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I have a dog, named Bandit who lives up to his name. I have tried everything to keep this dog in check but he is a “Houdini” when it comes to getting loose. He is a good dog, great to play with, and he loves to show lots of slobbery affection, but yet when it comes to obedience…Bandit lives up to his name. That is why I found this story so appealing. In his book about his daughters and his dog, named Samson, Robert J. Morgan tells this story. He writes, “My daughter Hannah and I had a Great Dane named Samson that we dearly loved, and Samson, as it turns out, was well named, for he was big and strong and muscular—and, like his namesake, he also had a penchant for wandering. We built fences, we tried chains and dog runs, we tried everything to keep Samson at home. But he’d dig under the fence or climb over it, and it drove us to distraction.
So we bought the best-selling book on the market on the subject of training dogs. “No Bad Dogs” was written by the famous British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse, who raises Great Danes herself. One night when I went upstairs to tuck in Hannah, she had a sad expression on her face, and she said, “Dad, I know now what Samson’s real problem is. Listen to this Daddy” and she read to me this paragraph from the book:
“In a dog’s mind, a master or a mistress to love, honor, and obey is an absolute necessity. The love is dormant in the dog until brought into full bloom by an understanding owner. Thousands of dogs appear to love their owners, they welcome them home with enthusiastic wagging of the tail and jumping up, they follow them about their houses happily and, to the normal person seeing the dog, the affection is true and deep. But to the experienced dog trainer this outward show is not enough. The true test of real love takes place when the dog has got the opportunity to go out on its own as soon as the door is left open by mistake and it goes off and often doesn’t return home for hours. That dog loves only its home comforts and the attention it gets from its family; it doesn’t truly love the master or mistress as they fondly think. True love in dogs is apparent when a door is left open and the dog still stays happily within earshot of its owner. For the owner must be the be-all and end-all of a dog’s life. He then writes, “The real test of our Christianity isn’t seen in our work or activity, or even in our theological purity. It’s found in this: when we have an opportunity to wander away, to disobey, to leave his presence, do we choose instead to stay close to him, to abide in Christ, to obey?”
Ouch! That hurts doesn’t it? We have to be honest with ourselves….we are prone to wander, aren’t we? We don’t brag about it, and we may wag our hands in worship, shout and sing about how much we love God, but when we are behind closed doors, when we think no one is watching…are we living a life of love toward God, a life that listens and obeys God’s call for holiness? 1 Samuel 15:22 says, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice.”
This is where we have so many similarities with those dogs. Just like Bandit and Samson, we have a loving master who wants what is best for us but yet like Bandit and Samson how many times do we try to pull at the leash, dig under the fence, or wander to see what is out beyond the limits of our yard only to hurt ourselves in the process. I have watched my dog and I feel bad for him because I can see how strong that temptation is for him to wander. Not only does it look like it would be fun for him to go off, but there are other dogs wandering around barking at him to come join them.
If I could talk dog (beyond the roof and arf I already know), I would tell him that there is a reason I want him to stay in the yard. That I am not being mean but I am trying to protect him and help him to have life and life more abundantly. I wish I could have a way where he could be reminded that I am a loving master, and that there were other dogs who felt the same way about their master. I wish there was a way these dogs could get together and learn how to love their master wholeheartedly.
Like I said, we have much in common with these dogs. We need help from others to remind us who that Jesus is the center of our lives and our lives need to reflect that. That is why the Grant County Ministers association is supporting the “Call to Purity Weekend” on March 7th and 8th at Williamstown Baptist Church for this purpose. It is a way for us to be reminded that a love for Jesus is a call to live a life of purity for Him. For more information about this, visit www.purelifeministries.org/Williamstown. Remember, the power of sin in our lives is strong, but Jesus said, “Greater is He that is in you then he that is in this world.”
(Barry Robinson is the pastor of Williamstown United Methodist Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 859-823-5171.)