By Jody Bennett
When we walk our sausage dog Carrie in the nearby park in the afternoon I am a struck not only by the wide variety of different types of dogs that people own, but by the different relationships they seem to have with them.
Some dogs are so nervous and untrusting it is clear they have been abused some time in their past – though usually not by the kind person walking them now. They cower and shy away from any attempt at contact and seem afraid of their own shadow.
Some dogs are very well disciplined and heel or sit on command like a police dog, but they are unfriendly to others and seem to have a master–servant relationship with their owners, well aware of who the boss is and of the consequences of not obeying.
Then there are dogs that are pulling on the leash, struggling to get away, that can only be controlled by manipulation or force. Their relationship with their master is a constant power-struggle.
Finally, I see dogs like Carrie who are so devoted to their masters that they don't even need a leash, they follow obediently. They may wander off a bit for a smell here or there but they come as soon as they are called and they are anxious to keep their master in sight.
It struck me that those relationships mirror people's relationships with God.
Some people are so afraid of God striking them down as soon as they put a foot wrong, usually because of some poor example or teaching they've had in the past. The whole concept of God scares them and they are sure He is out to get them.
Others try to obey all the rules and do all the right things but their relationship with God is not one of love but of duty. God is their master, not their Dad or friend.
Some people say they are Christians but will try to get away with as much as they can when they think no one is looking and their desires constantly rail against the restrictions they feel God imposes.
The relationship true Christianity teaches is that God is a loving father who we can trust and wants the best for us. He is someone we can follow with confidence and be so devoted to that we never want to lose sight of Him; in whose lap we can curl up and find peace.
If you doubt that this is really possible, the Bible makes it clear: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba [Aramaic for Daddy], Father. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children." (Romans 8:14-16).•