After a few days of being left alone during the day, our dog Buddy can get himself into trouble. His choice of forbidden pleasure? Having a good snack of trash. Nuzzling the waste baskets. Chewing on refuse. Whatever you want to call it, he gets in the trash and the trash gets all over the house. And he knows it's wrong.
How do I know he knows it's wrong? Because if I call his name after I discover his rubbish reveling, his head goes down and he doesn't want to come near me. He's afraid. He's afraid of my method of dealing with his wanderings in the waste. I bring him to the area where the trail of trash is and with a deep and authoritative voice yell, "Buddy! NO TRASH!". And then a swipe on the nose for good measure.
At least that's how I used to deal with Buddy's propensity to debris.
But something changed when God spoke to me about He deals with our fallings into filth. We've all been there; done something we know we shouldn't have done, fallen short of some standard, afraid to face God because of how we think He's going to react. But the fact is, God doesn't react. That would imply He's surprised. And God is not surprised at anything we do.
And He doesn't stuff our face in it and yell at us, "NO TRASH!". No, God realizes that's just as ineffective as me yelling at Buddy. The next time I'm gone and the temptation rises up, the memory of me yelling at him does nothing to keep him from getting into the waste basket again.
I believe the Lord uses a different tact. He works from the perspective of prevention. He knows a changed heart will resist temptation far more effectively than a fearful and scolded one. He slowly removes the appeal of sin from our lives and makes us more like Him. It's called sanctification and it has nothing to do with human effort or the fear of God.
Funny how we treat others the way we view God as treating us. We treat as we are treated. And that's why our view of God has to change; become accurate. Our God is not an ogre sitting on a throne of wrath waiting to meter out punishment. No, He is a God of compassion. He wants His children to grow and learn and be free.
So now, when Buddy gets into the trash what do I do? I remember that he's just, well, not human ... let's say, he's just a dog. And I understand that, just as God understands our frame; that we are but dust. We fail. We fall. But by His grace we get back up. Take that message and apply it across the board on how you deal with others in your life and you'll see some powerful changes happen.
Hey, you may even see your dog stop eating trash!