A friend of mine recently wrote a loving tribute after his family’s dog died. I can relate to their loss. Been there, done that. Several times.
Canines somehow manage to work their way into your heart with a wag of a tail – and then stay there. They arrive with trusting eyes, wagging so hard their whole body shakes, ready to lick your hand or face whenever you’re near. You can leave them and when you return, they’re patiently waiting. No recrimination, no pouting, just a look that says, “Hey, you’re home! Hooray!”
When mankind decided to domesticate dogs, it was one of the best ideas ever. For many people, they do become man’s best friend – you can ignore them, neglect them, even forget to feed them, and they’re still there for you. They’ll fetch a ball or stick, delight in a dog biscuit, and lie down just about anywhere you let them. When you call them, they scamper to your feet.
I’ve never fancied cats. They seem so…disinterested. But dogs are a different animal – literally and figuratively. If you ever want to see a good example of unconditional love, get a dog. Feed it a couple of times, give it a treat, pat its head or rub its tummy, and you’ve got a buddy for life.
In my lifetime I’ve had six dogs. My first real experience was Markham, a Toy Manchester Terrier we got “pre-owned.” A previous owner had abused him. When we first saw him, his tail was between his legs, his ears were folded down, and he flinched whenever you reached out to him.
But he got over the mistreatment he’d received and proved to be a great dog with a wonderful temperament. While I was single, a couple of my dates referred to him as “a rat,” because he was small and mostly black. That was the last Markham and I would see of them. “Love me, love my dog” was my motto.
He lived to be nearly 15 years old and set the stage for my becoming a lifelong dog lover.
Now we have a Chihuahua-terrier mix named Molly. She’s 14 and doesn’t hear anything but loud noises, so if you want her to scamper to you, you have to make a commotion. But she’s the latest – and perhaps last – in a line of good dogs. I’m now at the age myself where another dog could outlive me, so Molly might not have a successor.
On a deeper level, I think when God created dogs He had a very special purpose for them. Yes, some actually have work to do, like herding sheep or cattle, leading the blind, sniffing out crime, or catching varmints. But as I mentioned, they also demonstrate love without conditions, independent of the owner’s performance. They accept you, warts and all.
This is also one of the great distinctions between what the Bible reveals about God and perspectives other spiritual disciplines offer: Only in the Scriptures do we see love offered, unconditionally and undeservedly, by the Lord of the universe.
In the original Greek of the New Testament, the word that expresses this is “agape.” Not a warm, fuzzy kind of love at all, but a sacrificial, selfless love. The kind we rarely see in everyday life.
But more than 2,000 years ago it was on public display on a cross atop a hill of disgrace. Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Chronologically speaking, Jesus paid the price for our sins long before each of us even thought of committing the first one.