I read a most interesting blog post about how we can learn to be better Christians by studying the evolution of dogs. Weird, right?
Apparently, between 12,000 and 40,000 years ago, the wild wolf was domesticated into the common dog. But how did that happen? How did some parts of a species go from ruthless predators to cute fluffy balls of fur that snuggle with us on the couch?
The authors of the book The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think have a fascinating explanation. They argue that it wasn’t humans who tried to domesticate wolves (why would we want to hang out with dangerous wolves?), but it was wolves who chose to hang around humans.
As humans began to settle down instead of roaming around, our trash and waste ended up being an attractive food source for wolves. Most wolves were aggressive towards humans and stayed away, but the ones who were less shy and wary would take advantage of garbage on the outskirts of human settlements. As those wolves had babies over generations, their disposition passed down and increased until they didn’t even act like wolves anymore, so people liked them better, and eventually welcomed them into their villages and homes.
And then those dogs get to be the ones that we spoil rotten. They are fed all they want, get great medical care, nap when they’re tired, and can run around the yard carefree. The other wolves? They’re still having to chase food in the cold forest. It’s “survival of the friendliest.”
And our dogs bless our lives as well: companionship, house protection, love. The relationship is good for both humans and dogs, all because some wolves were less aggressive than others. “In the wild, aggressiveness may be advantageous for survival in the short run, but in a world dominated by humans, aggressiveness doesn’t make an animal more fit to survive, but less. Friendliness, the ability to be a part of and contribute to a peaceful society, is the greatest advantage.”
And there’s our application! Seeing the world as dog-eat-dog will leave you lonely and hungry. But being more welcoming and less aggressive can help you form quality relationships in a peaceful community.
We think that turn-the-other-cheek is unrealistic in the real world, that it only works in a perfect world, that it is only possible in the future Kingdom of God, but in the meantime, in the face of evil, you have to be willing to fight, to kill, to be aggressive…. But nature teaches us different. Predators struggle to survive. Those that learn to live peacefully with each other and with humans thrive.
I guess Jesus was onto something then. He told us to pray for our enemies, be kind to those who hurt us, and give to those who won’t give back. Crazy stuff, right? It’s sounds more reasonable to be guarded, paranoid, and revengeful. But then you’ll end up like wild wolves, instead of being loved in a warm home amongst the family of God.