Animals can be cruel. If one hen gets bloodied in a fight with another, the whole flock joins in pecking her. A cat who isn’t hungry will torment a mouse for hours before killing the frightened creature. Three or four dogs never seem happier than when joining in the kill of a helpless muskrat. Of course, their behavior is a matter of instinct, not moral choice.
The brutality that humans commit, however, is a different matter. We can choose kindness instead of cruelty. That’s why God is displeased whenever a person mistreat a fellow human being. Through the Old Testament prophets, God repeatedly reminded the people that He would punish the heathen for their cruelty. The Scripture even notes the treatment of animals. The writer of Proverbs said, “A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.” (12:10).
Another kind of mistreatment that is just as terrible is mental cruelty. In Psalm 42, the writer was deeply depressed. His pitiless enemies made matters worse by mocking him. They jeered, “Where is your God?” Mental cruelty takes many forms. A man who leaves his wife for a younger companion cause great mental anguish. So do children who join in taunting a new youngster in the neighborhood. And people who deride someone slightly different form the rest are being terribly heartless.
Christians should always measure what they do or say by this question: “Is it kind or is it cruel?” – Herbert Vander Lugt
Do not neglect the weak or odd,
But show to them the love of God;
It is a sin, and heaven will frown
If with disdain we put them down. – H. G. Bosch
We cannot hurt others without hurting ourselves.
- September 26, 1986, Our Daily Bread