Letter from the Rectory february 2018
Many of us are dog-lovers, for others it is cats – and a small minority manage to live happily with both.
Dogs are not known as ‘Man’s best friend’ for nothing: they are almost always excited to see us return home – however late; affectionate without demanding much; uncomplaining company and deeply appreciative. Of course, they have their limitations, can be disobedient and highly impatient; their table manners leave everything to be desired and some enjoy rolling in unmentionable things in the Forest. But as long we keep our side of the bargain – providing food and exercise – most dogs respond with great affection and loyalty. Some of course sadly bare the scars of ill-treatment in youth. If they’re treated right, a dog will do anything for their master.
At the end of this month, we remember an event in which someone made the greatest sacrifice of all, not just his friends, but for every single human being. In Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection, God demonstrated his unconditional love for mankind. As John, the author of the fourth Gospel, wrote in one of his letters, ‘That is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us’ (1 John 3:15).
Dogs aren’t perfect: they do need constant discipline. It is interesting how they usually respond to such correction. Initially they may keep their distance but quite quickly, all is forgotten, and they creep back to our feet in loyalty and obedience.
Jesus died on that cross because of the sins of the world – because of all the ways that each one of us have gone our own way, done our own thing. There are, I think, some parallels between God’s love for us expressed in what Jesus went through on the cross and dogs’ behaviour. However, there are many more differences. Dogs have limited memories and like routine – so quickly return to their master, having forgotten. On the other hand, because of the cross can enjoy forgiveness – in which God is the one who does the forgetting – and a restored relationship with God, for ever: something that is of eternal significance.