I think dogs are just amazing. One of the reasons I like coming home from college is because my parents have five of the most adorable little pups in the world. As a kid, I had this great Golden Retriever, Cody, who was the fattest, friendliest Golden Retriever I had ever met, and I fully plan on getting another as soon as I'm living on my own.
But as I was petting one of my dogs the other day, a thought hit me: a dog typically would call those taking care of them their "master" or "owner." And they love this. Normally, when we hear those words in a similar context, we would think of a man owning slaves, being the slaves' master. So why is it so different with dogs?
Well, part of it is that dogs as we know them have been domesticated. They have been born and raised in an environment where they must be dependent upon someone to provide for them, because they do not have the ability to provide for themselves. My dogs, now, live indoors, and they don't know how to hunt, despite having the instinct to bark at anything that moves outside. And even Cody, who lives outside and was able to catch small animals, wouldn't eat them. He wanted us to feed him, to the point that if we left for a couple days and left him a big bowl of food, he wouldn't eat it because he wanted us to be there with him. It was so sad, but looking back, the way our dogs act holds a lot of Biblical truth.
Because we were made to be slaves. Slaves to the only thing that knows how to take care of us, the Living God.
God created us with a purpose: to worship Him, the creator of all, and to honor and serve him for the joy set before us. We were made because God wanted someone to share this world with. He doesn't need us. In fact, life for God would be infinitely less heartbreaking without us, because we rebel against God and refuse to obey what He's saying, which makes him quite angry. And yet, God wants us to know him to have a relationship with him, to talk to him and obey him. I don't need to have a dog in my life. I have my friends and my family to keep me company. But I want a dog to be here as well, because they are fun to pet, fun to play with, and all they want to do is be my best friend. This relationship between a dog and its' master is how our relationship with God should look.
Numerous times throughout the epistles the apostle Paul writes of himself as being in chains to Christ:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
~ Romans 6:15-18
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
~ Philippians 1:15-18
Remember my chains.
~ Colossians 4:18
So Paul considers himself to be a slave of the Most High, and this fact brings him joy because it means that he is doing only what his Master wants him to do. He is using his bondage to Christ, but also his arrest by the Roman guard, to share the Gospel and help enslave others to Christ. God wants Paul to drop everything to preach the Good News across Asia, and Paul, being in chains to God, has no choice but to obey. During his journey, he is often beaten by both the Jews and the Romans, he is left without food, water, or clothing. He is accused of being a heretic because he is now preaching the very words he used to murder people for uttering. But in the end, all things brings him joy, because he knows that people are coming to know Jesus and willingly accept the same shackles that Paul wears. He knows that his reward is not of this earth, because by earthly standards his life is miserable. But just as Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him, the joy of restoring the relationship between God and Man that was once broken, so Paul will endure the hardship of the world for the joy of knowing that people are being saved. But he doesn't just endure. He is blessed.