I have had pets for most of my life, and I’ve finally identified the fundamental difference between cats and dogs. No, I haven’t done any scholarly zoological studies on the subject, so this purely my own opinion, but here goes: Both dogs and cats love their owners. Both dogs and cats misbehave. But their response when they are caught is very different. We have a dog named Gracie, a sweet little mutt that we adopted from a shelter two years ago. Like every dog I have ever owned, she loves us unconditionally. Someone has said, if you could be the kind of person your dog thinks you are, you wouldn’t need any grace in order to get into Heaven. But sometimes when we leave her home, Gracie gets into our trash. She pulls it out of the can and tears it into little bits. When we come home, she is invariably repentant. Her ears droop, her tail is between her legs. She knows that she has done wrong, and she is desperately sorry about it.
Cats are different. I have never seen the fruit of repentance in a cat. Ever. We had a cat several years ago named Shasta. He loved to hunt. Because we had a doggie door, Shasta would bring his trophies into the house. We would find a disemboweled rodent, reptile or bird on our living room floor from time to time. Guess who got to clean that up? Once he actually carried a live bird into our upstairs bathroom and killed it there. I got called home from work that day. It looked like a pigeon had exploded, or that an all-bird cast had staged a remake of the movie “300” in our bathroom. That was just the one of Shasta’s…eccentricities. I don’t miss him. We have a very nice cat now named Chewie. But he has his moments, too. And the thing they have in common is that neither Shasta nor Chewie, nor any other cat I have ever owned, ever seems to feel sorry for upsetting us. So whereas a dog’s attitude seems to be, “I love you with all my heart, but sometimes I can’t help myself,” a cat’s attitude seems to be, “I love you, but what do you want from me?”
I find that most of us Christians want to think we relate to God like a dog. We want to believe that our love for Him is genuine and heartfelt, but we just can’t help sinning. I know that is the case for us on occasion. But far more often, I believe we relate to God like a cat. That’s true on several levels: We think of ourselves as independent beings who simply need someone to feed us and protect us and clean up our messes (as they say, dogs have owners, cats have staff). We want affection, but only on our terms (Leave me alone…I’ll come to you when I want you). Trust me, I ‘ve got a whole cat theology worked out here…But mostly, we’re like cats in that we have a hard time showing any repentance to God. We are aware of our sin, but what’s the big deal? And we present Him our little trophies from time to time. Why doesn’t He appreciate those things more?Do you want to know what God loves, what He desires, more than anything else? We see it in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14). But why does God love a broken, repentant heart? Does He take delight in our shame? Is He like a bully who loves to pound us on the arm until we say, "Uncle?" No, the truth is far more beautiful...and far more challenging. I hope to see you this Sunday.