Unconditional love, as taught by my doggo

Mollie is my family’s one-and-a-half year old pug/beagle mix (at least we think that’s what she is; we’re still waiting for the dog breed DNA kit results to come back). She is high energy, fun loving, mischievous, and irresistibly cute thanks to her pouty little mouth and heart-piercing brown eyes.

Like many dogs, Mollie loves it when her humans play with her. She loves when, with her favorite toy football in her mouth, we chase after her around the yard, or play tug-of-war with her rope. Mollie’s energy can seem endless, and sometimes after attempts to wear her out, I’m the one left completely exhausted.

There’s something really neat about watching Mollie play with the neighbor’s dog, a two-year-old yellow lab. One will grab a toy and sprint away while the other runs all out after the other. They’ll flop over on their backs and nibble at each other. They’ll follow one another around, sniffing and exploring the backyard together. These two are a picture of clear canine communication; they understand each other’s doggy mannerisms, and have the energy to keep up with the other.

Sometimes I wonder how dogs can be so patient with humans. They whine and try to get our attention, but we don’t know what they want. They bring us a toy to play, but we get distracted by our phones. They beg to be chased, but we easily get tired and quit.

These are daily occurrences in my home between Mollie and me. But despite the faults in our communication, Mollie always comes back for my attention. She always returns with a toy to play again. She never seems to mind the fact that I will never completely understand her, nor will she ever completely understand me. But honestly, she doesn’t seem to mind one bit.

Isn’t there something amazing to learn here?

How often do we get annoyed with a friend or family member because they misunderstand us? How many times a day do we feel irritated by another person’s little quirks? How often do we find ourselves feeling let down by someone else because they didn’t live up to the expectations we had of them?

If you’re anything like me, my guess is that the answer to these questions is “a lot.”

The Bible talks a great deal about something called unconditional love. More than a feeling, unconditional love is choice to care about someone regardless of how well they demonstrate care toward you. It’s different than being taken advantage of; it’s just choosing to put someone else’s needs above your own rather than always demanding what you would like.

Listen to the way the apostle Paul described this kind of love in his letter to the Christians in the city of Corinth:

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always ‘me first,’

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, MSG)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if other people always treated us like this? Psh, of course! But this is the exact way Jesus expects His followers to treat other people. Friends and fellow Christians, it starts with us. Jesus taught a radical new way to treat each other, not based on what we think someone else deserves. He tells us to love unconditionally, which by definition means “without conditions or limitations.”

Hear what He said to the crowds who followed Him:

You’re familiar with the old written law, “Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst…In a word, what I’m saying is this, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (Matthew 5:43-44, 48, MSG)

I think it’s funny and humbling that God can use a goofy little doggo like Mollie to remind me of such a foundational, vital truth about following Jesus. We don’t love people because sometimes they get it right and earn it. We love selflessly, without any prerequisites or stipulations. We love even when we’ve been rubbed the wrong way or have been misunderstood.

My dogs love me not because I know exactly what they want all the time. They love me unconditionally—with grace and patience.

Similarly, we love unconditionally because God loved us unconditionally first.

And I’m thankful for the small things in my life He uses to remind me of this each day.

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2 Replies to “Unconditional love, as taught by my doggo”

  1. Well said Sara, and a great reminder 🙂

    1. Thank you! 🙂

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