Monday, July 8, 2013

Why We're Not God's Pets

Do you have a pet?

If you do, is it happy in your home?  It probably is, isn't it?

After all, dogs and cats and hamsters don't get together down at the coffee shop or obedience school and compare notes about what kind of food their owners are feeding them, or the thread count of the fabrics upon which they sleep.

Children usually start out in life thinking their parents are the best.  It's not until they start socializing with other little kids that they begin to realize that not everybody has it as good as they do, or that their own home isn't as luxurious as those of other families.

We develop our jealousies early, especially when it comes to the amount of time we expect our loved ones to lavish on us.  But it's not until we start comparing ourselves to other people - even other little people - that we begin to learn about stratification, hierarchies, degrees of affluence, and the value of money.

Pets can be jealous, but not because one of them lives in a mansion, and the other one lives on the street with its homeless owner.  Jealousy among pets seems to occur strictly over levels of affection, not levels of materialism.  Some neighbors of mine walk their two dogs almost every night, and we're all great friends - except when one of the dogs thinks I'm stroking the other one more, or talking to it more.

My brother and sister-in-law used to live in a subdivision with low chain-link fences separating the backyards.  One of their neighbors had a big old black dog of indeterminate breed, and since they were hardly ever home, their dog spent a lot of its time pacing along the fence it shared with my brother's backyard, because my nephews and niece would be outside playing.  One year, my parents and I visited with my father's dog, a handsome, pure-bred collie.  Dad was over by the chain-link fence, petting the neighbor's dog, and talking to it.  But Dad's collie was not pleased!  He went over there, moaning and fussing, making whining sounds in his throat.  He actually tried to push himself between Dad and the chain-link fence, to physically separate Dad from the other dog!

"Hey!  This is my owner!" Dad's dog seemed to be saying to the neighbor's dog.  Of course, the neighbor's dog barked and barked, afraid of having my Dad's affection withdrawn in favor of this visiting collie from Texas.

Tucked down in a cul-de-sac where I live is a rambling house on a deep lot where a big, goofy dog named Hoss lives.  I've written about Hoss before; a happy-go-luck white-haired Lab who doesn't have a mean or jealous bone in his body.  He gets out of his yard all of the time, and our neighbors are afraid of him - but not because he'd bite or anything.  He's simply so big, he could literally knock some of our elderly neighbors over just trying to be friendly.  Once, when he was loose, of our neighbors made the mistake of letting him inside their own home while they called Hoss's owners to come get him, and with his stiff Lab's tail wagging and slapping about in the excitement, Hoss managed to knock practically everything off of their kitchen table!  The neighbor's wife told me she didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

When I'm out for my evening walks, and Hoss is loose, he'll come bouncing down the street to greet me, his tongue flapping out of the corner of his drooling mouth, his eyes full of mirth, and he'll bang himself into my legs and hop up for some instant affection from me.  Then he'll tag along as I walk back to his house, where he belongs.  He never stops, wanting to go home with me instead.  Hoss knows where he's "supposed" to be; he just happens to be on the loose, but he's not looking for anyplace else to live.  He has no idea how other households run, or whether another family would be even more loving towards him than his current family is.  He knows where his home is, and he never considers other options.

Don't you think God could have made us like that?  He made pets that way; why not us?

Because we're not God's pets, are we?

He cares for us, provides us with shelter and food, and grants us salvation through His Son.  He's invested infinitely more into us that we could ever invest in our own pets.  And while God expects us to render to Him our devotion, He hasn't wired into us the innate homing mechanism that automatically precludes our consideration of anything else that might be better than what we already have.  The Holy Spirit is our Guide, and the more we progress in the process of sanctification, the more "at home" we'll be in Christ, but that process of sanctification is often derailed by our wanderings when, unlike Hoss, we wonder if other enticements aren't better places to go and abide.

Sometimes I wonder if you and I aren't looking around at what the world offers and evaluating whether or not maybe that stuff really is better than what we already have in Christ.  I know that I live where I live, drive the car I drive, and wear the clothes I wear not because I'm perfectly satisfied with them, but because they're what I can afford.  I often look at what other people have and catch myself feeling slighted by God because I don't have what they have.

Do we live the way we live out of loyalty to our Master?  And if we're happy with our lives, is it because we're content in Christ, or content with the things and accomplishments He's allowed us to acquire?

One reason God hasn't made us to be His pets is because He wants us to show Him - and the world - that we can be content and loyal without being forced into it through biology or even emotion.  Or bought with status symbols.  He wants us to "come home" to Him without hesitation or second thoughts, because He is our Heavenly Father.  And He has a holy jealousy for our affection.

Weird, huh?  We normally wouldn't think it to be healthy if we were jealous of the affection our pet gave somebody else.  But that's another reason why we're not God's pets.  His Son died for our sins.

We wouldn't think of sacrificing a loved one in repayment for our dog's tail sweeping a neighbor's tableware onto their kitchen floor.  Yet that level of insignificance is how we often view our sins.

According to 1 Corinthians 6, being bought with a price means that we are not our own, and the Price that was paid is yet more reason for why we're not God's pets.  He desires from us a relationship that exceeds loyalty and affection, so that regardless of where we live, or our life's circumstances, we are at home in Him.

Not looking anyplace else for comfort, affirmation, or peace.


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