Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sasha the Dog

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

Tonight we are hoping to receive a visit from Sasha the dog and her foster mother. Sasha showed up at her foster mother’s door in February, hungry and cold and in need of a home. Now several months later, Sasha’s foster home is looking to place her with a permanent family that will provide for her. We spotted Sasha’s picture and description online and sent an application in to the rescue agency that is sponsoring her. Last night I received a call from Sasha’s foster mother and spoke with her for about ½ hour.

The agency is very careful about the placement of their dogs. The lengthy application and interview process is designed to give them an opportunity to find out as much as possible about prospective homes and owners. One of the questions I was asked made me stop and think: Why do we want a dog? What do we expect a dog will do for us?

My sister-in-law has informed us it will run about $1000 a year to care for a dog. The dog will need to be exercised twice a day. We will have to bring the dog for obedience training and work to teach it how to behave in our home. We are aware there will be messes to clean up and inconvenient demands on our time and attention for the duration of the life of our pet. Owning a dog has its share of sacrifices. So why do we want a dog? What are we hoping to get in return for the expense and effort we will put out?

We want the dog to love us. We are not looking for a watchdog or for a dog which will provide any kind of service for us. It will be our pleasure to provide everything the dog needs. All we want in return for our efforts is for the dog to be loyal and affectionate. We just want her to love us.

Our relationship with God has striking similarities to this. We bring nothing to the table. Our sinfulness made us unworthy and unable to be in the presence of God. We stood condemned and without hope of ever being able to make the relationship right. But in His grace, God provided what was needed to enable us to be right with Him. Christ suffered on the cross as a substitute for us. He received the punishment we deserved. And by His sacrifice, we are forgiven. Everything has been provided. Our salvation is a gift, not given because of merit, but as an expression of the unconditional love God has given us.

So why does He want us? What does He want in return for all He has done on our behalf?

He wants us to love Him. That’s it.

We do not need to spend our lives trying desperately to get His approval or earn His love. This pointless obligation is what the Pharisees had laid on the people in the time of Jesus. Pleasing God involved careful observation of every detail of the Law, and in addition, observation of the man-made laws as well. The religious leaders invented rules about the rules. It wasn’t about the heart. It had become all about their actions. Paul wrote: “But Israel, pursing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works.” (Romans 9:31,32) The burden of trying to be good enough weighed heavy on the shoulders of the people. It was a crushing load. A relationship with God had become all about what they thought they could do for Him. The burden was on their shoulders.

But Jesus came to release them of that crushing burden. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Jesus told the people. He took the responsibility off our shoulders. He Himself fulfilled the requirements needed to please God. He paid for our sin with His blood. It was all done for us.

And after providing salvation as a free gift, what does he expect from us? He wants us to throw our trust into the gift He has provided. To stop trying to win His favor by obeying the rules. He wants us to give Him our hearts. Christ won God’s favor for us. And in return, He just wants us to love Him.

1 comment:

linda said...

Woo-hoo! Dog on the way! Since you draw many of your analogies from everyday occurrences in real life, I'm looking forward to the discussion that begins with us metaphorically bouncing on God's chest at 3:00 a.m., breathing our stinky breath in his face, and hoping he'll tell us he loves us anyway.