disciple making · discipleship

My Dog’s Guide to Discipleship and Obedience


By Alex Absalom — www.dandelionresourcing.com

Meet Molly! She is our 3 years old chocolate Labrador.
Molly’s world is centered on a busy, noisy family — Hannah and myself, our 3 teenage sons, an assorted Mollydog2range of their pimply friends, increasing numbers of well-groomed long-haired girls, along with neighbors, members of our missional community, people from church, and other waifs and strays.


She loves to go out — on walks, in the car, even joining me on occasions in the church office, where she diligently supervises any member of staff who is eating their lunch.

She adores meeting people. In fact, Molly has never met someone who isn’t her friend. Every person has a face that needs licking and a bottom that deserves sniffing.




I am the Alpha Male in Molly’s little world. Others may speak, but when she hears my voice, Molly really jumps to it. And with an extra spring in her step and wag of her tail.


“How do you get her to do that?” I’m asked, as if some fairy dust is flying out of my hand. The answer is far more simple: it’s called obedience. I trained her. Sit, down, stay, park it, leave it, drop it, and so on. She even does some of those things in response to hand motions. One of my favorite TV shows is Person of Interest, where the dog is trained in Dutch, so to show off we’ve taught her to respond to a few commands in French, which she does surprisingly well.


MollydogMolly knows that life goes better when she joyfully obeys her pack leader.

She also knows that she’s often rewarded when she obeys me. From my perspective, positive motivation and treats are far more fun to give out than negativity and punishment. From her perspective, she loves living with someone who feeds her pieces of dry dog biscuit in return for some simple action on her part.



Disciples Are Marked By Obedience

While our walk with God is more complex than the human/dog relationship, there is also something simple that we can learn and imitate — because promptly obeying Jesus is central to being a disciple.

  • He is our pack leader.
  • His voice is always the most important one to pay attention to – in whatever language.
  • We should keep an eye on Him, ready to respond to His signals. After all, a reward might shortly be following along!
  • Life goes better when we obey Jesus our leader.

There is also an expected attitude as we mature in our obedience. Okay, sometimes Molly does this big sigh as she obeys (“Really? You want me to lie down right here?”). But most of the time she doesn’t complain — because she knows in the core of her being that the Pack Leader has every right to make requests and demands of her. That is how life works. It is an expression of her commitment and, at risk of anthropomorphizing even more, her love.



Obedience Is Love

Why does obedience equate to love?

Jesus put it like this: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching” (John 14:23). As disciples of Jesus, we are committed to learning from Him in life. We pay attention to what He is saying and doing, and then obey and imitate.


Of course, our responses won’t always be as mindless as Molly’s responses, as we are held to a different standard. It is humans, not dogs, who carry the image of God within us, and are invited to co-rule with Christ in looking after His creation. Yet Molly’s starting point — obedience as an expression of love for her master — is a high bar of challenge for most of us. Yet we must become individuals, and then a people, who are dedicated to obeying Jesus.


This obedience lifestyle also provides a perspective on some of the actions of God towards us, particularly when tough things happen.



Don’t Eat The Grapes

A few months ago we were all out for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, leaving Molly home alone but not shut in the bedroom where she sleeps. “You can trust me!” her eyes had said.


On our return we found a huge grape stalk on the floor, with every single piece of fruit removed from it and nowhere in sight. As we quickly asked around, one of our sons remembered that he’d pulled a huge bag of grapes out of the fridge for a quick snack after he’d returned from the church service that day — and that he’d forgotten to put it away, instead leaving most of the bag out on the coffee table. And now the only person around was a slightly bloated looking Molly, lying on her nearby bed, practicing her innocent eyes.


But in spite of her eyes, the problem, as you may well know, is that grapes are highly toxic to dogs, and can easily kill them.


With the evidence pointing towards an unauthorized doggie feast, the priority shifted to removing the grapes from her stomach. Loading up a syringe with hydrogen peroxide, two people held her down while she was forced to consume several large doses into her mouth — with much struggling and protest ensuing. Banished into the back yard along with my son, 10 minutes later Molly began vomiting up grapes, followed by more grapes, followed by yet more grapes. One of the boys started counting and gave up after 50, with more than that number remaining!


While she hated the experience, Molly’s life was saved by our administering something so unpleasant to her in order to remove the toxins from her body. (And yes, she did see the vet the next day!)


Sometimes, obedience is simply submitting to the wisdom and judgment of God in a situation, trusting that His intent is not to harm us, but to do us good, even if the journey itself is deeply unpleasant. We simply can not understand every situation — in fact, we may feel nicely full and comfy and that everything is fine — but there is a trusting obedience that is required of us. If we are committed to Jesus, we must learn to trust and obey whatever He says to us.


All of which means that becoming promptly obedient to Jesus is the essence of discipleship.


“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’.” (Luke 1:38)



Would you beat Molly in an obedience trial? How can you become more promptly obedient to Jesus?



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Connect personally with me via Twitter (@alexabsalom) or Facebook (facebook.com/dandelionresourcing)


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