little bit at random, but I hope they will give you a better idea of some of the issues I am dealing with, and perhaps stimulate some constructive discussion.

I grew up a Calivinist (TULIP and all that). I remember in my Christian High School vigorously promoting the doctrine of double predestination (probably from the not-so-accurate perspective of the teenager who saw everything in black and white). Original sin and total depravity were, as they say in Dutch, “fed to us with the oatmeal spoon”.

All my studies and training did not prepare me for the question a young Dutch lady asked me a little more than 10 years ago. She was a young woman struggling to find psychological stability in her life and world. I don’t know all that had happened to her, but a lot of it was not good.

At one point in our discussions of the Gospel she asked this question:

Imagine I find a stray cat on the street, feel compassion for it and take it home. I feed it, give it a bed and a home. I provide for it and help it get better.

Do I expect the cat to be thankful? Do I demand that the cat be thankful? And if he is not thankful, do I punish him? And if he still refuses to be thankful, do I banish him from my house?

What would you do? What is your theological answer, and how would you bring it in a way that really helps this woman?

(Please remember - this is a hurting, wounded woman. Her question is serious, coming from her experience. And we want to win her heart for Christ.)


centuri0n said...


In that story, I'm not sure what an "ungrateful cat" looks like. One would hope that a cat which claws on the furniture and cannot be house-trained is, in fact, turned out to the street or to the proper eugentics authorities -- because a cat is not morally equal to a baby.

In addition, let's be clear that picking up a stray is not like God's relationship to man because God created man for a specific purpose. The ontological relationship between God and man is different than the relationship between me and the stray cat I find in the street.

If that offends, that's the Gospel offense and not an offense against moral reasoning -- especially in a world where abortion is a common way to make sure a child doesn't live in poverty.

Cultural Savage said...

When I was growing up, we had a cat that took up residence in our shed. This can was skittish and when threatened, would bite (its front paws had been de-clawed), hiss, and generally be unpleasant. Over time, through feeding, giving space, and just letting him be, this cat cam to be a part of our family, lived in our house, and even slept on my bed. String bean yo-yo (I was 7 when I named him) was loved and loved us in return.

However, he peed on stuff. He grew used to the life of a feral ally cat, and even though he was brought into that loving home/relationship with us, some of those traits never got fully washed out.

Now the cat can do as it wishes, even if that is to scorn the compassion shown it. But the reasons for the behavior are not cut and dry. At some level the cat's nature has been flawed. It will always remain flawed. Should compassion extend only to the cats care and then be curbed by the ungrateful behavior? True compassion is the suffering with the suffering. Suffering with the cat might be long and hard, but it is the suffering to see the flawed nature purged and this cat to finally come into the glory it was meant for.

David Cho said...

I have no idea how cats express gratitude, but what I would say is that God's love and compassion are not contingent upon how we react. So regardless of how thankful the cat appears, the owner loves it no matter what. That is how I see unconditional love.

Schreef said...


You would say that to her?


David Cho said...

How in the world abortion make it into the discussion? Just because the hurting person is a woman?

Mark said...

Well...I'm a cat hater, but I'll try to reply in a helpful way :)

I agree with Centurion's assessment that its hard to find an exact analogy to our relationship with God, but hey...Jesus and Paul used stories and analogy to try and demonstrate principles and love, so why can't we try to answer one that's been posed to us? I am speculating, but this woman probably loves a cat, and wants to know if God would treat her better than she would treat a cat. If he doesn't, then in her mind, God is no better than her. SOoooo...

"feel compassion for it"
Right there is the essence of what determine's all the subsequent actions. Compassion, as I understand it, is mercy and love given, even when its not deserved or appreciated.

"Do I expect the cat to be thankful?"
No, but you sincerely hope the cat will be thankful becuase that provides a fertile ground for greater love and relationship between you.

"Do I demand that the cat be thankful?"
No...If you do than what you gave to the cat is not compassion and kindness, but a service for which payment is demanded...like a transaction more than an act of kindness

"And if he is not thankful, do I punish him?"
Absolutely not. The 'punishment' of not having a two-way relationship with someone that dearly loves him (the cat) is bad enough.

"And if he still refuses to be thankful, do I banish him from my house?"
Nope, and you won't have to...eventually the cat will learn to despise the person that was kind to it and leave of its own accord. It has, in its own mind, no reason to stay. It heads out looking for greener pastures.

Anonymous said...

Centurion - your answer does not address what you would say to the woman who asked the question. What is her purpose and what her relationship with God is supposed to be.
Would you not tell her that God's grace is big! Would you not tell her that God loves her more than she can imagine no matter what she has or hasn't done in her life. Would you not tell her that God saved and loved you "while you were yet a sinner."
If your answer to her would be what you wrote in this discussion it seems to me that you would be treating her the way the Pharisees treated "sinners." And we all know what Jesus had to say to them.....
I think what Schreef was trying to get at was that these intellectual answers are not what the lost and hurting need to hear. The lost and hurting need to hear about God's unconditional love and grace through kind and compassionate words and actions from those who claim to know that grace.
As for your reference to abortion, was that entirely necessary? I don't see how it relates to this discussion at all.