Do you love dogs?
(If you read the last post you probably think I have a zoo for a house or am trying to open a pet shop)
I love dogs. I think that their self-sacrificial love for us is astounding. Sometimes you meet a dog that maybe doesn’t really like people but usually there is a reason. I’ve seen dogs that have been abused, how about you?
Realize that in our fallen human nature is that burning desire for control. When the broken, divinely intended, judgment mechanism kicks into high gear, we assess every situation as if we were the center of the situation and take the “god” position of authority. In that place we “must be in control” since we are judge, jury and executioner in our own minds. I don’t intend to be harsh but this is where much of our dysfunction comes from. This dysfunction is sometimes expressed against our furry domestic partners as fear inducing abuse. Jesus sets us free from all that. He shows us what it looks like for God to be a man. He shows us what it is like to completely surrender in love even to the point of death. When we are born again we begin to “see” what He looks like and step into a love relationship with the very source of perfect love so we can become that love. Human judgment, especially in the form of religion is opposed to that love.
When you have seen a dog that has been beaten or neglected or even tortured it breaks your heart. If you have been the proud “owner” of a wonderful, loving, giving, unconditionally attentive dog you hate to see the ones that have been so inundated with fear. Fear is often used as a tool to “train” a dog. Any good dog trainer will tell you that fear is not the right tool. Love is the right tool. There are some natural instincts that have to be dealt with like the alpha dog thing but in general love and trust are the way to teach dogs how to overcome many of their (lets me honest) natural tendencies. For a dog it is normal to pee on a couch. Why not, it is there? But when fear and especially the fear of torture, pain, abandonment or the like is used it is destructive, damaging and downright wrong. It will often leave a permanent mark. Some dogs never recover from such abuse.
Now you, as the kind loving person you are, go to the pound to find a dog. Let’s assume for the discussion that all of these dogs have been abused by the use of fear. In one cage you find Ginger who cowers in the back of the cage. She will not come out of the shadows no matter what. You try your best but realize that she just doesn’t trust you at all. Next is Sam. He has had enough. His instinctive response to fear is aggression. He is all teeth and fangs, lips peeled back, ready to attack. You are actually afraid of trying to pet him since it will likely not end well. Then there is Scooter. He is whining and just won’t stop. He has been so abused he is broken and his only way of communicating is to complain. Of course he has plenty of good reasons to whimper. Then there is Lilly. She is a licker. She so much wants to love on you. At first you think she is well-adjusted but then you realize she is so desperate for love she wants to please you at all costs. It is an irrational response to neglect. There is no trust, only overwhelming remorse expressed as gratitude to anyone who will allow it. I don’t know what goes on inside a dog’s head but let’s say that Lilly blames herself for the abuse she received. “She isn’t worthy….”
We are like Ginger, Sam, Scooter and Lilly. When we fell in the garden we consumed a poison in the form of fruit. We were possessed by the knowledge of good and evil. Our first response was to run from the source of all goodness and love, our Father, our God. We hid from Him when He had no, not any, none, not a single teeny tiny tidbit of hostility towards us. He loves us. He pursued us. He was not disgusted by our “sin of disobedience.” No no no! He came to us and actually killed an animal to make clothes to cover our shame. Still we feared Him. This is our fallen state. This is our fallen nature. This is our broken lens that sees God as an angry God of punishment and horrific everlasting torture. That image IS NOT GOD! Jesus is the image of God. Jesus is the perfect image of God. The good news is Jesus reveals a God that is contrary to our fallen nature understanding and all the religious images that have been burned into our minds. The fear tactics of religion are like the cattle prod used against these dogs. The threat of a forever torture chamber is like a club that beat Ginger. The horrific images of a blood thirsty God are like the whip used against Sam. Jesus, praise Jesus, sets us free from all that. He just wants to love us and demonstrate to us His love. He dies on a cross so we will know that we know.
Don’t believe me? That is OK. It is your journey to take. Let Jesus show you. In some cases He already has by what He did when He walked the Earth.
There was a lady caught in adultery. Maybe you know the story but just as a summary…the religious leaders intended a trap for Jesus. They brought Him a woman who was “caught in the act” of adultery. That suggests that the whole thing was a set-up. Imagine the total disregard for human life in the heart of these leaders. How could they condemn a person to death like that? Fallen human nature inflamed by the rage of religion, that is how. (Sorry for the commentary) Anyway they bring this woman to Jesus to see what He will do. They knew He was a man of peace and opposed to their application of the law. If they could get Him to break the law then they could show He wasn’t from God as a “sinner.” If He stoned the woman then the people would reject Him and His teaching. Just so you are aware of the history, this is what Moses said God said:
Lev 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. 11 If a man lies with his father’s wife, he has uncovered his father’s nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death; they have committed perversion; their blood is upon them. (ESV)
This is what Jesus said:
John 8:7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (ESV)
John 8:10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”(ESV)
Was God lying to Moses? Did Moses make it up? Are we supposed to reconcile two very opposite perspectives into one? Did God give us a brain and the mind of Christ? This is why Jesus is the good news. He reveals who God really is. His is the one who doesn’t condemn the woman and searches the hearts of the men. He comes to change our hearts. He comes to our cages and reaches out His hand in love to save us from what put us in the cages in the first place. What happened with Moses? That can be a long discussion. I believe God has been doing what He did on the cross since the beginning. He became something He wasn’t for our benefit. Moses likely need these kind of hyperbole threats to keep the people in line. It was not in God’s nature to murder the people. We needed to see “sin on a cross.” Jesus, who never sinned, became sin and looked like sin on the cross as a condemned criminal killed by the equivalent of the electric chair (just like a mass murderer). I can’t convince you. You need to ask Jesus to show you the Father.
Point is humans who use fear to get a reaction are not representing the nature of God. Back to the cages…you are in one of them. If God was a duel personality God who could snap at any minute and strike you dead (preferably with a stone over and over again until your head burst open and you died) would you trust Him? Be honest, it is OK. That is why Jesus came to Earth. Through Him we get to know the Father. He doesn’t have a stone raised ready to chuck it at our heads. No, He is asking why we have stones in our hands.
We can trust Jesus. We can come out of our cages. We don’t need to be afraid ever again. He will love us back into health. We will hug us and we will learn to trust Him. We can shed the fear and let it go. We no longer need the protection of a cage. We get to step out and let Him love us.