Ed, my neighbor next door, was in the store the other day and began to sweat while looking at the high cost of some varieties of dog food. Rex, Ed’s dog, has been easy to feed from the time he was a pup. Rex has eaten two of the cheaper varieties of dog food without ever getting tired of them. Ed says, “I’m not feeding the dog more expensive food than I eat myself! The cheap dog food won’t hurt him a bit! He also gets a few dog biscuits to chew on now and again and that’s plenty for him. Our toddlers got into the dog’s biscuits once and ate a few and it never hurt them either.”
I said to Ed while he was at the store, “Some folks are concerned about the quality of ingredients used in the dog food they give their pet. For many, their pet is an important part of their family and life. Most are very much in love with their pet and would be lost without them. I think you yourself are sweet on your dog Rex!”
“I like the dog alright, but only so long as he behaves and keeps eating the cheap dog food,” Ed answered.
“I bet you would love him even if he had to have expensive dog food or he got into some trouble,” I told Ed.
“I wouldn’t count on it!” Ed muttered.
Working in a pet department, it is obvious to me that people love their pets. If I worked at the S.P.C.A., it would be obvious that people can be very cruel to their animals. Maybe good and bad treatment of animals has always been the case.
When Jesus spoke of being a good shepherd, it was understood in terms of leading and protecting one’s sheep so they would have good pastures and safe, quiet water sources to drink from. There was a willingness to guard and protect the sheep with the shepherd’s very life if the sheep were attacked by a predator. Sheep needed care because they could not protect themselves. A shepherd had to love his sheep to be good shepherd.
A bad shepherd had little love for his sheep. He was uncaring about their food and water and would not put himself at risk if they were threatened by a predator.
Love makes the difference between good treatment and bad. Thankfully for us, God is love and seeks our best treatment possible. Even better, God loves freely and unconditionally even when we haven’t deserved or earned His love. God’s love is a mystery to us, because it is not limited and stingy like ours.
When it comes to love between people, you cannot count on it always being there. Close friends can end up in heated arguments where they never speak to each other again. Married couples get divorced. People get physically beaten up and verbally abused in their own families. People murder each other with sad frequency and there are always wars waging somewhere in the world. Our quality of love regularly gets strained and broken.
God knew this and sent Jesus to save us from our inability to love Him and others fully. In Jesus, love is complete, for God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. How great is God’s love lavished upon us through Christ.