My two oldest sons and I accompanied their 4H dog club recently to the local animal shelter. They were given a tour by the assistant dog warden, Josh Harris, and an experienced dog handler, Jean Daniels, who volunteers there. Both Mr. Harris and Ms. Daniels graciously gave of their time to share their knowledge and experience with the 4H members. The group, under the guidance of their club leaders, Susan Breech and Barbie Cline, had developed a list of questions about the shelter, the dogs that it takes in, and some of the challenges that their job presents them. After their questions had been fielded, the young people were given an opportunity to tour the areas of the facility in which the dogs are housed.
Needless to say, it was a challenging visit. There were several dogs, all excited to see visitors, all barking enthusiastically and all wagging their tails furiously. Many of the club members and maybe even some of the parents got a bit misty eyed when they came into contact with these animals that were very much in need of someone to love them and take them home.
My children, like both their parents, tend to be softies. So I was quite prepared for at least one of them to come and appeal to me to take half a dozen dogs home. Sure enough, when the visit was over, my second oldest son disappeared. I knew he hadn’t gone past me to exit the building so he was somewhere still inside. I retreated into the back of the building to find him in the doorway, with a look that he was borrowing from some of the tenants of the shelter.
“Puppy dog eyes” stared into mine. His mouth, normally a cheerful smile, was bent downwards in a sorrowful frown.
“Can’t we take at least one home?” he pled, his genuinely anguished countenance mirroring his voice. I looked at him a moment, aware of other eyes and ears watching and listening.
I then shook my head. “No, son,” I replied. “We don’t have room for another dog right now. I know that it would be great to save one of these right now, but it wouldn’t be just there for you; it would affect everyone else in the household and we’re not ready at this point to make room for another dog.”
He hung his head sadly as he joined me and his brother on the ride home. I felt like a heel but knew it was the right decision for right now.
Still, I couldn’t help but consider what an animal shelter might tell us about the plight of humanity. Didn’t you know we had a “plight?” Yes, we are most certainly a sorry lot of mongrels all in need of someone to come and adopt us! It turns out that we are all strays and have each either outwardly broken God’s law or done so inwardly in our thought lives even though no one but God can see it.
“We all… have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV).
The funny thing about justice is that it applies to all of us. We are therefore each locked up in a cage of condemnation that our own sinfulness has constructed for us, destined to suffer spiritual euthanasia, the result of our rejection of God.
Unlike the visitors who come and go at the animal shelter, however, there is Someone Who has enough room for anyone who wishes to come to Him. In fact, He’s got a house SO big that there’s room enough for ALL those who will come to Him! God is that Someone! But He not only sets us free from our spiritual cages, He adopts us as His own and makes us a part of His family! He cleanses us with forgiveness through our faith in His Son! He even goes so far as to “inoculate” us, not from Parvovirus or Rabies, but from the power of sin, pride, and selfishness through His indwelling Spirit!
“For you… received the Spirit of sonship (or “adoption”). And by Him we cry, “Abba (or “daddy”), Father” (Romans 8:15 NIV). “In love He predestined us to be adopted as His sons (or “children”) through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:4b-5 NIV).
Of course, we can refuse His call. We can turn our backs to Him and reject the offer of salvation. We can continue to try to live life on our own, failing to recognize our need for His rescue. We may dream of being free, refusing to see the fate that awaits us if we do not heed His invitation to know His Son and the salvation He can bring to our bruised and battered souls.
But why? Why run from the One Who gave His own life so we could be given an eternal one? Why turn our backs on such an awesome and perfect Savior that not only tells us we are loved, but proved it by dying in our place on the cross of Calvary?
Maybe we just don’t know yet what it is that He has offered us. In that case, let Christians pray for those who have not yet received God’s gift of salvation with words like those found in Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:18-19a: “I pray that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened in order that they may know the hope to which He has called them, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for those who believe.”
The fact is, when God sees us, He sees us as we really are spiritually. We may think we have an awesome pedigree guaranteed to “get us into heaven” but we don’t. We’re all strays. We’re all lost. We’re all in need of the same saving grace that can only be found in Jesus Christ, no matter how bad we think we are or how good we think we’ve been. God’s power and love are great enough to save anyone who will seek His forgiveness.
If you see the need in your life for that saving power and are ready to be adopted into God’s family, then place your faith in Jesus Christ right now. After all, “He died for us so that… we may live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10 NIV). Do it now and start off new with God’s love living in your heart!