I’ve got a dog, a female dog biologically but one who demonstrates stereotypical male behaviour - which sometimes includes hugging people’s legs. She simply does what comes naturally according to who she is and how she’s treated - she has no enculturation, and no gender identity to wrestle with.
Some people say that they prefer dogs to human beings, because they’re faithful companions. It’s sad that they’ve been so hurt by other people that they feel that way. We’ve all been let down by someone at some point in our lives. It hurts more when it’s someone we’re close to, someone we love dearly. Loyalty and love are inextricably linked.
The themes of loyalty and love are woven throughout the biblical texts. God was disappointed with those who were unfaithful, people who practiced all manner of harmful rites to try to appease or please false gods.
God was pleased when the people listened to the guidance he gave them through the prophets, and who flourished as a result. There was a good reason for each of the laws in their time, those who adhered to them would be healthy as a nation. That in turn would please God, and promote God’s good name so that more people would listen. God was loyal, and wanted loyalty in return. It’s good to have love reciprocated.
Jesus came to show the way as well as to tell it. He was far more than a prophet. He didn’t speak on his own, he said, but told people what he was given by the Father (John 12).
Sadly, many of the practices and strict laws insisted upon by the religious leaders of his time brought God’s name into disrepute as they were oppressive: they were harmful to people rather than helping them to flourish. Jesus upset the Pharisees because he spoke out against them, and so they kept trying to test him, to trap him into saying something they could use against him, as in today’s reading. Once again Jesus foiled them as he knew the scriptures better than they did.
Adultery has been considered throughout history to be a serious matter for all kinds of reasons, not least the health and welfare of those practicing it. It’s damaging to relationships when people are disloyal, it destroys trust. Jesus said that even considering it was harmful (Matthew 5:28). He gave the Pharisees a lesson by reminding them of the importance of faithfulness - to God as well as to each other.
The next lesson was for his disciples, who tried to prevent people from bringing their children to Jesus. It’s sad that some modern-day atheists do the same thing. Children have a sense of innocent awe and wonder which we often lose as we grow up.
Little ones simply do what comes naturally, according to who they are and how they’re treated. To keep them from knowing about Jesus is to deny children the joy of embracing God while it’s easier for them to do so.
To be loyal to God is to share the love of Christ with our families, friends and all around us, whoever they are - to try our best not to let people down. Perhaps some will learn to trust others again, and begin to build relationships with fellow human beings as well as with their dogs, and to flourish.
This in turn will promote God’s good name, by reflecting God’s love and loyalty into the world for all to see. Amen.
Julie Rubidge, Lay Minister