Take a minute to describe the character of Jesus. My guess is that you came up with a list of words similar to this:
If you have read the Gospels then this is a likely, albeit vague, sense of Jesus’ character. As Christians, one of our constant goals is to adopt these characteristics. To be like Jesus is the Christian emotional equivalent of finding El Dorado. Unlike the forgotten city, we know exactly how to find it. There is a virtual map written in the Bible. Nevertheless, we are terrible at it.
Apparently, one map (no matter how clearly defined) isn’t enough for us. Perhaps we need more reminders, something a little more tangible than a wristband that shouts WWJD each time you accidentally catch your wrist on a door handle.
Where can you find an example like that? Who is that loving and forgiving? To be honest, I can think of a substantial list of names who are better at it than I am, but at a Jesus-level of love… not many. As a matter of fact, in seeking out a being that is exceedingly loving, approachable, and gentle, I can think of only one. His name is Rowdy and he’s my golden retriever.
Before you get too upset, let me be clear that I’m not calling Jesus a dog. I’ve simply come to the recent conclusion that my dog might be better at being like Jesus than I am. Here is my thought process:
Jesus was the epitome of love on this earth. Though you may not personally know Rowdy, I can assume that you’ve been met a dog of a similar caliber. I can also assume that you have seen children flock to a new dog, showering it with hugs and kisses as it mildly stands accepting all that love and returning it in kind.
Jesus had a constant following. People loved him because he could be approached. Think about the last time you went up to a stranger on the street. Can you even think of one? Now think about the last time you pet a dog you didn’t know. I rest my case.
No matter how long we separate ourselves from Jesus, we can always go back. His forgiveness is continuous. The parable of the prodigal son illustrates this level of forgiveness that is rarely seen or experienced. When I forgive somebody, it has never been with tears of joy. Rather, it is more likely to be with bitterness and even contempt. Rowdy, however, is different.
I do not get to visit Rowdy very often any more. Usually there are months between my visits. But he doesn’t forget about me, much less does he treat me with contempt upon my return. In fact, he is usually so excited that he cries out with joy. It doesn’t matter that I left him.
Imagine you encountered a wolf in the woods. Fear would be an acceptable reaction. Now imagine you encountered a dog in the street. Most likely, you wouldn’t have the same reaction. Why? Dogs have the same teeth and claws, but the fact of the matter is, most dogs are quite gentle. I know with full confidence that I could hold my hand in Rowdy’s mouth and never get bitten. Even if I were to try to force him to bite me I would be met with resistance.
Our God is capable of great and terrible things, yet Jesus was gentle. You could make the point that in the Gospels Jesus went out of his way to form a whip and shouted angrily at the vendors in the temple and you would be justified. But, does a dog not defend his home as well?
Jesus was not a dog. Equally, my dog is not Jesus. Even if you aren’t seeking to be like Jesus, most people still have the goal to be a better person. That is why WWJD wristbands were such a hit. We want to be better. We want somebody to show us how. I fully believe that as we seek these things we are becoming more accountable to one another.
But I make mistakes. I do things that are unkind. I do not love. I continue fail. And as I continue to fail and seek new guidance so that I might become a better person, I can’t help but to beg the question. Is my dog more like Jesus than I am?