To take a walk in the woods right now is to enter a war zone. You see, it’s deer season, which means it’s the time of year that burly men are giddy as school girls over the prospect of bagging the monster buck. Neither freezing temperatures nor driving rain will deter most hunters from their sacred search for the elusive white-tailed deer.
But my question is this: how does the gospel affect our approach to hunting? Or does it at all?
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were not grilling up deer sausage. It was an all-veggie diet for our forebears. God told them, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food (Gen. 1:29-30).”
What caused the change then? Simply put, it was our sin. When Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God’s command, strife and turmoil prevailed where peace once dwelt–turmoil between man and woman, man and Satan, and also man and earth. Sin subjected the earth to pain and death. Therefore, the first thing we see is that hunting is a product of the Fall.
That is not to say, though, that hunting is sinful in itself. After all, God took the death of animals and used it to nourish mankind. We can see this after the Flood when God told Noah, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything (Gen. 9:3).”
In Acts 10, we see the idea still present after the fact of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection when God tells Peter to eat the unclean animals in a vision. Of course, the main point of the vision was to communicate that God had mysteriously engrafted the Gentiles into the Church, but it still showed that God gave approval to the eating of animals.
So how does this affect our average Christian hunter?
I believe it gives hunters a right to kill animals in order to provide food for their household. Some would argue that Christians should not hunt since we are called to reflect new creation with our lives, and there won’t be death in the new heavens and earth. While I agree that there probably won’t be dead animals in new creation, the fact that God uses the vision of eating animals after the resurrection seems to indicate that He has not changed our diets just yet. Hunters can and should go bag the deer, turkey, chicken, fish, and pig to fill the bellies of their family.
I also believe that hunters are needed for the protection of families. The Fall changed some animals into predators, and it falls to mankind as God’s vice-regents to kill these animals that are a danger.
But these reasons are not the only ones that drive men and women to their deer stands and hunting blinds. For many, hunting has become a sport–a competition to see who can kill the biggest deer and have the largest rack mounted on their wall. This motivation is one that cannot be found in Scripture, and does not take seriously the sad reality of death in our created world. If our desires are to line up with those of God, then surely the recreational taking of life does not belong as a part of the Christian life.
We were not created to take life needlessly. Rather, mankind was created to create life through caring for the garden and through marriage. Killing is only a product of our sin.
Therefore, hunters, thank the Lord when He has provided your family with food from your recent kill. Let it remind you of how He ultimately provided for you in the death of Jesus Christ. But do not let hunting become sport, a mere game played through your scope or crosshairs. The resurrection was an announcement of death’s defeat, a message proclaimed to the cosmos that death does not belong here. In response, death as sport does not belong in our spiritually resurrected lives.