After all these sausage dog stories, I think I may have got the analogy wrong. That my relationship with my little dog is not in fact a very good picture of God’s relationship to me, after all.
You see, the other day I was eating something and Carrie was begging for a piece of it. I said “no” and one of my girls said, “Mum, she knows you don’t really mean it.” Sure enough, I eventually gave the dog some.
I indulge my little dog; she is not very obedient and quite overweight because I’m not very good at tough love. When my husband says “no” to her she gives up begging immediately, but with me she knows “no” means “you probably will get something, if you continue to insist”!
I laugh when she’s naughty and excuse it away, and she won’t come the first time I call (although she responds promptly to my husband).
We may be tempted to think that God looks at us that way – that He is our indulgent grandad in the sky who only tuts at our naughtiness and gives in to our every desire.
That is a message some people teach – that God is never cross with you, never punishes you, never wants bad things to happen to you and will give you everything you ask for “in faith”. That, because He understands what motivates your sin, He isn’t really angry about it.
That isn’t, however, the message of the Bible.
The Bible says God doesn’t only become our Father when we choose to follow Him, but our Master. We become His servants – in fact in the original language, we become His slaves (Hebrew: ebed)! We are commanded to lay down our lives, to pick up our cross, deny ourselves and obey His commands. Jesus didn’t encourage His disciples to expect rewards, comfort or earthly happiness from following Him, but warned them of trouble, distress and tribulation. (John 16:33)
In a not-often quoted parable in Luke 17 Jesus gives an example of a servant (read slave) who after all the work of the day has to serve his master’s food before he eats himself. “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, [you] should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (v. 10)
Perhaps a police or military dog is a better analogy then, for my relationship with God. It does exactly what it is told, it is eager and fit to do its master’s will, it is not indulged and petted, although it is well-treated and loved. It is bred for conflict, not comfort. It doesn’t live to do its own thing but to fulfil a greater and very important purpose. It sticks close its handler and goes where he or she goes and does what it’s told, not even shrinking from danger or death in that obedience.
That is not such a cosy view of Christianity is it? However, it is Christianity as the Bible portrays it. So it is important people clearly understand that God insists on being your Lord, not just your Saviour, so they think twice before “asking Him into their hearts” and then bringing disrepute to the name of Christ by refusing to obey His commandments.