Most of us are familiar with Edwards Hicks’s painting The Peaceable Kingdom. What most of us don’t know is Hicks painted more than one hundred versions of it. Each had similar elements like lions, lambs, small children, and William Penn’s treaty with Native Americans. Sadly, I can’t find a donkey in any of the versions. Presumably, because donkeys hadn’t been introduced to that part of North America in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
We unofficially call our little plot of land in Central Texas the Peaceable Kingdom because our animals get along as well as those in the painting inspired by Isaiah 11. Our donkeys, chickens, dogs, and cats have all hung out together in the same yard. Not a large pasture. A small one hundred-by sixty-foot yard.
Oh, we heard the warnings people were happy to give us. The donkeys will kick the dogs. The dogs will kill the chickens. The cats will create havoc all around. So, why do these supposed enemies get along so well at Peaceable Kingdom? Part of the reason is they ignore each other. The cats will lovingly rub the dogs or donkeys’ legs. That’s about the extent of contact. The chickens do make way for all the bigger animals to roam, probably a peacekeeping effort.
Maybe it has something to do with our expectations. We knew dogs like to chase chickens. So, we introduced them to their feathered yard mates slowly with the expectation they could learn to love each other. Maybe love is too strong a term. At least they tolerate each other.
We have to be more careful with the donkeys and the dogs. The dogs want to play and tend to get everyone running around the yard. Not a good thing for any of the creatures involved. We do keep an eye out for frisky activity. For the most part, the donkeys are happy to mow down the grass for us and leave everyone else alone.
If these animals can learn to get along, can we? Paul was rather emphatic about getting along with others in his first letter to the Corinthians. “That there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1:10).
Like the animals, some of us will need to be retrained. We need to see other people not as enemies or competition but as creations of the loving God. In this way, we will become agents of God’s Peaceable Kingdom.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat,and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6