There’s nothing like being greeted by your dog when you get home at the end of the day — especially at the end of a tough day. Or even when you’ve been gone for a whole week on vacation. Sure they’ve been fed and cared for while you were gone, but stop for a moment now and remember how it feels when your own dog sees you for the first time in a day or even a week. No wonder we love dogs. Because of their unconditional love, dogs make our lives better because they love us unconditionally — they are quick to forgive and accept us just as we are.
In this love they so freely show for us, dogs are teaching us something about this kind of unconditional, complete love. In fact, this unconditional love and forgiveness provides us a mirror for the unconditional love of God — and God calls us to love others in this way as well.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reminds us of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love and calls us to love as God loves us: “ . . . Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.”
So beyond recognizing that dogs actually do model this kind of unconditional love, let’s now consider how dogs are able to model this love. Of all the other mammals including primates, dogs are the only ones that can accurately read human faces. In fact, they scan human faces in just the way humans scan faces to “read” a person or a situation. Through the thousands of years we have domesticated dogs they have evolved to pick up on our facial affects as clues that help them read what is going on with their humans and how they are feeling.
So I guess the bigger question now is why do they do that? Why are dogs so naturally attentive and attuned to their people and their emotions? I think that’s a very big part of loving unconditionally. Isn’t that what we do when we love someone deeply? Don’t we read their faces, and when we’re really connected, feel their emotions in order to share an experience with them?
I look forward to exploring with you this Sunday how this love models for us the unconditional love of God — and how we can learn to love others as we are called to do.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster
Certainly the faithful love of the Lord hasn’t ended; certainly God’s compassion isn’t through! They are renewed every morning. Great is your faithfulness. I think: The Lord is my portion! Therefore, I’ll wait for him.
Matthew 5:43-48 — Law of love
“You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.