Saturday, July 12, 2014

Canine Theology

               I have a dog.  Her name is Dozer, and she is a pain in the rear end, but I love her anyway, and that's all that matters.
               Ten years ago, my parents, siblings, and I chose Dozer to be a part of our family.  She had no choice in the matter.  We took her home with us and made her part of our family, and she grew to trust us and to depend upon us for everything she needed: food, water, a place to sleep and play, and most of all, love.  You see, Dozer knows that she cannot obtain the things she needs on her own.  When she is hungry or thirsty, she barks at us.  When she wants attention, she lies on her belly and waits for us to rub her.  When she needs to go outside, she waits at the door.  She does nothing to feed herself, pet herself, or take herself out, but instead calls upon us, and we answer her.
               But, despite being absolutely dependent upon us, Dozer is still a rebel.  When she was little, she would sometimes get out and run around the neighborhood, and we, the owners, would have to leave our home to find the lost and straying dog.  When we tell her "no," as is the daily occurrence when she inevitably asks for far more food than she needs, she barks and complains as if we were doing her harm.  Sometimes, when we do things like try to clean her paws, take something dangerous from her, or take her to the vet, she even lashes out at us and bites.
               Dozer also frequently fails to love her neighbor.  She can be very aggressive, especially in her territory, and has been known to lunge at anyone who comes through our door.  We can't take her to public places because she might become violent, and we can't let anyone in the house without locking her up.
               Yes, Dozer is a very bad dog.  But we love her anyway.  She is part of our family, and that is never going to change.  We constantly make sacrifices for her, handling her craziness, cleaning up her messes, and accommodating her needs.  We chastise her when she does something wrong, but we never forsake her.  Sometimes we have to do things to her that she hates, but it is always for her own good.  Yes, Dozer is a bad dog.  But she is our dog.
               Over the years, Dozer has improved her behavior.  Through our patience and training, she has learned to obey more and to rebel less.  She has become mellower and less volatile in her behavior toward strangers.  She is still a very naughty dog.  She still has problems, and that is not going to change.  But we have nurtured her and guided her for ten years now, and have helped her along the path to improve her behavior. 
               You see, each one of us is Dozer.  Dozer has been saved by grace, through faith, for we chose her and made her our own, and she trusts us and depends upon us.  She did nothing to deserve her "redemption" at our hands, but rather has done many things undeserving of it.  Even her faith in us is not a work on her part, but an act of necessity, for where else can she go, and what can she do for herself?  Even this faith is tainted with rebellion, both in her conduct toward us and toward other people.  But we do not hold this against Dozer.  We do not condemn her for her bad behavior.  Rather, we continue to love her unconditionally, and to give her everything that she needs.  We even stoop down to her level and help her to overcome her fear, her anxiety, and her violent ways.
               If a human family can thus love a dog; if we can redeem, forgive, renew, care for, and sanctify this big bundle of fur who we once received by grace into our home, then how much more will our heavenly Father, Love Himself, save us by His grace, not marking our iniquities but forgiving us, sending His own Son to die for our sins?  We are all like sheep who have gone astray; we are all like dogs who ungratefully bite the hand that feeds them.  But God is the One with the hand that feeds the bite.  We can only damn ourselves by our works, but God rescues us by His grace, receiving us into His family and loving us with the unconditional love of which all human love is but a mere image.

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