Leigh and I both grew up having dogs around the house. Some of our fondest memories as children come from our four-legged friends. My personal favorite was Beau, a chocolate-colored Chesapeake Bay Retriever, a 120-pound teddy bear who loved to swim. Because of our daughter Molly’s allergies, we are not able to own a dog right now, and that’s been hard for us. We miss the companionship and joy a dog brings to our lives.
I recently read an article in a ministry magazine called “The Puppy Principle.” The author, Stan Toler, talked about the importance of putting people first, and he said in this area we could learn a lot from puppies. As we move into a sermon series on evangelism, I thought these principles were good advice for any of us who are called to reach out to others.
1. Puppies care about your presence, not about your past. Puppies don’t care where you’ve been, what you’ve been doing, or whether you are on time or late. They are simply glad to see you. They are forgiving by nature. Churches should be grace-filled places where a person’s past does not influence their ability to experience God in the present. We are called to offer people a second chance.
2. Puppies are terrible at hiding their intentions. Puppies are incapable of faking their emotions. Their sloppy kisses, jump-up greetings and furious tail-wagging are completely genuine. People can see through us when we are artificial and will often avoid having to deal with us. But if we are genuine, honest and consistent, we communicate to others that they are important enough to us that we want to be fully present with them.
3. Puppies aren’t concerned with pedigrees. I have yet to hear of a puppy asking for an ID before greeting their owner. Puppies don’t care about credentials; they only want to know they are loved. We can’t put so much stock in a person’s pedigree that we miss the human being standing right in front of us. Just because a person has a lot of letters after their name doesn’t make them any more or less worthy of our attention.
4.Puppies are loyal by nature. Puppies are not fickle in their allegiances. Their loyalty is a part of their DNA. Even when owners mess up, puppies are still there. We are called to be loyal to the people around us, even when they are not at their best. Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, and yet Jesus stood behind him as Peter grew in his faith. God never gives up on us, so we should do our best to stay loyal to others.
5. Puppies are enthusiastic. I dare you to not smile when you see a puppy. Is it humanly possible? Puppies exude joy wherever they go. We are filled with the joy of God’s love to the point where it should overflow from us to others. We have something in Jesus Christ that is absolutely contagious and we are called to let it infect the world. How can we not be excited when we think about all God has done for us?
Those are the Puppy Principles. Even if we can’t follow them all of the time, how would our lives be different if we were more like puppies? More importantly, how could we change the lives of those around us? If a puppy can do it, why can’t we?