This post was written on May 15th 2006.
A couple of years ago, I was preaching in a small African village in the country of Guinea Bissau when I had a thought that struck me as rather humorous. Well, I guess humorous is a relative term, morbid might be a better word. For the first time in my life I actually got to see the whole process from the slaughter of the chicken to the arrival of the chicken meat on my plate. And let me tell you, it is not a pretty picture. First, they cut off the head and drain the blood and then they pluck the feathers out of the chicken. And the rest, well, you can probably imagine it for yourself. Here is the funny thing. I noticed that, at least from the chickens' perspective, watching their fellow comrades getting their heads chopped off didn't seem to bother them all that much. I never noticed any attempt from the chickens' part to escape their impending doom. In fact, they just kept hanging around and hanging around as if they were household pets. It never seemed to occur to the poor little chickens that we humans are their mortal enemies. If that were you and me, we'd be out of there faster than you can say KFC.
Here's another example. Did you know that a female black widow eats the male who mates with her? Now, I don't know about you. But if I were a male black widow and I saw numerous of my brothers and cousins getting eaten by their female lovers, I just might reconsider the whole mating thing. And yet, this thought never seems to occur to the poor little male black widow.
Believe it or not, I do have a point in all this. Look at what God says to Job in Job 39:13-17, "And the wings of the ostrich wave proudly, but are her wings and pinions like the kindly stork's? For she leaves her eggs on the ground and warms them in the dust. She forgets that a foot may crush them or that a wild beast may break them. She treats her young harshly, as though they were not hers. Her labor is in vain, without concern, because God has deprived her of wisdom and did not endow her with understanding."
It doesn't matter if you are a chicken, a black widow, a stork, or a human being. Whatever mental capacities you possess have been given to you by God and are directly proportional to your class of being. This is helpful in understanding and clarifying the doctrine of "free will." It appears that God has given a degree of "free will" to all of his creatures, but the freedom of the will is directly relational to their creaturely capacities. A chicken is free to behave like a chicken and will make decisions based on his capacities as a chicken. The same is true with every other creature in God's creation.
What is awesome to think about is the fact that not only are we homo sapiens capable of the act of reflection (an attribute obviously missing in lower life forms), but our decisions have eternal implications. We can choose to love and obey Christ and follow Him to heaven, or we can send ourselves to hell and be separated from God forever. The fact that our choices have eternal consequences points to our infinite value as human beings. With all this in mind, I suggest that choosing Christ is the only sane option available. Especially in light of the fact that the Bible says "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from African chickens and black widows. As long as we can reflect on our mortality, we might want to put that art of reflection to good use. Those who refuse to do so might take a hint or two from our African chicken friends.