By James Hold
[Copyright 2016 James Roy Hold
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This story is told from a Christian perspective, however the underlying principle could apply to any ethical system.
RALPH & SEIKO
“I will make for you a covenant on that
day with the beasts of the field…”
Once upon a time, a man named Ralph had a house in the suburbs. It was a nice house with a shaded lawn and a wide front porch. Ralph spent his summer evenings there, rocking back and forth in the porch swing, relaxing in comfort as night settled in.
Now Ralph judged himself a good person. And in many ways, he was. He was a good neighbor, a good worker, and a good citizen. He went to church, gave to charity, and volunteered at civic events. He even set food out for the stray dog that roamed the neighborhood.
One morning though, Ralph ran late, and in his hurry, forgot to leave anything for the dog. That evening when he returned home from work, he found the dog sitting on his porch step, looking very cross.
“Hello,” he said to the dog, “how’s it going?”
“Okay, I guess,” the dog replied, “only you didn’t feed me this morning.”
“A talking dog?” Ralph was dumbstruck. “Dogs can talk?”
“Of course we can talk,” answered the dog. “It’s not like we’re dumb animals.”
“Then how come you never said anything before?”
“Well,” said the dog, “up till now everything’s been okay.”
Ralph, for all his good points, did not have a sense of humor; especially when it came to hundred-year-old jokes.
“Just a minute,” he started. “I don’t have to take that from some mangy, flea-bitten hound.”
“No, you wait a minute!” the dog interrupted. “I’m neither mangy nor flea-bitten. And I’ve as much right to be treated decently as anyone else; maybe more so.”
By this time, Ralph was sitting on the porch beside the dog. He glanced around to make sure his neighbors were not watching, feeling it would not look good to be seen conversing with a dog, then he asked:
“By the way, do you have a name?”
“Sure,” the dog nodded. “It’s Seiko.”
“Seiko? What kind of name is that?”
“I’m a watchdog.”
“Oh,” Ralph reached over to shake hands, “glad to meet you.” He remained quiet a few minutes, thinking. “What did you mean about your rights? Are you saying you’re better than I am?”
“No one is better than anyone else.” Seiko jumped onto the porch swing so he could address Ralph like a teacher lecturing a pupil. “Tell me, you are a Christian, right? Not that it matters. We could discuss this from the point of view of almost any faith.”
“I’m a Christian, yes.”
“Fine,” Seiko nodded. “Then we will speak from a Christian perspective. Now, tell me: why did God send His Son down from Heaven to die for you?”
“That’s easy,” said Ralph. “It’s because He loves us.”
“True enough,” said Seiko, “but God loves all His creation, not just mankind.”
Ralph was ready to comment that the Bible does not say anything about animals, but the dog cut him off.
“Ralph,” he said gently, “the Bible tells of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind, because that’s what concerns you. Why should He tell you His plans for the rest of us?”
Ralph nodded. Two points for the dog, he told himself.
“Now don’t interrupt; just listen and think. The ant is industrious; the Son of God didn’t die for ants.
“The spider is patient; He didn’t die for spiders.
“Cats are fastidious; He didn’t die for cats.
“We dogs are loyal. When Lazarus was starving outside the rich man’s gates, who were his only companions? The dogs that licked his sores. And He didn’t die for dogs.
“The ox and burro are long-suffering. When the angel of the Lord appeared before Balaam, his burro was the one who saw it; not Balaam.”
“Wait a minute,” Ralph interrupted as something dawned on him. “Does this mean you can read too?”
“I’m also a good dancer. And I’d be great at cards except whenever I get a good hand I wag my tail. But to continue: even the serpent in the Garden of Eden was never described as evil; the Bible simply states that he was cunning.”
“And the Son of God didn’t die for oxen, or burros, or serpents either,” said Ralph.
“No, He didn’t,” the dog continued. “He died for man. Because man alone is proud and rebellious. He alone disobeyed God’s rules. After he was kicked out of the garden, he tried to build a tower to reach up to Heaven. At one point God was so fed up He sent a flood to destroy everything. Imagine the amount of frustration it must have taken to cause Him to do that?
“You exploit without consideration, you destroy without conscience, and you kill without reason. And, after all that, you have the gall to ask, ‘What must I do to earn eternal life?’ There’s no way you can earn it. The whole thing was an act of grace! In other words, Ralph, He died for you because He had to. “
“Okay,” Ralph conceded. “Maybe we’re not perfect, but are we that bad?”
“No,” Seiko replied, “you’re not all bad. God made you, and God doesn’t make garbage. But you go about in a state of blindness, thinking you’re the crown of creation, and forget that you’re sharing this world with others. You’re full of pride when what you need is humility.
“Have you ever observed pigs on a farm? When you pass by a pig, it will grunt a hello at you. How many times do you go about your daily business and not greet your fellow man with so much as a nod?”
“Quite often,” admitted Ralph.
“Or take the skunk,” Seiko continued. “He possesses a noxious spray to defend himself against predators, yet he never uses it on his own kind.”
Ralph nodded. “So it’d be a real compliment if we could say we had the manners of a pig and the morals of a skunk.”
“Exactly,” said the dog, as he got up and stretched. “But don’t worry. God loves you. He loves all of us. Just learn to accept His grace with humility. And remember that you’re sharing this world with the rest of His creatures.”
“Thanks,” said Ralph.
“No problem,” said Seiko, and with that, he jumped from the porch swing and took off down the road.
Ralph remained sitting on his porch, as the evening grew darker, thinking about what he had learned. He turned his eyes to the sky and observed its starry vastness; and he felt very humble indeed. Then he looked around him at the fireflies flashing in the air, at the bullfrog hopping along the sidewalk, at the neighbor’s cat sitting on the fence. And he felt at peace.
“Amazing,” he reflected. “A talking dog.”
To which the bullfrog replied, “Yep. You learn something new every day.”
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