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Spiritual insights from a stray dog

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? — Romans 6:16

My youngest daughter asked for a dog last Christmas. We already had pets in our home: two cats, two sugar gliders and a dog. But she was really good, and we love animals, so we went to the rescue shelter to find a dog.

We did not know that there was a Christmas special for adoptions just a few days before, so all the choice family-friendly dogs were already adopted. We finally found one that was very sweet and loveable, but was in pretty bad shape. She was weak and frail from worms and other abuse, but we all felt a connection and took her home with us after filling out lots of paperwork. Before long she was looking much healthier and part of the family.

There were some adjustments, however. Maggie, our newly-named dog, apparently never lived in a home. So, it took a while to get her housebroken after much frustration and four ruined carpets. And despite her poor health, she was very fast. Several times when we took her out, she would get away and run out of sight.

She was a stray and apparently used to life out on the street. It seemed that we could take the dog off the street but couldn’t take the street out of the dog.

I couldn’t understand why a dog would want to leave a home that provided love — and seemingly more important to her, food, water and shelter — to go wandering as a stray.  Then I realized it was the only way of life she knew.

And then it dawned on me how much we are like that with God. We have been delivered from hurts, habits and hang-ups by the love of God through the atoning death of Jesus Christ. And what do so many do with that freedom? We go back to the very life we have been rescued from. Once freed from sin, we go back to serve its deadly master.

Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34). Jesus freed us from a life of slavery to sin. The apostle Paul says that we will either be slaves of sin leading to death, or servants of God leading to righteousness.

Our dog Maggie is now a part of the family. She has become accustomed to living in our home. It is a different way of life for her, but she now enjoys it. We still have to keep her on a leash, however, because she remembers the life she knew before as a stray. And for some reason, she will run back to the life she has been rescued from.

Just like we sometimes do.

John Moxley is pastor of First Baptist Church in Dillwyn. He can be reached at jmoxleydillwyn@gmail.com.